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Federal judge finds state law governing who is an engineer violates free speech (oregonlive.com)
374 points by danso 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 296 comments

As a licensed professional engineer, I find the effort exerted by various state and provincial licensing bodies to regulate the use of the term 'engineer' a bit tiresome. Yes, it's important to regulate the practice of engineering, but unlike some other types of professionals engineers rarely if ever offer their services to Joe Public. It's not like we have guys putting up billboards on the side of the highway advertising their services as an engineer.

In every context where the services of a PE / PEng (Canada) are truly required, no one will be relying on that person's email signature or business card, they will be asking for the relevant documents to be signed and sealed.

Licensing boards would do well to devote more effort to regulating large engineering firms which often play fast and loose with the rules, hiring cheaper, unlicensed people to do most of their work and then have one or two PEs seal all of it with minimal review.

Last time I had a discussion about this my put was that licensing is an archaic way of doing things.

In short the idea is we trust the PE's signature that everything is copacetic. In more modern fields like automotive, aerospace and software engineering that idea is laughable. Everything is about process, audit and testing.

It all comes down to insurance. If your building collapses, the insurance company will want to know if you did every reasonable thing possible to prevent it before they pay out on your policy. One of those things is making sure that the person who designed the building knew what they were doing, i.e. were they a licensed engineer.

I think most product companies are essentially self-insured. If Ford releases the Pinto and they get sued, they're paying the settlements themselves, not filing an insurance claim. So they are free to use whatever method they like to verify the competence of their employees.

> It all comes down to insurance. If your building collapses, the insurance company will want to know if you did every reasonable thing possible to prevent it before they pay out on your policy. One of those things is making sure that the person who designed the building knew what they were doing, i.e. were they a licensed engineer.

That has nothing to do with the law, though. Ie. any insurance company ought to be able to decide for itself what qualifies as "engineer". There's no need for the state to define this and sue people -- the insurance company can simply refuse to sell an insurance unless the work was done by people considered, by the insurance company, as "engineers".

A law defining what make the difference between an engineer and a professional engineer though reduces rriction in that context by creating a shared definition so instead of every insurance client having to provide the documentation that their eng was a p. eng (according to that insurance company's definition) both the customer and the insurance company can just refer to the licensing board to check.

The biggest issue in this case is that the state was using it punatively against a person who was not providing a p eng sign off or advertising services as a p eng. Having a regulatory shared definition is fine and helps smooth commerce.

Many places have an exemption for manufactured goods that are subject to testing. So for instance, a device doesn't have to be designed by a licensed engineer if it meets and is verified by testing to meet CSA standards.

But if you want to use something that's not CSA, then it does need to be reviewed and signed off by an engineer.

A home's electrical design doesn't have to be signed off by an engineer, but it has to meet code and be inspected.

If it doesn't meet code and you want an exemption (for instance because you are doing something that wasn't anticipated by the code), then you need an engineer to sign off confirming that what you're doing is safe and truly requires an exemption.

Yes, for attritional claims they “self-insure” (often through a captive or equivalent.) But for large claims they buy insurance. This is usually done from global reinsurers.

How do you propose municipal planning departments process, audit, and test the thousands of building permit drawings they receive every year? Have a staff of hundreds of engineers of their own? The professional reliance model seems to work well enough, but that isn't to say it is the optimal model out there.

I feel like that's something that could be at least in part be automated by a computer. If everyone is following a standard you should be able to feed the data in and start doing pass/fail tests on requirements. I assume that's what people who sign off on plans kind of already do anyway.

The engineer's work is largely edge cases that don't fit into prescriptive code. Ie, that is substantially the system in place: We have a set of things that can be done without an engineer because they were already designed and approved by a group of engineers, and for everything else it is bespoke engineering.

> Everything is about process, audit and testing

And how do you know the process, auditing and testing was done? With documentation signed by someone who can verify this and is legally liable if it wasn't done properly.

When I worked at Raytheon, there were no PEs n staff signing off on process documents or conducting audits of our design, manufacturing, or testing processes. Processes were developed in accordance with relevant ISO/IEEE/ASME/whatever standards, and these standards were periodically audited by external people certified by the corresponding standards body. While many of the older engineers had PEs, I do not recall any position that required one.

As for legal liability, that falls primarily with the company. The chances that an individual is going to be held legally liable for a process failure in a corporation is very low, and whether or not that person has a PE will be irrelevant.

And that's great when you have Raytheon's reputstion, clout, budget and bargaining power with insurance companies. If you want to start an engineering firm, I expect that having an accredited professional engineer on staff to ensure these processes are respected or the work meets certain standards will significantly affect your premiums. I wouldn't underestimate these costs, particularly for a new company.

So, how do you do that sort of testing on one-off construction? What is the audit checking against? Where does the process come from?

I can only speak for the area where I am licensed - British Columbia - but the presence of a professional engineer's seal on something should mean more than "this person thinks it's OK". It is supposed to mean:

1. This person has performed the work that went into this plan/design/report or, if someone else performed it, the signing person carefully verified every important aspect of the work

2. If they used software to perform calculations, they have designed a reasonable method to check and verify the output of that software, either by using selected hand-calculations or comparing to another, independent, software system

3. They have employed a quality assurance process that is suitable for the type of work being done, which may include peer review, non destructive testing, testing to failure of a sample, etc.

4. If field work is being sealed, the PEng has personally verified the field work, or provided detailed specifications for another qualified person to do quality assurance on the field work

Now whether most PEngs really follow these "best practices" is an entirely different story. And yes, for fields that often involve very complex systems, the idea of any one single person meeting the quality management guidelines to place a professional seal on, say, an entire 787 aircraft, doesn't make sense. And when those systems also have life safety implications, it makes sense to test rigorously wherever possible.

In many fields, professional engineers are effectively delegated the authority of government under a system known as "professional reliance". Rather than the city government hiring hundreds of people to review the plans of every building, they simply require developers to have a professional engineer certify that the plans meet the building code. This strikes a balance between the city having to review everything (and the associated increase in costs), and the developer being able to tick the box saying everything is fine with no real accountability beyond their numbered company that is owned by another numbered company in the Cayman Islands.

I studied a degree called "Software Engineering" and am acredited by the Australian Institute of Engineers (the first, and AFAIK, only, Software degree that is certified).

Working in Canada where my degree was not certified, all the PEng people would get seriously uptight if I even said "I studied Engineering" or "I have a bachelor of Engineering".

> Working in Canada where my degree was not certified

If they have an engineering conference in Canada, and a notable engineering expert comes from abroad to speak but isn't from a Canadian certified school (perhaps they're from a British one instead) do they get uptight about that as well?

At some point they must accept that non-Canadian-certified people can be engineers as well?

In Quebec (not sure about the rest of Canada), you can't call yourself engineer if not a member of the ordre des ingénieurs. You can sign b.eng, but not eng. You can say you have a Batchelor of engineering, but not that you are an engineer.

I remember there was a case where an American academic headed a scientific organization in Germany but was told he couldn’t call himself Dr. because his doctorate was from America.

Found a link about it: http://m.spiegel.de/international/germany/title-fight-us-aca...

The issue here is probably more that software engineering isn't considered to be engineering in Canada. If a notable historian from a country where they call historians engineers came to the country to speak, people probably would get uptight about that.

>> The issue here is probably more that software engineering isn't considered to be engineering in Canada

By whom? Canadian software engineers, other types of Canadian engineers, or by some professional engineering body that's trying to protect their profession?

By the legislative bodies in the provinces and territories. For instance in BC: http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/9611...

I am actually a Software Engineering Undergraduate Student in Canada. We are real engineers! We get licenced the same way through graduating from an accredited program, getting the 4 years of experience and writing an ethics exam.

In Canada engineer is like lawyer. You can specialize in a certain part of law (e.g. patent, corporate, criminal). just like you specialize in certain fields (e.g. aerospace, mechanical, geomagnetic, biomed). What matters in both cases is being given a license.

