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Engineering Continuing Education: The Case for National Standards

Should the US develop a unified continuing education standard for professional engineers?Engineering Continuing Education The Case for National Standards

In the US, professional engineers are licensed by state engineering boards that regulate the profession of engineering. These boards receive their authority to develop and enforce their rules and policies – from state laws. The result is a disparate system of standards and requirements that is often confusing to the engineering community, especially those of us who hold licenses in multiple states. The most complicated part of this system, or lack thereof, is the requirement for engineering continuing education. Each state has its own set of rules governing  the number of PDH hours an engineer must earn, the license renewal period, CEU provider approval, and specific course topics such as engineering ethics or professional conduct. In this article, we attempt to demystify the concept of engineering continuing education.

The Jargon of Engineering Continuing Education

To make the confusion worse, each state created their own jargon for continuing education. The lack of a common language makes it very difficult to compare standards from one state to another. Have you ever tried to talk to an engineer colleague in another state about engineering continuing education – you’re talking about PDH credits and he he’s referring to CEUs.

This lack of consistency from one engineering board to another is why many professional engineers and engineering boards are calling for a national standard on continuing education.

Here is the jargon currently in use. Learn these terms. Become familiar with their meanings.

Continuing Education Terms

Adding to the confusion, state boards use a variety of terms to describe continuing education. Each of these terms means the same thing (almost), although the specific details within the definition may vary from state to state.

  • Continuing Education (CE)
  • Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
  • Continuing Professional Competency (CPC)

Engineering Course Credit

State engineering boards also use different terms to describe course credit. As is the case with continuing education terms, these acronyms have similar meanings, but they are not precise synonyms.

  • PDH – professional development hour
  • CEU – continuing education unit
  • CH – contact hour

How Do I Convert PDH to CEUs

Most states define a professional development hour as one hour of instruction. The general rule of thumb is that you must spend at least 50 minutes of actual time studying a course or listening to a presentation to receive one hour of credit. A continuing education unit, also known as a CEU, is the amount of credit typical