Challenges to Engineering Licensing


Did you know that many states have proposed, and some have enacted, legislation that threatens the engineering licensure process?  You should because some of the things proposed are a little scary.

Over half the states have had legislation introduced over the past 5 years associated with one of two issues.  The first is a series of “Right to Engage in a Lawful Occupation”-type acts that seek to limit or lessen business or occupation regulating (NSPE 2020).  The legislation often proposes the elimination of licensure requirements for certain professions under the premise that a person has a “right to engage in a lawful profession or vocation without being subject to an occupational regulation.”  Many of these acts do contain language that retains regulatory authority on occupations that are necessary and to meet public health, safety, or welfare objectives and require a review over 4 or 5 years of each and every license and licensing board.

These proposals are often related to sunset laws that require review and analysis of licensing boards, associated with a regulatory requirement that the respective board be dissolved when no longer needed.  In addition, some states proposed these laws to “remove any unnecessary or overly burdensome licensing requirements,” and recommendation for continuation of the Board.  For example, Ohio enacted legislation that states “Ohio will use the least restrictive regulation to protect public health and safety” as a part of reviewing all licensing boards.

Two states, Indiana and Missouri, introduced a “Consumer Choice” bill that proposed to allow unlicensed persons to practice occupations that require licensure, provided the persons disclosed that they are unlicensed.  Both bills fortunately died in the legislature in 2019, but could return.  Neither bill was specifically oriented toward engineers, but the Indiana Job Creation Commission (JCC) recommended to elimination of licensure of Professional Engineers in 2014.   The State of Montana introduced legislation ins 2017 to eliminate the licensing for profession al engineers.  It died in committee in 2017.

New Mexico’s governor issues and executive order (2018-048) to permit unlicensed persons doing work that otherwise requires a license if the customer is informed and signs and contract acknowledging the unlicensed person is doing work.  The Tennessee and West Virginia legislatures are considering such a bill in 2020.  The idea that it is ok to have non-licensed people doing engineers because the person paying of the work said it was is preposterous.  It is a clear devaluation of engineers, engineering degrees and licensure on the part of elected officials, an issue that we need to change!

Remember the difference between an engineer and a medical doctor is that a doctor’s mistake can only kill one patient at a time.  Engineers on the other hand….Well think 737 Max, BRidges that fail, Hyatt in St. Louis to name a few….  To value engineers so little is clearly not in the interests of public health safety and welfare, which is what elected officials are tasked to protect.


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