Professional registration - when more than one is needed

Each professional engineer (or any regulated profession I can think, of except one) will set some kind of code of conduct for its members. I’m a registered member of two and have now joined a third. For some readers, who may be members of just one professional body at a time, this will sound strange. Comfort yourself on your good fortune; not all jurisdictions and professions act consistently with the practices of others.

It might be of interest (to some maybe) to describe my situation and ask that anyone (if any) in a similar situation share their experience. I have several colleagues in my local area who have the same situation as I do, and they’ve dealt with in in ways similar, but not identical, to mine. We have had to navigate some complexity in order to remove barriers in our careers.

I wonder if others have had similar experiences?
Have others (different disciplines, different countries) needed to register with multiple bodies in order to advance their career?

Best to start with some of my background.

  • I have lived and worked in Canada for my entire life
  • I did not graduate from university, but I attended one for years
  • I have 6 years of post-secondary education from technical colleges
  • Each of the 3 colleges I attended awarded diplomas
  • I was awarded diplomas in Science, Mech. Eng, and Aero Engineering
  • I identify myself as a technologist
  • Since most laypeople don’t know what that is, they call me an engineer

In order to establish some credentials in my career, I have been a member of the registered body of professional technologists in my province ever since finishing my Aero diploma in 1999. In 2011, I completed my registration at that body’s highest level, which is a Professional Engineering Technologist. That registration includes a professional code of conduct, obligations to report some of my activities, invitations to participate in professional development of others, access to insurance, and of course annual dues. Because of the policies of the provincial government and association, I also work within a defined scope of practice. My scope is broad within the dimensions of my aeronautical industry, which suits me fine.

In the field of aeronautical engineering, only federal jurisdiction applies. There is no state/provincial jurisdiction permitted in aeronautical engineering. A P.Eng. can stamp drawings of roof trusses and site surveys, but stamp an aircraft drawing breaks a federal law. For aeronautical engineers to practice in their field independently, they need to proceed through another accreditation process with the federal body that regulates aviation. Transport Canada in my case, of course.

Their process is different. There is no code of conduct. I have completed this process and at no time was I asked to swear an oath of professionalism. My qualifications and experience were examined, of course, plus an interview and a bunch of the other touchy-feely things that are done when people induct other people into “the club”. None of that process was really a surprise, but I’m still a bit set aback that no code of conduct has been put before me.

Those of you reading carefully have noticed a detail that I’ve skipped so far. How did a technologist get inducted into the professional engineer’s club? There is a schism in the ranks of engineers. Warning of more vagueness to follow… Engineers have been organized in professional associations for a long time. Technologists are a newer phenomenon. Rules change slowly, and the result is that when I was ready to become a professional member under Transport Canada, they weren’t ready for me.

While I was trained specifically for the very career I now hold, the school I had to attend in order to get it, is a college, not a university. In Canada, a university trains you for 4 years, a college for 3, before you graduate. I have attended one of the former, 3 of the latter, and my experience is that it’s all the same, just lasts 33% longer in university. Since only university grads are “supposed” to be engineers, Transport Canada doesn’t recognize the technologists, even the ones well trained for the very thing done daily in their industry.

That led me to finally register in a professional engineering association. The PE association in my province would recognize my qualifications, but added other requirements. Again, more inconsistency followed. Ultimately, I discovered that by pursuing registration with the PE in a different province, I would obtain the accreditation in a few months, while my local province PE it would take more than a year, and involve many exams. Since federally regulated industries are not regulated with respect to the province they a based, Transport Canada did not care in what province I am registered. So that was done fairly painlessly.

Of note, the provincial PE that I registered in has a code of ethics almost identical to my province’s P.Tech body’s - almost word for word. If I had registered with my province’s PE body, I’d have to adopt a different code of ethics, which misses a lot of things. I also suspect that Transport Canada relies on these provincial bodies like a crutch, avoiding responsibility for most of the vetting and disciplinary actions that the provincial bodies must do. This offers some explanation for the lack of a code of ethics applied by Transport Canada (or the FAA or EASA I might add). They actually have other recourse when they do need to take disciplinary actions on their members, so they aren’t without teeth.