I didn't know about that. Is the license legally required to be hired for all programming jobs, or just for jobs related to specific fields and government?

I had assumed by everyone. As an American software engineer, I don't consider software engineering to be engineering because we don't have a professional body or licensing or standards. I didn't know Canada was any different.

> I don't consider software engineering to be engineering because we don't have a professional body or licensing or standards

Why would this be the defining characteristic of engineering?

It's not the defining characteristic, but I've always understood it to be a necessary requirement before a person can be called an engineer.

I think the problem revolved around me actually working, not just visiting.

> Working in Canada where my degree was not certified, all the PEng people would get seriously uptight if I even said "I studied Engineering" or "I have a bachelor of Engineering".

As a Canadian engineering graduate myself, I don't think that's true. Saying you studied engineering is fine, that's literally what the degree is. Calling yourself an engineer is a different story, and that requires more work. It's like calling yourself a doctor without a doctorate. Notice how I didn't call myself an engineer, and that's because I didn't get my PEng.

Out of curiosity:

I studied engineering in Germany. There's no such thing as a PEng in Germany -- the only thing is that the title of Dipl.-Ing. (equivalent to MEng), which was the culmination of my studies, is protected.

How does it make you feel for me to claim I'm an engineer?

(BTW, I get seriously uptight at all the web designers who like to call themselves engineers :-) )

> (BTW, I get seriously uptight at all the web designers who like to call themselves engineers :-) )

I feel similarly to you, but would extend it to cover most software development, period. With feet in multiple traditional engineering disciplines, I don't see the majority of software development as coming close to the bar of engineering (though some certainly does). And I don't mean that in the sense of licensure, nor am I merely trying to be snooty. But to hear the software world co-opt "engineering" to mean "technical work" is grating.

My computer engineering degree included Chemistry, Physics, Mechanical Engineering (statics/dynamics) Multivariate Calculus, Differential Equations / Linear Algebra, as well as Humanities (writing, history, art) in addition to software, hardware, electronics... Am I not coming close to the "bar of engineering"?

You can boil engineering down (maybe a bit much, but bear with me) to: plan, execute, measure, adjust. The difference between software /programming/ and software /engineering/ is that programming often stops after execute, and hands measure to someone else maybe, whereas a software engineer is constantly measuring what they are doing and trying to understand why it may be deviating from plan, and how to make it better in the future.

To wit, you don't need software engineers to build you a web application, but you had better have them working on your file system.

None of the things you listed would seem to indicate anything about your ability to employ a rigorous approach to software development equivalent to what a credentialed civil engineer does with roads.

A civil engineer is not credentialed because they took physics and DiffEq. They are that because their field has defined a body of knowledge and rigor that has been shown to adequately protect the public within a narrow band of services.

I am not aware of any such effort anywhere in software, which is why many engineers consider the whole notion of “software engineering” to be a farce.

>> ability to employ a rigorous approach to software development equivalent to what a credentialed civil engineer does with roads

Q: Are there many software engineers who build poor-quality roads in their spare time?

Sure, yes. What relevance is that?

> I am not aware of any such effort anywhere in software, which is why many engineers consider the whole notion of “software engineering” to be a farce.

The Rust Evangelism Strikeforce is working hard to change that.

> My computer engineering degree included Chemistry, Physics, Mechanical Engineering (statics/dynamics) Multivariate Calculus, Differential Equations / Linear Algebra, as well as Humanities (writing, history, art) in addition to software, hardware, electronics... Am I not coming close to the "bar of engineering"?

I'm not making a point about degrees and coursework covered per se, more so about the practice of the profession. Of course, education prepares one for practice, so they are very linked.

I think the practice of computer engineering straddles the line more between engineering and craftsmanship than does say typical software development which is largely (though as I noted before, not entirely) in the craftsmanship camp. For what it's worth, I have a Computer Engineering degree as well.

> You can boil engineering down (maybe a bit much, but bear with me) to: plan, execute, measure, adjust.

I get your gist, but it misses some essential elements. Engineering is about understanding your objectives/requirements/constraints well and ensuring that what you implement satisfies those while being correct/sound. Of course, there is almost inevitably a circular dependence between the understanding of objectives/requirements/constraints and correct implementation.

If soundness is trumped by other considerations, e.g., "development velocity", developer availability, convenience of tooling, etc., I would say you are not practicing engineering. It's not that most software development sets out to implement bugs or design flaws, it's that there's an irreconcilable difference between the mindset that treats their elimination or preclusion as a first-order consideration and lets the development approach fall out accordingly, vs. choosing a development approach and then trying to weed out soundness issues after implementation. The heated arguments in favor of continuing to develop mass-deployed or high-stakes systems in languages like C or C++, or weakly-typed languages shows the strong bent of the software development world toward craftsmanship over engineering. It's one thing when those are the only tools available; it's another thing when there are viable options that force more correctness yet people can't get over how unencumbered they feel when they go the unsafe route.

I recognize these statements probably offend, but my point is not to troll with a polemic. It's to say that software is a new technical vista compared to traditional engineering disciplines. It provides a kind of power and speed of system implementation radically unavailable in the physical realm. Our ability to construct software systems far outstrips the allotted time, and often until recently the ability, to reason about them.

This is definitely changing, and the work going into enabling soundness-by-construction through tools accessible to any competent developer is worthy of innumerable plaudits. I think we are heading toward most software development as engineering, but we are far from it today. The daily news of "hacked" systems and the never-ending stream of "system security updates" is proof.

> If soundness is trumped by other considerations, e.g., "development velocity", developer availability, convenience of tooling, etc., I would say you are not practicing engineering

I think you could argue they might be engaged in other forms of non-recognized engineering (like process engineering), but I agree that software is not what they're engineering.

I am seriously curious, what is the difference between e.g. an mechanical engineer designing a new machine and a person designing a new software system that is intended to be maintained for at least 10 years by various teams? Is there some sort of bonus just because it's physical vs virtual?

> Is there some sort of bonus just because it's physical vs virtual?

No, it's not about a "bonus" because it's physical. erikpukinskis [1] and blihp [2] captured essential reasons for the differences in their comments, and I did so in my response to yc-krain [3]. I mean this in no way condescendingly, but if the bulk of one's technical experience is all in software with no deep exposure to the engineering lifecycle in the physical realm, it could be hard to grok the underlying theme of rigor that these comments get at.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18801168

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18801296

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18801396

I think it's the rigor of the field. The general expectation is that a mechanical, or any other type of engineer, will bring to the table some minimum set of skills and knowledge that other engineers in the same field possess. This is not true in computing since so many people entered the field from so many vectors. Not to mention there's still a hell of a lot of snake oil being peddled because there's so much money in the field of computing.

For example: one can't be certain that someone with a Computer Science degree even knows how to program or has any other specific knowledge or skills. Or that someone supposedly with X years of experience with Y understands Y at all vs. just repeating tasks learned by rote. Or that someone who went to a Z bootcamp can actually do anything useful with/in Z. Maybe someday we'll get there, but it's still a long ways off.

> It's like calling yourself a doctor without a doctorate

In some countries most medical doctors don't have any kind of doctoral degree. In the UK for example doctors have a bachelor's degree.

I have a PhD, but can't represent myself as doctor or use the Dr. Prefix as this is reserved for member of the college of doctors.

That’s bonkers! Doctor was originally a title for academics before medics borrowed it. I think medics without an MD or PhD shouldn’t be using the title. What country is that in?

Canada, specifically Quebec (I am not sure about other provinces).

I find it slightly annoying too. However, my degrees are in engineering and it makes sense to me that the engineer term is reserved.

Do they let the people operating trains call themselves engineers?

That link isn't very clear. Plus it's only Quebec.

