Civil Engineers Push for Historic Education and Licensure Changes

ASCE’s Updated Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge for the 21st Century Says Broader, Deeper Education Will Better Prepare Civil Engineers for Future

Reston, Va.–Like professionals in many other fields, civil engineers practicing today face even greater and more complex challenges than ever before.

However, during the past century educational requirements for engineering students have decreased dramatically, unlike professions such as accounting, occupational therapy and teaching, which have seen increasing requirements- -with the master’s degree now replacing the bachelor’s as the required degree for professional practice.

"It is entirely possible that the fourth grade teacher who inspires a young student to become an civil engineer is required to have a higher level of education than the engineer will when he or she begins designing and building the roads, bridges and water systems that support our global society," said David G. Mongan, P.E., F.ASCE, president of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). "I find that troubling, given the increasing complexity of the technology and techniques with which engineers must work."

In another step toward restructuring engineering education to meet the challenges of the 21st century, ASCE today released the second edition of its Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge for the 21st Century: Preparing the Civil Engineer for the Future. Originally released in 2004, it marked the first effort by any engineering discipline to elevate the educational prerequisites needed before an engineer can sit for the licensure exam and practice professionally.

The report outlines the "Body Knowledge" required to broaden and deepen the preparation of future civil engineers, and includes 24 specific outcomes related to "Levels of Achievement Required to Enter the Practice of Civil Engineering at the Professional Level." It recommends that a restructured undergraduate degree, plus the equivalent of 30 additional credits or a master’s degree and practical experience be required for licensure. The concepts and ideas from the original report have been clarified and sharpened for this new edition, and their implementation will represent a historic change in civil engineering education, leading to the revision of current undergraduate and post-undergraduate education to reflect the basic skills and knowledge expected.

"If we expect young engineers to be able to protect public health, safety and welfare in our increasingly complex global environment, we must begin to better prepare them for professional practice," said Richard O. Anderson, P.E., Dist.M.ASCE, principal engineer at Somat Engineering and chair of the Second Edition of the Body of Knowledge Committee. "Through the body of knowledge, ASCE can positively and tangibly influence the necessary changes to civil engineering curricula, as well as professional licensure requirements, to help those young engineers meet their obligations to society."

While implementation of such a large-scale change will not happen instantly, progress has already been made. In 2006, the National Council for Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) voted to modify its model law according to this expanded body of knowledge. By modifying its model law, NCEES has encouraged states to similarly expand their own requirements for professional practice. The model law now states that, as of January 1, 2015, admission to the professional licensure exam will require:

". . . a bachelor’s degree, with an additional 30 credits of acceptable upper- level undergraduate or graduate-level coursework from approved course providers, and a specific record of an additional four years or more of progressive experience," or

". . . a master’s degree in engineering from an institution that offers EAC/ABET-accredited programs, or the equivalent, and with a specific record of an additional 3 years or more of progressive experience."

Each state is responsible for its own licensing laws, and in early 2008, Nebraska became the first state to introduce legislation that would change licensing provisions related to engineers. The proposal, L.B. 742, if passed, will mean that any engineer applying for licensure in 2015 will have to meet the new requirements.

"As the National Academy of Engineering’s Educating the Engineer of 2020 report said, ‘the exploding body of science and engineering knowledge cannot be accommodated within the context of the traditional four-year baccalaureate degree’," said Kenneth J. Fridley, Ph.D., chair of the University of Alabama’s Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering and vice chair of the Second Edition of the Body of Knowledge Committee, who is currently implementing the new body of knowledge in his school’s program. "We, as a profession, must act proactively to better prepare our students for the future."

The first edition of the body of knowledge outlined 15 areas of knowledge, skills and attitudes essential to prepare for the professional practice of engineering. The second edition adds specificity and clarity to these outcomes by separating several of the topics and expanding several others.

The outcomes–expanded to 24–now represent five key areas: greater science and engineering fundamentals; greater technical depth or specialization; greater breadth in technical and professional practice; and a broader exposure to both humanities and social sciences.

For more information on the Body of Knowledge, visit

About ASCE
Founded in 1852, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) represents more than 140,000 civil engineers worldwide and is America’s oldest national engineering society. For more information, visit