Engineering education requirements aren’t all that different from law

Being both a US-trained lawyer and having formerly held a professional engineer’s license, I have some personal knowledge of both the engineering and legal professions. The author misunderstands an engineer’s progression through the engineering profession. This misunderstanding harms his argument about reform of the legal education system.  A new graduate from a four-year engineering program is prohibited from offering engineering services to the public.  Offering engineering services to the public requires a professional engineer license. To earn a professional engineer license, an engineering graduate must work under the supervision of a licensed professional engineer for four years, then pass a competency test (the PE exam).* Thus, an engineer requires a minimum eight years of education and experience to get to the point where he/she can open their own engineering firm. A law student can open their own firm the day after passing the bar exam. It takes a lawyer 7 years of education to offer professional services to the public but it takes 8 years of education for an engineer to do the same.

Having said all of that, I agree with the author that the US legal education system is in need of reform. But comparing legal education to engineering education fails to make his point.

* See National Society of Professional Engineers website: “every state regulates the practice of engineering to ensure public safety by granting only Professional Engineers (PEs) the authority to sign and seal engineering plans and offer their services to the public.”

Jerald Gnuschke
Woodinville, WA