I did a little Googling and in Ontario there are exceptions for flight engineer, train engineer, sound engineer, aircraft maintenance engineer, operating engineer, stationary engineer, and hoisting engineer.

I am from Quebec, so this what I know. The link says you can't and ask media to stop doing it. It also says that the train engineer union could keep his name because it existed before the law.

If you study engineering. You will probably end up with an engineering degree (something like a doctorate for doctors) which makes completely legit to call yourself an engineer.

A PEng is waay more work and implies way more experience and knowledge that someone who's just done a Bachelor. I can understand their annoyance.

There are plenty of people with PEng licenses that have never done a day of fundamental engineering work in their life (e.g. people doing project management or technical sales). These people usually know what they don't know, and won't try to - for instance - sign off on the plans for a steam turbine, so they are largely harmless. If you work at a large technical company, getting your PEng can be mostly a form of credentialing that your employer pays for and may come with a small pay increase. Lots of companies that employ PEngs (and indeed demand the credential) don't actually do any engineering work - only management of engineering work by contractors - so there's no way for their employees to properly build their capabilities as engineers.

It would annoy me if someone without any engineering education or experience tried to pass themselves off as an engineer in a way that exaggerated their competence, but if a guy from Iran with 20 years solid experience as an engineer who hasn't yet jumped through the excessively many hoops to obtain a PEng in Canada wants to write "engineer" in his email signature, that's fine with me. It's the term that best represents his competencies. The only limitation is that he won't be able to take responsibility for plans or designs without an actual license.

Maybe a PEng takes more work than a PE, but a PE is not "way more work" than a Bachelor's. It basically just involves doing your job well enough for three years to get three recommendations from PEs and remaining sharp enough on academic subjects to pass an exam at the end of that period. I didn't bother mainly because I neglected to take the FE before I graduated.

"As a licensed professional engineer, I ..."

He is an engineer as far as I am concerned (and time served as well as his quali):

Jarlstrom, who holds a bachelors of science degree in engineering from Sweden

A professional engineer has to pass a pretty rigorous test that takes every bit of 8 hours for most folks. I studied for hundreds of hours for mine (not kidding) and it took me two tries to pass. I know great engineers who are trying for the sixth time. Getting an engineering degree is really hard at most colleges. Passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam is also challenging, but a joke compared to the P.E. exam. A professional engineer has both passed that test and worked for usually four years in industry according to most state laws and can testify in court as an expert. The commenter you quoted likely isn't being snarky, but trying to point that out. If Sweden has a completely different set of requirements, I would similarly not be able to practice in the same professional context there.

This was rotten of Oregon, but there are generally laws like this to make sure everyone knows what to expect from an engineer. Of course it looks rediculous that a Swedish engineer wasn't allowed to point out a flawed system (I agree it is a violation of free speech), but they also can't take his background at face value, just like someone with a medical degree from Cuba probably can't practice medicine in the United States without going through licensing and taking classes to make sure the degrees truly are equivalent.

Let's not oversell the PE or the FE: I took both drunk and completed them in under 3 hours each.

The true point of being a professional engineer is that you've satisfied the MINIMUM requirements to be licensed and, therefore, you are licensed by the state to sign off on documents within what you consider your expertise. It relies on you to make that determination with the understanding that you should know better, recognizing the legal and professional ramifications if you practice outside your expertise.

I disagree with the Oregon ruling: holding yourself out as an engineer without licensure is not acceptable and should not be encouraged. It creates confusion amongst the public about what a licensed engineer is and who to trust.

The guy could have easily put out his findings as an interested party or something without trying to invoke the goodwill that people like you and I have put so much effort into engendering.

If he were holding himself out as a "professional engineer," I'd absolutely agree with you. However, there are entire fields of engineering that have largely ignored the PE. Good luck finding a PE, for example, to work under if you're an electrical engineer to even be eligible to sit for the PE exam. I don't think such engineers are any less engineers because they lack a PE.

Yeah. In the US, I believe the software engineering PE is actually being discontinued after this year.

I got an Engineer-in-Training certificate out of school (basically taking a GRE-type exam) because, in the field I was working in at the time, senior engineers got PEs so they could sign off on blueprints for regulatory agencies. And, in due course, I would have gotten one.

But anyone who thinks there's something special about working for a few years in the industry and then taking a few hours of tests... I'm not violently against these types of certifications but they tend to become artificial barriers (degree requirements, specific work experience, and the certification itself) and don't really indicate a lot.

Absolutely there are entire fields that have abandoned licensure or have no real need for licensure. These are usually fields where designs are not public facing or reviewed by a state agency and so no implied liability occurs.

However, I think it is incredibly important to note that the story in question had a guy who was claiming to be an engineer and talking about traffic signal timing. Traffic engineering (and all other subsets of civil engineering) is definitely NOT one of the fields that has abandoned licensure. Civil engineering has the highest percentage of licensure of any engineering discipline that I know of. Anything related to a traffic signal, in my experience, has had to be dual stamped by both a licensed civil engineer for the traffic and electrical engineer for the light.

Sure, traffic engineering requires a stamp. Traffic light timings? That's a little rich considering the guy who created the formula in question was a physicist who never held a PE.

My friend is actually a EE (graduated with him) and he went to work at the highway department as a civil (had a family member that worked there and wanted to stay home). I just remembered that we talked many a moon ago and he told me the traffic light timings were in a table which made zero sense. I believe he changed the timing, but not sure.

This is false. My company has about 200 electrical engineers (I'm one) and there are probably 50 that have a P.E. and many in management...finding someone above you that you've worked for/with is not difficult and I say that as someone whose company puts nearly zero value on it. If I ever change jobs though, it could be valuable. My father is also a EE and his was required to advance.

I'm an electrical engineer, too, and my experience working for small companies in Silicon Valley is that nobody has a PE. Are you by any chance working in power? That's the one place I've commonly seen EE PEs.

There isn't one legal definition and it was being used to silence a member of the public pointing out that they are stealing from the public by designing unsafe traffic lights.

Some clients of certain kinds of engineering demand this certification. But not all clients, and not all engineering fields. A post-academic license doesn’t an engineer make. It’s like saying you can’t call yourself tech support without getting a Red Hat Certification (ignoring the fact that it’s easier to get a PE paper than an RHCE)— no it’s an unfortunately named certification lacking which just precludes you from certain jobs requiring a PE.

The whole 8 hour exam in under 3 hours?

Don’t undersell it either. The minimum, as you pointed out, is safe. Your capitalization implies “it’s barely acceptable” and any engineer that has passed those tests would know this.

My capitalization means exactly what it says: someone with a license has met the minimum requirements from the state. Nothing else can be garnered from someone possessing a license.

The minimum requirements have, historically, resulted in engineers who put out public facing designs that, more often than not, do not bring harm to the public.

As someone who “has passed those tests” and been practicing for almost a decade, I can tell you first hand that sometimes the guy with a license who is actually at “the minimum” does not always put out something that is safe.

There's no need to put emphasis on it - unless your real motivation was to suggest the test is a joke. Which your claim to have been drunk and finished in nearly a third of the suggested time also implies.

It indicates they're not some random. (Or someone without conventional engineering education.) I guess an undergrad degree, a few years of experience, and the ability to pass an academic test does indicate at least some basic background but probably not a whole lot more.

Congratulations on taking it 3 hours drunk and passing. That is quite a feat depending on which particular test you took.

He was not engaging in professional practice, it was civic practice. You don't need an economics degree to comment on a tax measure.

But if someone commenting on a tax measure claimed to be an accountant then you’d certainly think they were a licensed CPA, wouldn’t you?


If someone claims to be a licensed CPA, they are likely to be a licensed CPA.

Look at what you need to do to become "an accountant" in the UK:


I have an engineering degree (masters level), but most places don't allow me to call myself an "engineer". I also have a PhD and same stands for "doctor". Oh well...

