IEEE's Position: Four Years Is a Good Start

Traditional four-year degree should remain the first professional degree in engineering

7 March 2008

dipThe IEEE will recommend that the traditional four-year degree, such as a Bachelor of Science or of Engineering in the United States, remain the first professional degree in engineering. This position, taken by the IEEE Board of Directors at its November 2007 meeting, is in response to requests from several organizations and IEEE units that the IEEE take an official stance on what the first degree should be.

One proposal was to require a bachelor-level degree plus 30 semester credits. Another was to require a Master of Science or Engineering degree.

While the IEEE does not believe in a "mandatory, across-the-board requirement" for more schooling following a traditional four-year degree, it holds that "continuing education should be an integral part of the career plans of most, if not all, engineers." Moreover, the Board stated that "studies beyond the traditional four-year degree and higher degrees such as Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy/Doctor of Science are appropriate and, in many cases, necessary for engineers whose career path requires research."

"For many other engineers," the Board said, "higher education in areas such as business, economics, and law is equally essential."

The Board's decision was based in part on feedback it received from members in response to the article "What Should Be the First Professional Degree in Engineering?". The Board also asked several IEEE groups and other organizations to weigh in, including the Committee on Engineering Accreditation Activities and the Committee on Technology Accreditation Activities. A majority agreed that the first degree should remain the traditional four-year degree (five years with a co-op program), according to Moshe Kam, the 2007 vice president of Educational Activities.

Reasons cited included not wanting to increase barriers to admission to the profession and the apparent lack of demand from employers or the public that engineers have graduate degrees when entering the workforce.

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