I now practice in my field professionally as I feel I should. Some barriers still remain, but I’ll overcome them like the others when and if I need to. I’m now in a position to support the careers of others, and soon to become a focal point for my company’s accountability to government and legal obligations. I’ll have to leave a lot of my technical interests to others now. I will have to maintain my registration with the first and second provincial bodies in order to maintain my accreditation with Transport Canada. It’s fairly expensive but my company agreed to pay the fees.

Back to my original question - Has anyone ever found it this complicated?!

Wow. I don’t know how I can help, or add, or say thank you for that. It was a lot to digest and I’m going to have to read it a couple times.

From my first pass, I can say that my path was complicated. Easier than yours, but because I’ve worked my entire career in industry except areas, I never worked under another PE. (I still haven’t stamped anything to this day.) So, when a jurisdiction requires 3 PE signatures on my application, I was at a loss. Took me a while to find a jurisdiction that allowed a different approval cycle, and then I could get comity to the other jurisdictions. Maintaining my NCEES record is still a problem because I have a difficult time finding enough qualified PEs to vouch for me.

Something that may help you is NICET https://www.nicet.org/. It is the Technologist branch of NSPE here in the US. They are all about recognizing engineering technologists.

Graduated with an MS in Aero/Astro engineering. Nobody in my college life ever spoke to me about PE registration, or FE exams, nada.

Knew of one PE (Mech.) at the rocket factory where I began my career and spoke to him about it once, he said it was pretty much worthless, though he (or one of the other PE’s) had to stamp all the drawings that went to the gov’t. on the Shuttle contract we worked on. Similarly on the second job.

After exiting the aero field, I looked into registration (signed up and took the FE exam cold, passed no problem) and then wondered like swertel whether I could find enough PE’s to vouch for me. Realized that what I liked doing (R+D) really didn’t require it in my state, since we have commercial exemptions for most production-oriented companies. I never once failed to get a job because of the lack of a PE stamp.

I now work with/for a couple of PE’s and they have the fun job of reviewing building plans for our customers and recommending changes to piping and installed building equipment. I usually grey out when those subjects arise, and wander back to the shop to work on new fixturing or product development (i.e. fiddling around with machines and tools). Pretty happy with how I ended up.

I do think that the profession is getting cheapened by universities stamping out degrees by the millions, resulting in a lot of young engineers having to work in other industries, while a lot of the true engineering work gets off-shored or out-sourced. Dunno where we will be in 25 years. Told my sons to find other professions, so far they have done so successfully.

Thank you both - for reading my long story at the very least. I’m having some job changes because of my changing responsibilities. It must have put me in mind to look at my long-term perspective.

I am not sure what value this post will serve, but if there’s anyone out there finding obstacles and misdirection in their professional career, perhaps it offers some moral support, if nothing else.

Every discipline seems to have roles for people who don’t want the burden of registration and stamping, and after talking to engineers in a variety of industries, there are niches for just about every engineering discipline do well without it.

One thing I find rewarding, in my case, is the greater control I can give to the scope and direction a project, from start to finish. The original definition is a crucial phase and often only the “delegates” (as we call them) get to have a say, when the customers, suppliers, and installers are mapping it out. I regularly find minefields that the others miss, not to mention pathways that are faster, better, cheaper. It is very frustrating - in fact is induces a lot of stress on me - to work on a project that is contractually fixed to provide X, when I know that the customer is better served by Y. When interactions with the customer and our crews confirm my belief that the project is on the wrong track, it has made the negative effect worse.

Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

Anyway, I always planned on running my own business someday, which requires a licensed engineer to be registered as the Principal, regardless if any work gets stamped. So, having my PE keeps the opportunities to do whatever I want open, regardless of industry exemption.

I do have one short anecdote.

Sitting in a conference room with a customer.
Me, a lowly Project Engineer along with the VP of Engineering (then 2 levels above me in our org chart, although I have other thoughts on the value of self-given titles and org structures) are with the customer.
The VP plans on doing all the talking, of course.

We hand out business cards. Mine says “P.E.” on it; his does not. Guess who the customer talked to the whole time?