The funny thing about the medical community trying to monopolize the use of the term "doctor" is that physicians are rarely actually doctors themselves. While MD programs require a bachelor degree and certain prerequisite course work, the MD is the first degree someone can earn in medicine. Traditionally, the first earned medical degrees were bachelor degrees (MBBS) and that's a more honest way of doing things. Same thing with the JD (law). It's a renamed LLB undergraduate degree rather than a real doctorate.

So congrats on actually being a doctor.

occupational licensing and the laws around them are what keep many people who go to prison without a good means to obtain a well paying job. it also keeps many in lower income strata because even simple jobs are overly regulated protecting entrenched concerns; read : hair and nail care and even interior decorating in some jurisdictions.

yet there are defenders who will pop up with any threat to the licensing by citing extreme examples but most of this is to protect the businesses who both "train" to meet the licensing requirements as well as those who hire because it becomes an expensive business to compete in

I think the laws are fine as long as they govern the words you use to describe your services and not the services themselves.

Yes. Back some 20 years ago, I switched majors, spent another 1.5 years and $15k for a degree accreditation eligible for PE.

I'm fine with forbiding speech regarding life/safety impact like shouting "fire" and protecting the use of PE for liability and public safety reasons, and letting anyone call themselves a hacker, engineer or whatever else floats their day. To be clear: there ought to be a level of professional rigor where lives are on the line, but otherwise it's caveat hiring manager.

Aren't you forgetting liability? It's not exactly in the PEs interest to sign off on shoddy work as they can be found liable if it does hit the fan. And the consequences could be pretty severe.

At least where I am, for an engineer to be held liable their conduct needs to meet the standard of negligence. And realistically, enforcement action only commences when the consequences are catastrophic: someone loses their life or severe property damage occurs.

The work merely being of poor quality is almost never going to give rise to enforcement action. If you design a crappy drainage system for a road and it double the owner's maintenance expenses because it keeps washing out, you aren't going to get sued.

I once worked in the live entertainment industry. We often had engineers sign off on stage/tower structures. When they got the math wrong things fell on heads. Our insurance demanded licensed engineers. Anyone using that term, professing, to be an engineer better be one.

This case essentially removes engineer from the list of recognized professions. That club now only belongs to the doctors and lawyers. Even hairdressers cannot call themselves such without state recognition.

No - the judge affirmed that the state can still control who can call themselves a "professional engineer" or "licensed professional engineer" - but allowed anyone to claim to be an "engineer" ... it's a situation akin to being an "accredited teacher" with a teaching credential compared to all of us who teach at one time or another

I guess anyone can call themselves a doctor then, and we'll just have to call proper doctors "professional doctors" or "licensed professional doctors".

Call them what they are: physicians. A four year entry level degree in a subject is a bachelor degree, not a doctorate.

What's a "proper doctor"? Is someone who obtained a Ph.D. in English Literature not allowed to call themselves "doctor"?

They have a doctorate don't they?

> Our insurance demanded licensed engineers. Anyone using that term, professing, to be an engineer better be one.

The guy didn't claim he was licensed. All he said was "I'm an engineer". All the court said was "He can say he's an engineer".

This doesn't sound very problematic to me. Like, presumably you'd ask where they were licensed, right? You wouldn't just accept anyone who said they were an engineer, and then rely on the state to issue a $500 fine to anyone who dared use the "E" word without being licensed in the US?

What should we call the people who stoke fires on steam locomotives then?

Traditionally they're called firemen.

Steam locomotives aren't commonly used anymore, so I assume you're making a joke about somebody on a train being a "firefighter".

I think instead he's making a joke about locomotive engineers. Which is actually a good point, but marred by couple issues. First, the "engineer" is the person who drives the train, rather than the person feeding the fire. Second, the term is only frequently used in English speaking North America. Further description here:

  Why are US train drivers called engineers?

I think the term stoker also applies.

Could be, although I think of that as a nautical term. For example when they were talking recently about the coal bunker fire on the Titantic, they said that two stokers per every shift were delegated to shovel the bunker that had the burning coal.

Completely disagree. It says he can call himself an engineer in a non-professional context.

Having a ChBE BS, I am an engineer (although no longer working as one). I am not a Professional Engineer (not a licensed PE). There’s a difference - doesn’t mean I should not be able to call myself an engineer, and I’m sure others w engineering degrees would agree

BS EE here.

I am also an engineer and approach the world with an engineering mindset. And I would never use "Engineer" as part of my title. For me, once it becomes a title/capitalized, it's no longer an adjective but a designation.

My first initial is D and I use that instead of my first name. When people address me as "Dr Casey" I correct them on that too.

Engineer is an incredibly widely-used term as part of titles. In addition to SWEs etc., you've got sales engineers, systems engineers, field engineers, etc. When I was in the oil business there were titles like mud engineer (which people joked should have been called mud salesmen). The majority of these people don't have engineering degrees and have never worked in what most would consider an engineering role.

Non-sarcastic question: Everyone at my company has "Software Development Engineer" on their title if that's their role. That's a capitol E. What's your thoughts on that?

I both love and hate this story.

Unfairly handing out red light tickets is rotten, but fining the man who pointed it out is beyond rotten. It's corrupt. There's no question Oregon was defending its income with that move. Dirty money.

I don't feel like reversing the fine is nearly enough of a response. There was effectively no punishment for issuing that fine.

But, I'm still pleased with the outcomes Järlström keeps accomplishing. It may not completely offset the chilling effects caused by the initial transgressions, but hopefully it can inspire others.

All in all, it definitely reflects very poorly on the Oregon State government. I hope they're happy with the reputation damage done.

I find the original red-light story that precipitated this fine to be more interesting than the fine/engineer word story.

His side of the story is here: http://www.jarlstrom.com/redflex/ . In short, the timings don't account for the time it takes for a car to _clear_ an intersection.

His lawsuit against the city's yellow light timings was dismissed because he failed to show standing. It is somewhat interesting that he took the tack of hypothetical damage as a pedestrian instead of a contested red-light ticket. Perhaps the ticket(s) that precipitated the research didn't satisfy the exact conditions of this challenge.

I suspect fining this guy was more retaliatory (i.e., personal grudge) than a real attempt to defend red light ticket income. But I am just speculating and am also pleased with the outcome.

sneak 8 months ago [flagged]

The state has a monopoly on violence; they do not need to protect their reputation. They’re the only game in town.

Would you please stop taking HN threads on generic ideological tangents? They're tedious (because repetitive, because nothing new) and lead to flamewars.

I feel like we've had to ask you this kind of thing a lot and have cut you way more slack than we do for most. If you'd review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and take the spirit of this site to heart, we'd appreciate it.

You might find these other links helpful for getting a clearer idea of the original spirit:





Certainly; I forgot and did not intend to derail the thread. I appreciate the links.

Happy new year.

Oregon may be the only game in town, but they are not the only game in the country. A bad reputation can lead to talent drain, less investment and fewer companies moving there.

The Oregon government doesn't seem to have any problem with Intel advertising "Software Engineer" positions on LinkedIn.

That's...ironically the distinction made in the case(s).

Why would you want more people to use violence? Mob rule is better?

OP does not appear to be advocating violence, but is stating a fact. All laws are enforced by violence. If you disagree, disobey the police at your next meeting with them. You'll find out quickly who is allowed to assault and who is not.

The US Flag code is a law but it is not enforced by violence. It is purely voluntary law.

Yes, but only because the Supreme Court ruled that there’s no way to enforce the Flag Code without violating the First Amendment, a part of the Constitution, the supreme law of the land. That’s not the usual case for laws that are on the books.

Thank you for agreeing with me that cabaalis' statement that "all laws are enforced by violence" is incorrect. I would agree with "most". I disagree with "all".

