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In the United States, the authority for registration or licensing of professionals, including professional engineers, rests with the states. Each state has an engineering licensing board that has the responsibility to set the guidelines and administer the procedures for candidates to become licensed professional engineers and to renew their PE license at regular intervals. Through the efforts of the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), state requirements and procedures are very similar.
In recent years, NCEES has been promoting the use of professional engineer continuing education requirements. An NCEES publication, Continuing Professional Competency Guidelines, gives their recommendations to the state boards. These guidelines will be discussed more in the next section.
At this time, thirty-four US states have a professional engineer continuing education requirement for maintaining professional licensure. Here is a link to a table that summarizes state continuing professional competency requirements for professional engineers.
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NCEES Guidelines for Engineering Continuing Education
The NCEES publication, Continuing Professional Competency Guidelines, (NCEES Guidelines) provides state boards with a model law, model rules, criteria for activities, and a standard reporting form for CPC activities. As noted above, quite a few state boards have instituted professional engineer continuing education requirements. Additional states are likely to add such requirements over time.
The NCEES Guidelines define a professional development hour (PDH) as follows: "a contact hour (nominal) of instruction or presentation. The common denominator for other units of credit." NCEES recommends requirement of fifteen PDHs per year for each professional engineer licensee. Most of the thirty-four states that have professional engineer continuing education requirements specify fifteen PDHs at the time of renewal if they have annual license renewal or thirty PDHs if they use biennial renewal. A few states require a lesser number of PDHs per year.
Also included in the NCEES Guidelines is a list of ways to meet the fifteen PDH per year requirement including successful completion of college courses, continuing education courses, or short courses/tutorials/distance-education courses offered through correspondence, television, videotapes, or online over the Internet. (Thus, engineering PDH online courses are an avenue for meeting continuing education requirements.) Teaching, making presentations, or authoring also can be used to meet the PDH requirement.
Please note that the NCEES Guidelines provide recommendations to state licensing boards. Most of the state laws and rules for professional engineering continuing education are very similar to those in the NCEES Guidelines, but each professional engineer should check on their own state's requirements.
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The Convenience of Using Engineering PDH Online Courses
Although there are a variety of methods for meeting professional engineer continuing education requirements, online courses are the most convenient method for many practicing engineers. There are some NCEES recommendations that are particularly pertinent for online courses to meet PE continuing education requirements.
NCEES recommends that any course or activity qualifying for PDH credit should have "a clear purpose and objective that will maintain, improve, or expand the skills and knowledge relevant to the licensee's field of practice." It is also noted that regular duties should not be considered qualified activities. NCEES also recommends that a correspondence course should require the participant to show "evidence of achievement and completion and/or a final graded test." NCEES recommends that the individual professional engineer have the responsibility for maintaining records of his/her continuing education activities to meet the PDH requirement. A recommended standard recordkeeping form is also provided. These are guidelines that you can use to evaluate potential engineering PDH online courses to meet your requirements.
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Where Are Engineering Online PDH Courses Available?
In response to the need for professional engineers to conveniently obtain PDH credits, there are now a variety of providers of engineering PDH online courses. Some of the providers are colleges and other traditional providers of engineering education or engineering professional societies, but many are set up specifically to provide online continuing education for engineers, architects, and perhaps other related professionals, to meet licensing requirements. A search for something like "online PDH courses" will lead you to a number of choices of websites for engineering pdh online courses. A couple of examples are www.online-pdh.com and www.cedengineering.com.
The cost of engineering PDH online courses varies somewhat. Several larger websites have professional engineer continuing education courses for $24 to $35 per PDH. In some case there is a sliding scale with the charge being less per PDH for for higher PDH credit courses. In a few cases there seems to be a move toward a fixed rate for a years worth of PDH courses, as for example $99 for all your PDH requirements for one year or $149 for all your PDH requirements for two years at one site.
Thus, meeting your professional engineer continuing education requirements with engineering PDH online courses is possible.
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- National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) website: http://www.ncees.org/
- NCEES, Continuing Professional Competency Guidelines, June 2008: http://www.online-pdh.com/engcourses/file.php/1/NCEES_Model_guidelines_Contin-edu.pdf
- Online PDH Courses for Professional Engineers: http://www.online-pdh.com/engcourses/
- CED Engineering: http://www.cedengineering.com/