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From: Chuck Simmons
Organization: You jest.
X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.61 [en] (X11; U; Linux 2.0.33 i586)
Subject: Re: Registered professional engineer?
Date: Sun, 22 Sep 2002 19:38:15 GMT
NNTP-Posting-Date: Sun, 22 Sep 2002 12:38:15 PDT
Chris Carlen wrote:
> Who needs to become this, as opposed to only having education and/or
> What is involved in becomming a RPI?
> Is it just a professional association that extracts dues from people in
> order to "bless" them?
As this thread has progressed, I am reminded of my early years in radio
As a high school student, I wandered into radio club quite often mainly,
I suppose, because the faculty advisor loved to play chess and so did I.
About half of the club members were hams and a few were critical of the
fact that the faculty advisor rather preferred to play chess with me
rather than solve petty quarrels that sprang up over the use of the
school's radio equipment. One day, the teacher, fed up to gunwales said
to the group in revolt against me, I'll bet you $5.00 that he (pointing
a finger at me) can get an FCC First Class Radio Telephone License
before the year is out. I was rather taken aback to be committed to a
course without so much as a "would you mind." After the others had gone,
the teacher plopped a thick book in front of me saying I should return
it when I got my license. It was a book of sample questions and answers
from FCC exams for all classes of commercial license. After a few months
and one whole Saturday morning spent taking the test, I put the
certificate on the bulletin board in the cassroom used by the radio
club. The teacher collected his money and he and I played chess as was
After high school, I started hunting for a job. One that appealed to me
was repair and certification of radio equipment for the state department
of public safety (highway patrol). According to the Federal Government
of the USA, I was fully qualified for the job. However, I was years
short of 21 and weighed less than 145 pounds. I was thus excluded from a
quite desirable job. Fortunately, radio and TV stations did not care how
old I was or how much I weighed as long as I was a warm body clutching
the required license. For their part, the federal government was quite
happy to drag me kicking and screaming into their service even though I
was young and ridiculously underweight. In their wisdom and quite
uncharacteristically, they turned me loose in a building with more than
65 high frequency high power transmitters as one of three repairmen for
the whole place.
What the license proved, of course, was that I was good at taking tests.
That I happened also to be good at what I was tested upon was not
particularly relevant to anything. As it happened, before my all expense
paid 3 year government holiday began, I had already discovered that I
could get a better job without the license. When I folded the green
fashion horrors I had worn for three years into my baggage never to wear
them again, I had already lined up a good job outside of the radio and
I think it is likely that then as now, in order to testify in a state
court as an expert in radio engineering, I would have had to have a PE.
At the same time, I was fully qualified to perform FCC proof of
performance testing and file documents having legal standing in federal
court as expert testimony. Today, the situation is different in that the
FCC has abolished the commercial license hierarchy as far as I know and
relies on employers to sort things out. I think that makes sense. It
pretty well eliminates the completely silly situation I was in about 40
A number of years ago, I was on a committee to set standards for
promoting technicians to engineer. One proposal was to make a PE be a
requirement. This proposal had the buoyancy of a lead balloon with most
committee members because none of us had a PE and did not see why we
should require a technician to trouble over it for a promotion. I had
myself been promoted to engineer years before I got a degree and I saw
no point in barriers higher than already existed.
I mentioned the federal government as being more, shall we say,
realistic than state governments about precisely who is legally an
engineer. This is not always the case. If I am ever on a government
contract project, I cannot be counted as an engineer. This is a minor
and rather stupid technicality. I don't have an engineering degree. Of
course, there are many thousands of engineers who have degrees in
various non-engineering fields and no engineering degree. My own degree
is in liberal arts. People who employ me could not care less if my
degree is in ping-pong and dsrts but the federal government, stupidly,
has the engineering degree requirement for counting engineers on a
A friend of mine was a retired laboratory pathologist. He is licensed to
practice medicine but when he came out of retirement, he launched into a
full time year of catching up with practice as it is today. More than a
license, that is the mark of a professional. Making sure that your
knowledge is adequate to the task.
... The times have been,
That, when the brains were out,
the man would die. ... Macbeth
Chuck Simmons firstname.lastname@example.org
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