Here's a couple others:

38 CFR 38.630 - Headstones and markers. - "VA will furnish, when requested, a memorial headstone or marker to commemorate an eligible individual whose remains are unavailable." - https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/38/38.630

Who is threatened with violence for breaking that law? At most, a VA employee can be fired, yes?

36 U.S. Code § 106 - Constitution Day and Citizenship Day - https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/36/106

That's another completely voluntary law ("are urged"), and the Supreme Court didn't get involved.

The user is saying as an authority the state has nothing to fear in terms of ruining its reputation.

There is no implicit argument that additional forms of authority are necessary.

In other words, never assume someone is implying something else when making an entirely different argument.



Please don't take HN threads further into flamewar, especially race war.


I know in the US you can call yourself a real estate agent, but not a Realtor unless you're part of the National Association of Realtors. This seems just to me: an organization shouldn't be allowed to steal a word from the English language like "engineer." But if you want to create your own brand and maintain its quality, you're more than welcome to invent a novel term and do that. But simply claiming by fiat that you have the legal right to sue someone for not following rules you've decided the rest of the world should follow despite having no moral or legal justification to do so? That's incredibly scummy.

The entire reason for this was scummy to begin with. Järlström had presented clear evidence that the system was flawed. The state or county he presented it to used his “public” title(engineer) to try and obscure the wide spread incompetence of the matter while taking nearly a year to resolve the maths in question.

You make it sound like a simple ad hominem attack on the guy. Was it?

From what I have read of the case, yes.

So you think anyone should be able to call themselves "physicians" or "lawyers" or "police", as those are English words that predate their professional associations?

The problem is that there are a small, specialized clique of Engineers who have professional certification, and a huge population of engineers who don't have this certification and are not required to have it. The boundary between the two groups is fuzzy and a bit contentious, with each side seeking to expand their domain.

There's no such confusion when it comes to the other professions listed, no huge gray area where everyone calls you a physician even though you only work with animals: those are veterinarians.

2 of 68 in my graduating class of BSE students took the PE exam. I think almost all of us now have business cards which include the word 'engineer'. That's not a gopd position from which some outsiders can selectively declare that the term is protected.

My experience has been that anyone who claims 'engineer' is protected is selling something, or at least trying to protect the value of the scheme they bought into. There are a couple jobs that legitimately need it where the regulatory environment requires, but they know who they are and know they are rare.

I have a BSEE (and masters) and I have passed the engineering intern test. I do use my engineering knowledge for my day job and my business card says “engineer”. I would consider getting a PE but I literally know nobody with a PE and I cannot find a good reason to get one other than maybe advertising.

If you ever want to go into power distribution as an EE you'll need to stamp plans and projects and won't be promoted passed a certain point without it. I'd recommend you try to find someone at your work with one (you have to work under a P.E.) and take the test as soon as you can.

The PE is so “popular” that they discontinued the test for it.


Likely because it's not a requirement for anything. Is PE required for anything in the US?

PE is required in the US but the article is specifically talking about the software engineering PE.

> here everyone calls you a physician even though you only work with animals

Just an aside, but that is a gigantic undersell of veterinarians. The difficulties of becoming one aside, just seeing that "humans-only" doctors only work on one kind of ape, compared to the many very different kinds of life forms a veterinarian has to deal with (of course they specialize too), I don't understand why one would think a veterinarian would deserve the word "only".

Järlström didn't claim he was a Professional Engineer (a very specific certification) just an engineer. This case is akin to someone who does wood working in their house (maybe even studied it) calling themselves a carpenter but not a Licensed Carpenter.

Speech can never be a crime "They have uttered the untoward words! Imprison them." Speech can breach a contract "You agreed not to yell fire in my theater, you owe me damages"

Yelling fire(falsely) in a theater wasn't an example of breach of contract that is prohibited by a private agreement, but an understanding that the government has the right to prohibit speech made with the specific intent to create criminal harm. It's also not, as far as I understand, not the current legal standard, as of 2010's Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project.

>Speech can never be a crime

Speech can be a crime. Google limitations on free speech. The specific example you gave is in fact a crime.

But in this case the intent is to cause harm which is a crime, not merely saying the words. Thats why the crime is "yelling fire in a crowded theater" not just "yelling fire". Notice the difference and how it becomes a completely different action altogether despite saying the same thing.

I don't think it's fair to say speech can be a crime on its own.

>But in this case the intent is to cause harm which is a crime

This is a fundamental misunderstanding. Intent is a necessary component of the crime, just like intent is necessary component of most crimes. The intent to cause harm is not the crime.

>Thats why the crime is "yelling fire in a crowded theater" not just "yelling fire". Notice the difference and how it becomes a completely different action altogether despite saying the same thing.

Actions in themselves aren't universally crimes in all contexts, that doesn't mean they aren't crimes in specific contexts.

If what you are trying to argue is that no string of words can be a crime to utter in any context, then yes you are correct, but by that standard no individual action can be labeled criminal.

>I don't think it's fair to say speech can be a crime on its own.

SCOTUS has ruled many times that all speech isn't protected by the first amendment. Some speech can be made, and has been made criminal.

I think the OP's point was that the National Association of Realtors is a private organization, not a democratically formed government institution.

Police are an obvious special case, and have special laws around it.

As for physician or lawyer, people generally have no idea which terms are protected, so it tends to be a bit meaningless. There seems to be something of a permanent argument over who gets to be called "doctor", so even people in the industry might not know if it's meaningful: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5026525/

Sure. I'm just trying to think what would be the negative consequence of someone calling themselves a lawyer or police in a TV interview like here, and I can't think of one, other than the fact that they are making an idiot out of themselves. Like, it shouldn't be illegal.

If someone who calls themselves a doctor or a lawyer goes on TV and gives medical or legal advice, that can cause harm and sets a bad precedent.

E.g., "Dr" Oz. Although I suspect most doctors are less likely to do that than folks who do not hold a medical degree.

Dr. Oz is very much a medical doctor.

Oz has been a professor at the Department of Surgery at Columbia University since 2001. He directs the Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. His research interests include heart valve replacement surgery, minimally invasive cardiac surgery, and health care policy.


Yes, that's my point — you don't need to not have an M.D. to spout completely false medical claims on television. I think he's a quack and his license should be revoked.

Sure. Still shouldn't be illegal. There's plenty of TV stations that make a living giving bad, wrong or plainly malicious advice(can think of quite a few) and it's not illegal.

But one way to quickly assess advice is by the person's credentials who is delivering it -- a doctor or lawyer telling you something about medicine/law warrants some degree of trust, but one may assume when they speak on other subjects that they've taken a more rigorous approach than your average person.

If your TV had Dr Gambiting giving medical advice is carries more credence.

Dr Dre advocates marijuana usage...

Even worse, people who never mention they're doctors can cause harm by saying vaccinations cause autism. It doesn't mean it should be illegal.

Due process can cause some predators to roam free, or cost taxpayers and victims expense to the benefit of evil people.

This argument that something should be illegal because it can cause harm is really shallow.

I guess I just don't see the harm in requiring someone to say "I am not a doctor, but..." if they want to give medical advice while giving themselves the title of Dr. without having earned it.

However, I do see the harm in someone pretending to be a doctor and giving medical advice that can hurt or kill someone.

People should be held liable for intentionally stating non-truths with respect to one's own, or another's character: ie falsely claiming to have a certain medical license.

Howver, I don't see how you can come to the conclusion that ordinary people should not be able to tell their children, friends, parents, or anyone, medical advice. If so, where does it end? Can you tell your child to take medication? Which medications? Can you help victims of accidents? Give CPR? Can you tell your Father not to get that particular medical treatment? Can you tell someone to not trust a particular doctor? What you're suggesting sounds like a litigious nightmare of egg shells through life.

On principle, should we not err towards advocating for granting power to the people instead of centralized, corporate and government authority structures? Or do you just not believe in that?

