Some CEU Activities May Not Count Towards PE License Renewal
Continuing education requirements for professional are set by the State Board of Engineering (State Boards) to ensure a high standard of quality and ethical behavior in each state. The requirements vary from state to state and it is the professional engineer’s responsibility to keep track of the requirements of the state where s/he is licensed and practices engineering.
For practicing engineers it is imperative to know the rules governing the states where you practice and hold residence. These rules can change and it’s the engineer’s responsibility to know the current rules. There are some surprising situations where continuing education courses are not accepted by State Engineering boards.
Be Sure Engineering Courses are Accredited Before Signing Up
Each state’s Board of Registration for Professional Engineers defines what courses are acceptable for continuing education and what accreditation requirements must be met by approved CEU providers in that state. Just because a course is accredited does not mean every state accepts the course to fulfill your PDH requirements. Always check with the education provider to ensure the course has been accredited and then check with the State Board to ensure it will be accepted for credit before taking any courses.
Remember – It is the engineer’s responsibility to verify that a course is suitable for continuing education and will meet the State Board’s requirements. Most approved training facilities will provide you with a copy of their state approval. Usually, these documents are available on their website. You can also check with your state board for a list of providers that they have approved.
Also note that a course may be accepted by some states, but not others. So again you need to check before taking that course.
That’s not to say don’t take a course that isn’t accredited for CEUs or don’t take it because your state doesn’t accept it. If it’s something that will improve or enhance your knowledge or skills as a professional engineer, by all means take the class. Just understand you won’t be able to use that course to fulfill CEU requirements. If you’ve procrastinated taking your CEUs, you may need to prioritize getting the CEUs and taking other courses later.
Examples of Courses That Don’t Count for Engineering CEUs
Do not assume that al continuing education courses will be accepted by your state board. You don’t want to find out during an audit that some of your PDH credits are not appropriate. Many PEs have been disciplined because the engineering board determined that some of their listed activities did not further their skill or knowledge as an engineer.
Some examples of continuing education classes that you can’t count include:
- College courses that are not specifically designed for engineers don’t count. This includes many core courses (such as specific sciences, math, statistics or general education requirements) for BS, MS and pHD programs. College courses in engineering disciplines will usually count for continuing education credits. Credit hours are allowed based on the following: 10 contact hours = 1 academic quarter unit; 15 contact hours = 1 academic semester unit. For example, a 2 quarter unit course will earn 20 contact hours (2 CEUs) or a 2 semester unit course will earn 30 contact hours (3 CEUs). The conversion factor to remember is 1 CEU = 10 contact hours.
- On-the-job training, refresher courses, and company orientation do not count for PDH credits. Nor do company training programs that provide information about your firm’s business policies and procedures.
- Educational activities that you complete for CEU credit cannot be taken again for completing your continuing education requirement in a single license renewal period. Some courses may have different titles, but repeat the same content. Check to be certain that the course materials and learning objectives are significantly different from past classes. If not, they won’t count.
- Classes that are considered to be for self-improvement, financial gain, job-search activities, liberal arts or other non-technical topics are not considered suitable for PDH credits.
- General first aid and safety courses usually are not acceptable for continuing ed credit. For example, CPR and advanced lifesaving courses such as Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) are not accepted by most State Boards. Check with your state to be certain.
Activities That Are NOT Accepted for Engineering PDH Credit
There are many activities that state engineering boards accept as continuing education hours. However, many activities that seem suitable, don’t count towards your license renewal. Here are a few examples:
- Attending trade shows or conventions does not count towards your PDH credits. However, many of these events offer seminars, lectures, and other activities that DO count. Make certain that the sponsor provides the required documentation so you can claim credit for the engineering training.
- Being a member of a professional society or club. Simply joining a professional organization does not meet the standard for continuing education. However, most states allow you to take credit for being an officer or serving on a committee in these organizations. Check the board’s rules because you may have to document the time spent in your role to receive full credit.
Engineering Courses That Might Count for CEU Credit
To make this process even more confusing – certain CEU Credits are accepted by some states, but not others. Here are a few examples of activities and courses that are not universally accepted:
- Publishing a paper. This one is a bit tricky because most states allow you to take as much as 10 hours of PDH credit if you author a technical paper. Texas will accept CEP credit for “Authoring published papers, articles, books, or accepted licensing examination items.” North Carolina allows licensees to claim credit as long as the paper is technical and in the same discipline as their license. Some states only accept work that is published in a peer reviewed journal.
- Self-directed study courses, also known as online courses are accepted by many states, but not all. To make this even more confusing, states like Wisconsin allow engineers to take online courses, but they limit the number of credits to 17 for each renewal cycle.
- Courses that focus on management, business operations, or marketing are considered to be non-technical and are unacceptable for CEU and CEP credit in a lot of states. You can take credit for these topics if you are registered in Alaska or Alabama, but not North Carolina or New York.
- Teaching a course. Almost every state allows professional engineers to claim CE credit for teaching a class in a technical subject. However, North Carolina does not allow University professors to claim credit for teaching courses that are part of their normal employment duties.
- State engineering law courses. All states accept courses that teach the laws and rules related to engineering practice for that state. However, most state boards do not accept courses that address other state laws.
Interpretation of Course Content Matters
The specific content of a course is very important when it comes to engineering board acceptance. Here is a real world example of two courses that were submitted to a state board for consideration, but only one was accepted.
Course Title 1: How to Review a Construction Contract to Avoid Lawsuits
Course Title 2: Introduction to Construction Contracts
Course 1 was rejected by the board because they concluded that the content was focused on contract management and risk reduction, both of which are business practices. Course 2 was accepted because the board believes that understanding construction contracts is a key part of construction which is a core engineering function. The lesson here – give a lot of thought to course content, especially if it is on the fringes. When in doubt, contact the board for their opinion.
The Professional Engineer is Responsible for CEU Compliance
Always check with your State Board because, in the end, you are the one held responsible. It’s your license that is at risk, so take the time to verify that a course will be accepted. Vendors will issue often certificates that can be used if the Board accepts them, but this is not a guarantee that they will be applicable. If you are uncertain, pick up the phone and call a Board member. Most of these representatives are practicing engineers themselves who want to ensure compliance with their rules and regulations. They can usually give you a yes or no answer so you can be certain that a course you are considering will count towards your engineering CEU requirements.
Remember, continuing education for professional engineers is supposed to enhance your technical knowledge and skills. They are also supposed to increase your understanding of ethics and professional conduct as well as the engineering rules and lows of your state. College courses should expand your technical competency beyond the basic engineering education.
Continuing professional competency should be about providing learning opportunities in specialty areas of engineering, new technical procedures and theories, or significant changes/updates in the practice of engineering. It should help you grow professionally with a greater understanding of your discipline and the standards of care used by your peers.
Other areas of continuing education provide updates and insights into issues such as social, ethical and legal situations that affect patient care and outcomes. Continuing education is designed to enhance the skills and practice of nurses, help them stay on the cutting edge of technology and health care delivery, and thrive as healthcare professionals.
Recommendations for Complying with CEU Requirements
The key thing to remember is that every state has its own set of rules about continuing education. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that courses and activities that are acceptable to one board will be appropriate in another jurisdiction. The simplest and most reliable approach is to ask the board if you are not certain about a particular class or a course provider. Call or send an email requesting clarification. Fortunately, engineering board members aren’t looking to trip you up on hyper-technical license renewal requirements. They want you to continue learning new technical skills to help you maintain your competency as a professional engineer.