Actually engineeering is profession for what one has to study and shal have some prove that he or shee learnde something that we call outside of the US an enginering diplpom. Required studium and practical experience is more or less standardized aoround the world excep the the US, where somebody just after long time working in an enginnering field becomes one engineer. Many these engineers have knowledge and experience which is at least comparable of that of one engineer who studied the profession, many of them have knowledge and reputtion fare above the level what they could get in an average studium, but unfortunatelly they do not have any standard comparable proof of their knowledge. The go around of that problem of the P.E. title the professional engineer test, which is, if one could sit long enough the read the examen books could make the test without having deeper knowlwdge of quintescente of engineering the higher mathematic. And now we get the basic problem of enginering; mathematic has to be stated to learn at a relative young age, --and there is a large problem in North America, public schools and middle schools lack of teachers which could teach mathematic --that one could grow up with mathematic, it can not be learned later, just when one need is tou use to solve physical-technical problems. Mathematic is a most important tool --and way of thinking --of the engineering therfore one must be able to use it like would use a hammer, concentrating not on the hammer but the work, the happer shall be handle as it would be part of his or her body. If you look around, you will see that not to many enginners particularly engineers who "got the title" have difficoulty to put a technical physical problem into a mathematical form and solve it, for that the US usually imported the "real ingenieurs". Uintil, there is no regulation who is enginner and one enginner is not an ingenieur, there will be always some confusion around the enginering profession
This is quite simple. An equation for you. Engineering degree = Professional Engineer. While there are people out there like Edwin Land, they are few and far between. Low caliber companies will give anyone the title Engineer. That is for one reason alone. Pay less salary, and payoff in title. Usually these people make junk products, leaving the others (Professional Engineers) to clean up the mess. Junk engineers reduce the respect due to the few competent ones, out there. That is EXACTLY why this column came to be written. Dunderheads only make a mess. Their lower salary they are paid, is FAR OFFSET by the immense loss they can create for the company. Well, you get what you pay for, folks. Quality professional enginnering, costs money.
A "profession" is simply a paid occupation, which may or may not involve formal qualification. Licenses and certifications on the other hand are largely artificial barriers designed to restrict competition in a given field.
"But part of the original question is why engineers are not revered by society the same way doctors and lawyers are."
I don't think lawyers are revered by society. In fact, of the professions, the lawyer is the butt of the most jokes. Sure, there are a few engineer jokes, and very few doctor jokes (I know of only one), but I think society's respect for a profession can be gauged by the proliferation of jokes about that profession. In this regard, the engineering profession is far more professional than the legal.
@RichQ wrote "So, since people do not routinely see individual engineers as the apparent source of praisworthy benefit to themselves or society, then they will not see the group as being praisworthy despite its collective accomplishments, and so will not automatically value an individual who is a member of that group."
We as a society tend to honor the individual rather than the group. We rarely give awards to groups but we routinely give awards to individuals. Sometimes, we honor the "leader" or "manager" of a group for the group's accomplishments whe n it is fact the team members who did the work.
Well, we have to understand that with the development of new technology these days, the traditional job titles that some of us grew up with have changed over the years. Many jobs nowadays have a main category, with sub-titles within each category. Of course you are professional. Now in terms of being away from the job, Martin Rowe, if you go on vacation and win the lottery, trust me... we will understand. But for right now, we hope you will continue to apply the right combination of your engineering education, engineering experience, and technical writing experience to keep us informed about events within the engineering world. Keep up the fantastic work!
Bert, certainly the job requirements for the title of engineer may vary from company to company, and a company may require that the candidate have a degree before awarding that job title, but that is not the same thing as certification and licensing, which are instruments of society at large to require that workers meet national or even international standards and requirements. Individual company requirements will not affect the general public's perception of engineering as a profession.
RichQ, you make a lot of valid points. In some cases, though, what you say may depend on the company in which you're employed. Where I work, you can't get an engineer rank if you don't have a degree. It's that simple. I know several who have worked their way "up through the ranks," and every single one of them, at some point, had to get their degree.
And if you make a habit of messing up, well, we know where that goes. Plus, you have a tought time finding another job in engineering.
Yes, maybe if every graduating EE were made to get a PE license, like lawyers and doctors have to do, that would help.
I have a niece who is a medical resident now. She didn't have a good idea about what engineering was either. So I explained it to her. I guess she had never heard it explained that way. So recently, in one of her lectures, an attending said to the group, if you guys want to really understand how these machines work, better go to the IEEE and read their articles.
She said that cracked her up, remembering back how I described what we do.