> Howver, I don't see how you can come to the conclusion that ordinary people should not be able to tell their children, friends, parents, or anyone, medical advice.

Please do not strawman my position. The discussion was about people purposely portraying themselves as doctors and then dispensing medical advice.

I have no problem with someone giving medical advice. I do have a problem with someone pretending to be a doctor while giving medical advice.

I get mistaken for somebody with authority all the time. What happens when a lay member of the public offers medical advice, and the recipient mistakes them for a doctor despite having made no claims to that title?

Given that we are talking about people who purposely portray themselves as doctors, I'm not sure how this is relevant.

Ok sorry, I misunderstood what you said.

Would it be ok for a non-lawyer to hold himself out as a lawyer and accept money from “clients” who were fooled?

Of course not. That's fraud and already illegal.

What makes it fraud, what makes them calling themselves a lawyer not valid, if not the law?

Fraud is lying for financial gain. Lying for its own sake is not. You can say and pretend you are a lawyer as much as you like, but only as long as you don't do it to decieve someone for money.

I read become a lawyer in 8 hours the howto book, am i still committing fraud?


So its almost like there is still a legal standard for what a lawyer is

I'm not sure what your point is. That's exactly what we are saying - there is a legal standard for actually being a lawyer.

But, we are also saying there shouldn't be any repercusions for someone just saying that they are a lawyer in any non-financial, non-professional context. If you go out and say to someone "hey, I'm a lawyer and I am very smart" then this shouldn't be illegal in any way or form, just like saying you are a pope or Bonaparte isn't - you're just making an idiot out of yourself. As long as you don't go and act as a lawyer(try to represent people for money for instance) then knock yourself out. This should be double obvious seeing as we're on the internet, where you can say you are a noble-winning physicist or a NASA engineer and without a way to verify it it matters nothing. It is scummy, immoral, unfair to lie about it? Of course it is. But it shouldn't be illegal.

Difference between a lawyer and a realtor is a lawyer has to get a law degree and pass the bar exam and then really doesn't owe anyone shit.

Realtor's are a cross between a MLM and a guild.

Real estate agents are legally acting as a lawyer in a very specific scope in some states. They are considered to be one, again in a very narrow scope.

And no Realtors/real estate agents in no way is anything close to an mlm. They work as an authorized extension of a licenced broker. They work on their behalf with oversight and receive compensation. But that is literally every job.

Not lawyer, attorney (someone with the legal right to act on another's behalf in a legally binding manner). Where a lawyer is an attorney-at-law, a real estate agent (whether a "realtor" or not) would be an ad hoc attorney-in-fact.

Being a real estate sales agent, in my US state, requires licensure. It's not a particularly difficult test, and arguably it has a component or protectionism to it, but there is also liability too.

Realtors (a trademark of the National Asociation of Realtors) are members of a private organization.

Is a mall cop a cop?

"Cop" is colloquial. A mall cop is a "security guard"; a cop is typically a "police officer" or "law enforcement officer".

Mall cops are referred to in the industry as a “private police force.”

I don’t think that’s what is happening here. The suit seems to be predicated on him calling himself an engineer

Where I live, people call themselves engineers all of the time, and it's not considered to imply any particular license or degree or accreditation.

> and it's not considered to imply any particular license or degree or accreditation.

Which sucks, doesn't it. It's advertising (ie. a lie) that's been repeated so much that it's become accepted.

I know many software "engineers". They aren't real engineers, they just didn't like being called software programmers or coders.

You can be a programmer without being an engineer. But there are thousands of electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, chemical engineers, computer engineers, and others who have degrees that say "engineer" and use engineering practices who are absolutely real engineers, if not Professional Engineers.

From the Wikipedia article on Engineer [1]:

> Engineers, as practitioners of engineering, are professionals who invent, design, analyze, build, and test machines, systems, structures and materials to fulfill objectives and requirements while considering the limitations imposed by practicality, regulation, safety, and cost

This fits a lot of software development (esp. "systems"). The process of developing software is an engineering process, not a mathematical or design process, so it makes sense to use the term "engineer". However, I wouldn't use the term for all programmers, as not all programming does the full process.

In any case, the term "engineer" is very vague and has broadened significantly over time, whereas terms like lawyer and physician have stayed pretty consistent.

- [1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engineer

The words engineer and engineering connote high intellect, professionalism and most importantly "gravitas". So, it's not a surprise that software developers/coders/programmers (usually a snubbed crowd) love being called engineers.

Did they invent the word engineer?

Realtor is protected by trademark law.

“Jarlstrom’s interest stemmed from a red-light-running ticket his wife received in 2013. He spent three years analyzing the method for calculating the duration of a yellow light and found that the formula failed to account for drivers who must slow down to make a legal turn.”

Quacks like a duck.

That may be the most "engineer" thing I've read in a while. :-)

I wouldn't be surprised if he uncovered something involving the timing of traffic lights that the state engineers knew about, but never did anything about it since it increased the chance of driver violations ever so slightly, and, therefore, more sources of revenue.

It's not cynical if it's true, you know.

Sorry, but you didn't pay the special tax for the special piece of paper from the "us" government that that magically makes you qualified to do calculations. Do not pass go, go straight to jail.

It's a title licensed by individual state boards, rather than the federal government.

Actually it struck me as really tenacious of him and I'd be willing to believe he has some merit. I'd like to see the data.

I read the comments on the article, and looks like some of his colleagues posted on there saying he had embarrassed some good ol' boys, and the good Lord knows we can't have that, now can we?

> Jarlstrom, who holds a bachelors of science degree in engineering from Sweden, has repeatedly challenged Oregon’s timing of yellow traffic lights as too short.

> He was investigated by the Oregon Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying for the “unlicensed practice of engineering,’’ after he sent his traffic light calculations to the state board, and identified himself as an engineer to local media and the “60 Minutes” TV news program, and in discussions with the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying.

Mats Jarlstrom was investigating traffic light policies and was fined $500 by the state for unlicensed engineering.

Seems like clear cut retaliation.

Heh, yeah.

It's not like he have made calculation of bridge steel welds or something without proper legal papers. He complained over the yellow light timing ...

> It's not like he have made calculation of bridge steel welds or something without proper legal papers.

Suppose he had. Suppose he found a bridge suspicious, did some calculations, and told a newspaper/transport safety agency about it. Should that be illegal, because the state of Oregon didn't give him permission? Is it okay to very literally fine someone for 'unlicensed use of math'?

Thankfully the ruling very strongly implies 'no'. It's important to be precise, or regulation of engineering can become regulation of speech.

I agree. I meant a calculations for building a bridge, and having responsibility for it.

Indeed. I believe that there should be no licensing requirement to look at these things as a civilian, but the state has a compelling reason to keep unlicensed engineers from telling construction crews on how to build a bridge. Different levels of risk.

> cited the state board’s “history of overzealous enforcement actions.’’

Say what you want about the usual insanity of the law in Texas, but they handle lots of these overzealous professional state agencies in a healthy manner by means of the "Texas Sunset Commission": https://www.sunset.texas.gov. Basically, every few years state boards come up for review to see if their existence is worth it.

For example, a few years ago the state veterinary board was excoriated as part of the sunset review process when the board went after a leader in the animal No Kill movement. It's a good periodic check that these boards don't become the little fiefdoms that they so often turn into.

Please someone set this up in Louisiana. We’ll even make using turn signals mandatory when changing lanes if that’s part of the deal.

I would argue that occupational licensing is extremely overdone, even in the riskier professions like medicine and dentistry. Here is a recent article from the NYT about the horrible situation of cosmetology licensing: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/26/business/cosmetology-scho...

I'm not saying we don't need occupational licensing whatsoever. But there is no reason someone can't learn to drill a cavity in 6 months of training. $400k of dental school debt is not required.

