Thank you Ratsky and other degreed PEs for recognizing that many engineers exist that do not hold such high credentials and are also quite effective and accomplished engineers. That vote of recognition is much appreciated in an industry that often only looks at the piece of paper.
I acknowledge that most of those credentials were the result of a huge amount of hard work and I do respect those accomplishments.
I also agree with SparkyWatt in that some level of quality engineering education is almost always necessary to become a very effective engineer. The problem I am seeing more and more of is that of "engineers" who have degrees (often multiple) and yet do not have the mentality of an engineer. After all that education, they still have this mentality you described well of trying multiple solutions until they find one that works, rather than using good analysis and logical skills. I've had a number of multi-degreed "engineers" end up doing technician work for me because I could not get them to analyze the problem or project themselves. Sorry if I'm getting a bit off subject, but as with the "everyone's super" trend, many "engineers" with multiple engineering degrees simply do not have the engineering mindset. I have observed this internationally – not just from engineers in the U.S.A.
I'm afraid I do call myself an audio engineer, though my primary career is electrical engineering (EE pays the bills, but I love both disciplines.) In defense of "real" audio engineers, my EE knowledge and experience heavily influence, and are used in my audio engineering work. Both EE and AE disciplines are a wonderful mix of creative art and science.
As a degreed engineer, I say that the degree is not necessary to be a good engineer. But the knowledge and understanding that the degree confers is. That knowledge and understanding can be acquired in other ways, but let's not kid ourselves. Getting the degree is the most efficient and thorough way to do it. What's more, many of the people who don't have the knowledge and understanding can't even understand why it is needed.
The ability to come up with a solution to a problem is not all there is to it. A good design needs not only to work, it needs to work under all reasonable conditions (unless you are in aerospace or military, then it needs to work under all conditions, reasonable or not). It needs not only to work, it needs to be the best that is reasonably possible. The only way you can determine that your design will always work and that it is optimal is to be able to analyze it! You have to be able to move from the qualitative idea, to a quantitative assesment.
I used to work with a technician who described his work as "beating my head against a wall until I find a soft spot." He was never clear whether the soft spot was in the wall or not. He created some great designs by trying things until it worked. Then he tried variants until he got a good one. It took him dozens of tries. I pointed out (a point that he felt was an affirmation of his ability, by the way) that "the difference between an engineer and a technician is that the engineer gets it right on the first or second try". Ultimately, both get similar results (that is the affirmation part), but the engineer's ability to analyze and understand the consequences of the analysis allows him to get there faster and with more certainty.
That is what an engineer is. He or she is a creative problem solver that is able to use analysis to develop a good solution and optimize it.
realengr- I think you are confusing a title with a profession or function. To the extent that the machines we design don't care a whit whether or not their designer had a degree, your comment "means nothing" is absolutely correct. If your sole criteria for 'deserving' the title is a diploma, you will number us amongst a great group of hacks and incompetents - many of whom have never practiced our craft. I'd prefer you not do that.
Bottom line is just this: If a profession - any profession - is qualified only by a diploma, (or medal, or testimonial), that profession will get the respect it deserves.
I never had the luxury of attending college. Student Loans weren't quite as easy to get in my youth and I grew up a poor boy. Yet, here I am 20 years later designing complex machinery and most importantly, making my employer lots of money. My "Industrial Press" degree has done me and my family very well.
Everybody on here has a different opinion about what even the 'profession' of engineering is. On one hand you have people going on about how the diploma or licensure means nothing and on the other hand they lament how the definition of the word is watered down with "software/sound/etc. engineer" ad nauseam.
Words mean things. IF we keep redefining them to the lowest common denominator we deserve derision. You guys sound like you want that lowest common denominator. Let's just dispense with it altogether. What about architects? I know architects who are incensed everytime they see a computer programmer with the title 'architect'.
If you want the lowest common denominator, why bother with the degrees, the licensure, etc. An engineer is then just any manipulator of science to create technology on any level. I have worked for British companies for years. Every nut turner and circuit puller has the title 'engineer'. The title means NOTHING. And it will here if you have your way.
Ever see 'The Incredibles'. Remember the theme of the movie, what the villain said "When everyone's super....no one will be"
That's what you really want. And that is what we will have.
Thanks for the definition, fiftyohm. I tend to agree with you. I've known engineers with lots of different degrees--computer science, EE, ME, physics--and occasionally, no degrees at all. I think an engineer is someone who thinks like one and who practices engineering. I also think that there's an engineering mentality, in the sense of a way of looking at the world (like being annoyed at lousy designs for a huge range of things). In any case, I think Woz is a stellar example. I didn't realize some people thought Jobs was an engineer, in addition to being a visionary. That's sad although now I understand why.
Ratsky, I have to agree with everything you have said, especially the ineffective structure of the NSPE. However, that may be because it is very much geared towards one profession. Let's face it. Most of those guys are SE or CE. If there were more of a cross section of the profession I believe it could be different. As to registration...well, you know it's coming. A lot of states are getting rid of their industrial exclusion laws so it may be a moot point. In those states, like here in Tennessee, you cannot have that title anymore even on a private or industrial business card without the PE. And before those from Tennessee pipe up and say 'oh no, that's not the case...' well....you just haven't been turned in or spotted. Before the haters get in here on me, i'm just stating what is, not what necessarily has to be.
Good questions, Ann. In my opinion, an Engineer is one who does engineering. S/he may be good at it, or lousy. Either way, a degree has nothing to do with the definition. Engineering graduates who do not qualify as 'engineers' by this simple definition are legion. Woz is a sterling example of the opposite case.
So what is 'engineering'? Anyone ever see the term 'diploma' wedged into the definition of that one?
I would argue that Woz is definitely an engineer, always was. I also will argue that Jobs is not and never was an engineer. What he really was, was a VISIONARY. He did come up with the CONCEPTS for many of his great products (although I'm not an Apple fan, I do respect the value of his contributions), in great detail BUT focusing on the product from the user standpoint, NOT the implementation (which after all, I think all would agree, is the role of the engineer). Some have said he was a marketing genius; I think that is selling his ideas short. Some of them were incredible flops in the marketplace (remember Lisa?), but they were true to his personal vision of what they should be. He could be considered a systems architect (which IS an engineering role), but his primary motivation and goal was always the best possible product that HE would want! He did understand that such products could command a premium price, but I suspect that wasn't his primary motivation. He just strove for nothing short of perfection. I suspect anyone who ever used the phrase "good enough for government work," even jokingly, while in his employ would instantly find themselves on the sidewalk outside!
This is not to say that engineers can't be visionaries; so many visionaries have been engineers! Many of the giants of the profession were true visionaries, even if many were never widely recognized as such. One example was Dan Noble, the engineering genius behind Motorola who convinced Paul Galvin (the businessman founder) to get into the semiconductor business pre-1950!
Woz is a good example of one aspect of this discussion, i.e., what makes an engineer an engineer. So is an engineer someone who does engineering, like Woz did before he got his degree, or is it someone with a degree, whether they are actively involved or not? Or is it someone who thinks like an engineer, even if that person doesn't have a degree or is not actively engaged with hands-on engineering?
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