I don't think it's fair to lump dentistry in with cosmetology. Performing surgery on someone's teeth and jaw can have lifelong implications if done incorrectly, and it's thus worth having real training and licensing. Even something as seemingly simple as drilling and filling cavities has all sorts of risks. We already have a much lower level of licensing than DDS for common procedures that can be done safely, i.e. dental hygienists. Actually drilling into the tooth is not one of those procedures.

Cosmetology, by contrast, is mostly aesthetic, and the risks that need managed are relatively simple ones, e.g. learning how not to cut or stab someone with scissors or razors, proper use of dying agents to avoid chemical burns, hygienic practices to prevent spread of lice and fungus, and other stuff like that. So long as you don't make those kinds of errors the worst you can do is leave someone looking not great.

As I responded to another commenter, this has been accomplished successfully in Maine:


Looks like new certifications have been developed that slot in between dental hygienist and dentist in terms of required training (independent practice dental hygienists and dental therapists). Neither can diagnose conditions themselves, though the latter can apparently drill and fill simple cavities under the supervision of an actual dentist. This hierarchy fits in pretty well with medicine, where there's nurse assistants, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician's assistants, DOs, and MDs.

And of course dentist itself isn't as high as you can get; these are procedures they won't do that you have to be referred to an oral surgeon for.

Anyway, point is, it's not nearly so simple as to just say that occupational licensing is extremely overdone in dentistry.

I think you underestimate the knowledge and training to do dental work safely.

Maine allowed a special license for hygienists to do extra procedures, including cavity drilling (if a real dentist is in the building). It is going fine so far.


However, getting the law changed to allow this has been fought tooth-and-nail, so to speak:


Like all licensed professionals, dentists are part of a cartel ("guild"). Some guilds are better than others for their members and/or consumers.

I think of those guilds more as the most effective unions in the world. The reason lawyers, doctors, pilots, etc... are paid so well is because they’ve successfully limited entry into their fields. They’ve all got arduous entry requirements, and you can’t operate without the unions blessing. It’s simple supply and demand after that point.

Two of the three fields you mention are not paid especially well on average.

All three have median salaries of 6 figures.

Senior pilots for the major carriers are reasonably well compensated though not usually at levels that the typical FAANG developer would get out of bed for (likely $100-200K). Many regional pilots earn less than $50K and first officers less.

Partners at big city law firms are obviously very well-compensated. But the glut of lawyers has been something of a story in recent years and employment difficulties/low salaries for graduates of second and third tier schools are the norm.

Neither of these professions are examples of highly constrained supply except to the degree that there are only so many ex-military pilots and Ivy League law review grads.

"Pilot" does not have median salary of 6 figures.

"Commercial jet pilot" has median salary of 6 figures. That is not an entry-level pilot position.

Pilots have an extremely high hourly rate if you discount the time autopilot is engaged (and senior pilots make a lot more than junior pilots).

The quality of life hit is huge being away from home, sitting all the time, working nights, solar radiation, and having to work your way up in seniority in an industry that has a lot of ups and down.

Sure — but I think the original argument — that the pilot's union has artificially kept pay relatively high — is valid. Truck drivers have a very similar job but worse compensation (especially comparing senior workers).

With all due respect to the folks who drive 18-wheelers, flying a passenger aircraft and operating a truck require very different levels of training. Relatively small mistakes in operating an aircraft can have very serious consequences for large numbers of passengers.

Example: crew reacted incorrectly to autopilot problems following pitot tube obstruction by ice on AF 447 and stalled the aircraft, leading to death of all on board. [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_France_Flight_447

I don’t think you’ll find a strict correlation between level of training required, and salaries. There’s plenty of highly trained people with low salaries. I’d also be willing to bet that trucking accidents kill more people than airline ones.

Maybe so. But one truck accident kills far fewer people than one airline accident. So each individual pilot has considerably more responsibility than each individual truck driver.

Perhaps, but you could go back and forth on that all day. Look at the list of incidents involving at least 50 deaths on wikipedia[0], comparing aviation and road, there a difference, but it’s not an enormous difference.

My point is that I don’t think there’s a strong correlation between risk to public safety, and remuneration, nor between training and remuneration. There’ll likely be some correlation for both, but you can find huge variations in remuneration across different industries that can’t be explained by those factors.

Training? How long does it take to become a (professional) pilot? I bet it's longer than to get your chauffeur's license... but not so much longer to account for the pay difference.

It occurs to me, though, that vehicle cost might be a factor. How much does a new semi cost? $100,000, maybe? How about a new 737? $80,000,000. Does that influence pay?

It's not just training time. It's also skill and intelligence, which flying requires more of than driving.

Many pilots fly freight — passenger aircraft pilots are a subset of all pilots. And passenger aircraft incidents are exceedingly rare, although I agree individual pilots can have outsized impacts on lives in passenger applications.

On the flip side, most people underestimate the knowledge and training required to do any work at all safely. Not 1 in 10 men I've seen climbing a ladder have done so in a safe manner.

If someone has not done a procedure before, I don't trust them regardless of their qualification. If they have done a procedure 100 times, I trust them unless their track record is terrible.

I certainly don't think the government needs to enforce these standards the way they do, occupational licensing is not the answer. Information and voluntary schemes would be a lot cheaper, and probably lead to similar quality.

It's still possible to subdivide a broad field and allow less-skilled people to do individual parts.

For a cavity, I could see a DDS diagnosing it and also determining that their Certified Carries Tech can handle it on their own. They pass the work off and move to the next patient.

To keep things safe, require a dentist to be available if the need arises.

It’s just job security for the people who have already gone into debt / a way to keep the supply of specialized workers low. For example, the AMA limits the amount of doctors able to graduate from the US so much we are constantly required to allow foreign doctors to immigrate to meet our actual needs

And doctors usually work very long hours too, suggesting there is still a shortage even with the immigration. But, I guess this keeps salaries high

This is interesting to me because in Ontario where I reside, I cannot call myself an engineer. The professional engineering association is ruthless in enforcing it. But my employer is in Massachusetts, where I can be called an engineer. So I'm not sure if my business cards can get me in trouble here.

The professional engineering association is ruthless in enforcing it.

What do they call people who drive trains in Ontario?

In neighbouring Manitoba there's a carve out for locomotive engineers, power engineers, and certain types of electrical work, as long as they're certified by their respective bodies and not pretending to be a different kind of engineer. Didn't see anything in the Ontario act but I wouldn't be surprised if it were there somewhere.

edit: https://web2.gov.mb.ca/laws/statutes/ccsm/e120e.php#66 section J

Just to follow up on my own post, on slide 29 of http://peo.on.ca/index.php/ci_id/23480/la_id/1.htm there's mention that some of those types of engineers are covered by other provincial/federal regulations and are exempt as long as they're doing the type of work they're licensed to do.

Not exactly sure. I just know about this:


Anything without engineering. Engineers in Ontario have a licencing like becoming a lawyer or doctor. All people studying in Canada are in programs that are accredited by the CAEB.

Qualified Locomotive Engineer, this is a federally regulated title in that context as well.


I'm putting my chips on them using the same word we do in the US: conductors? Or is that the other fella in the train

The conductor manages all aspects of the train other than its locomotion.

Oh, and they serve as the engineer's eyes when locomoving in reverse. :-)

This is why I love HN. You learn things you didn't even know you didn't know!

> Oh, and they serve as the engineer's eyes when locomoving in reverse. :-)

Not on any system I've taken in the US. The trains have a special control car on the non-locomotive end of the train, and the engineer switches positions when switching travel directions. There is also the practice of using two or more locomotives, with at least one pair facing opposite directions so the set can be hitched to either side of the train, and dual-cab locomotives that can also be hitched to either side with a forward-facing control deck.

The title engineer is not about trains/engines...you learn that in engineering school..

Maybe you can call yourself a Software Physician instead ;-).

Computer Therapist

Certified Code Doctor from Code Camp!

If you are performing reserved acts from Ontario you are infringing regardless of how you call yourself.

I imagine that's impossible to do in the software world. Overwhelming majority of software developers are not registered engineers.

Something public safety can be at risk in the software world. Medical devices immediately comes to mind (look up Therac-25). Some software acts are reserved. Most of my friends are registered software engineers.

For sure. And there's safety certifications and regulations for these kinds of things. I have friends who develop for medical devices. Most aren't professional engineers. But there are some and I imagine they're the ones taking on the liability.

Always find people amusing who think identity is built around a person currently employed because of their skill-set.

I recall talking to a person years ago when I was between jobs as a [job title].

"What do you do?"

"Oh, I'm a [job title]."

"Oh nice. Where do you [job title] at?"

"I'm not [job title]ing anywhere at the moment."

"Oooooooh, well! Then you're not a [job title]!"

By this logic, you're not a blacksmith if your not pounding out red-hot horseshoes. Or a doctor if, after 20 years in surgery, you've granted yourself a two-year vacation in the Bahamas.

In this POV, though, ex-political leaders, ex-military leaders get to keep their titles. Say what?

Linkletter was right: people are funny.

Look at all the surnames tied to occupations: Taylor, Smith, Fisher, Miller, Wainwright, Baker, etc. Not saying it's not funny, but it's nothing even close to new.

Doctors don't become 'mister' the day they stop practicing, that's also a title you keep for life.

“The record before this Court demonstrates that the Board has repeatedly targeted individuals for using the title ‘engineer’ in non-commercial contexts, including core political speech such as campaigning for public office and advocacy against a local ballot initiative.”

Although I agree with the sentiment of the article, I do think it would be deceptive for a politician to claim to be an engineer if they hadn’t done any engineering.

“Unlike an “M.D.” or “certified public accountant,” there is no fixed meaning to the title “engineer,” but many different types of engineers, the judge found.”

Haven’t really thought through all the ramifications of this, but it could actually be beneficial for software engineers to have an official accreditation. It could help develop accountability and best engineering practices.

> it could actually be beneficial for software engineers to have an official accreditation

I've waffled on this, and I'd be curious to hear input from others. On the one hand, software engineers are building systems which have incredible reach and impact. It's reasonable to want to ensure these systems are being built by people with some solid body of knowledge and skills.

However, software engineering as a field changes relatively quickly, and we hardly ever reach a consensus about the best way to do anything. It's often somewhat unclear to me whether we're making forward progress at all (because we keep inventing "new" ways to build the same things). And because software is in every kind of system, two very skilled and productive software engineers might actually have very few overlapping tools in their toolbox. Could we ever agree on what should be part of the official accreditation, and how long would it be good for?

My university had a "Masters of Software Engineering" course that was accredited by some European engineering body, and a significant amount of the content was UML diagrams, OO and writing huge reports. "Engineering" as it is practiced in other fields seems fundamentally tied to the waterfall approach, which makes less sense in software.

> It could help develop accountability and best engineering practices.

Have you ever read books about that? There are multiple layers of awful ideas about software engineering, touted as best practice. It's a cesspit of idiocy. Too many morons are going around trying to say things about engineering practices for it to be possible to make a useful accreditation.

It would also end up being a negative hiring signal, like existing certifications and Master's degrees.

A master's degree is a negative hiring signal? When did that start?

Getting an MS is completely unimpressive, isn't it? I've read other people such as Google recruiters mention it as a negative signal, in terms of likelihood to pass the interview process.

Well, as someone pursuing their masters in CS, I can't argue that it is not too impressive. I would like to know before I finish if it is actually a negative signal, though ;-).

I'm at the point in my career where it won't make a bit of difference, but I would still figure on it being a mild positive if I were going into the hiring process through the front door. Maybe it will refresh my memory on algorithms enough to do well at one of those useless Google interviews :)

> I would like to know before I finish if it is actually a negative signal, though ;-)

Like all things "It Depends (TM)", I wouldn't worry about it. Since the introduction of the bachelor/master system here more people have stopped after getting their bachelor, but the "default" in much of continental Europe for technical degrees (as far as I can tell) is still to finish a master.

All my friends and colleagues with masters and PhDs in CS seem to have 0 issue finding jobs or getting contacted by Google/Facebook/Amazon recruiters. So worrying about it being a negative signal seems like a waste of time.

Isn't it obvious? You study for masters, or, god forbid, work on a PhD - you're missing what's going on in the industry for years while demonstrating that you're not interested in building solutions.

I'm not sure I'm being sarcastic.

Ha! Agree on the not-sure-if-sarcastic part. I bet you can find plenty of people who actually see it the way you describe.

I'm doing a working master's program myself (yay OMSCS!) so I'm not missing out on the drudgery known as the current industry while I'm pursuing academic solutions to non-existent problems...

It started when students noticed which of their peers are terminal-masters candidates, and when professionals noticed which of their peers went back to school as a path to promotion.

In the software field, people are expected to develop skills without handholding through school.

This applies mostly to professional software masters than to pure comouter science masters or masters of engineering.

There's also the the xenephobic angle that a USA masters degree is a common way for a foreign national (from a foreign undergraduate school) to get access to the USA job market.

I've seen the need for this in software during hiring. Employer states an engineering degree is needed even for CS dominant positions because, unlike accredited engineering programs, there was just too much leeway in CS programs. E.g., one may require four semesters of calculus, another only one resulting in wide ranges of rigor. Instead of inspecting transcripts, HR just specifies an ABET engineering degree.

This attitude is changing, especially as more schools get ABET CS programs, but old ways of doing things change slowly.

In theory perhaps but in practice it seems a bit dubious right now given existing certifications haven't had the best of reputations. I doubt 'official' will be much better in the US at least given history. Between the Clipper-chip, S-boxes, Elliptical curve, and many embarrassingly easy security breaches I think an official certification would result in the same 'counterproductive to list in most cases' as many private certifications if not worse.

They have shown themselves repeatably to be neither trustworthy nor competent and thus have negative credibility. Software engineers have a reputation of being like cats - you don't herd them to an official standard, you lure them unofficially to something with 'tuna' and some may prefer chicken anyway.

Yeah, right. Best engineering practices would be from the same guys who somehow find big O notation incomprehensible or hit impossible to use. It’s not that any of this is necessary or good to know but credential-seeking would be the number one place for mediocrity.

It would be a great negative signal. I love it.

> I do think it would be deceptive for a politician to claim to be an engineer if they hadn’t done any engineering

I agree, but this is an argument for newspapers, magazines, and websites to make, not for the state licensing board. Regulating the speech of politicians campaiging for office undermines the democratic process, as it allows those in power to control the speech of those with less power trying to unseat them.

Previous discussion from 2 years ago when the man was fined $500 for this.


>She directed the state to remove the definition of "engineer,'' from its state law and administrative rules, and simply restrict who can consider themselves a “professional engineer,” or a “registered professional engineer.”

I think that distinction is important. Here in NZ engineer could mean a trained engineer with a 4 year degree or it could mean a fabricator / fitter turner trained via an apprenticeship.

You also have people like my self. I hold an engineering degree but I have not pursued membership in my nation engineering body. So I'm not a “registered professional engineer” as there is no local support for this in the software field I went into. I'd never call my self a registered engineer but I may consider using the term to describe my qualifications.

I work in sysops. My employer won't even consider a new hire without at least two different certificates (not licenses) which use the word "engineer" in them. I know a number of coworkers who refer to themselves as engineers but only hold a certificate to acknowledge this. Others have the term "engineer" in their title at work, and again no license.

Glad to see that the English language is being defended and not being used for what is clearly state sanctioned bullying.

Maybe I should start using the term engineer...

What kind of certificates? Can I have two of my friends printout the engineer certificates in my name?

RHEL Engineer is one. Another is some networking cert.

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