Chartered Engineer – a Deserving Goal or Morally Bankrupt Title?

I like ranting, it’s good for the soul, just not too often perhaps. I ranted last week for example, specifically by letter to the insurance company Allianz, who I noticed politely told me they were going to share my details with other group and third party companies, but gave me no option to opt out of marketing material other than to write in to their head office! I can say I was quite pleased to not only receive a contrite letter from their complaints department, but also a personal call. It appears that as a result of my letter, they will consider reviewing their policy.

Boosted by my success, I’ve just shot off another rant, this one to the Institute of Engineers and Technicians (IET) who used to be called the IEE, a world recognised brand that they threw away in a moment of madness, but that’s another story. As a member of the IET and a Chartered Engineer, I get the monthly mags and the letters page is often filled with members bemoaning the state of the term “Engineer” and how Engineer means Mechanic to most people. Anyway, here’s my letter for your enjoyment:

Dear Editor,

I see that that perennial discussion about the wretched misuse of the title Engineer has reared its head again. I find it amazing that given the practical, common sense abound members of our organisation, ideas such as inventing a whole new title but that’s almost like the old one (Ingeneer!?!) are touted without thought to the cost and time implications and the likely chance of success of rebranding an established profession. Especially when such a simple and obvious alternative already exists.

Let’s apply our engineering minds to this issue and start by defining clearly the core problem. We would like a title that is legally protected and which the general public associate with having some level of enhanced skill and ability. In essence, we want to be seen to be a cut above the hoi polloi of people who simply fix stuff. (I will ignore the obvious debate about whether such an elitist goal is deserving of our learned efforts, or morally bankrupt in a classless society.)

On to the solution, ask a member of the public which is “better”: an Accountant or a Chartered Accountant; a Surveyor or a Chartered Surveyor; and Engineer or a Chartered Engineer? Oh, and there’s the answer! We already have a legally protected title that the public already understand to be a mark of some distinction, however few of us use it, even fewer companies advertise that they employ Chartered Engineers and I don’t ever remember the term being used on the news to describe an expert interviewee for example.

In my experience when asked what I do, if I reply that I’m a Chartered Engineer it always elicits a markedly different response to any other answer I may give. And as often as not, the next question is: “So what makes a Chartered Engineer different from a normal Engineer?” to which you can point out that the required 7 years of monitored education, training and work followed by an assessment interview, is the same amount of time it takes to become a medical Doctor. I guarantee that the recipient of such an introduction won’t class you in the “Upholstery Engineer, no experience necessary, clean driving license preferred” category. Yes that was an actual job ad I saw in the local paper once!

Best regards,

Colin McNulty

I wonder if they will publish it?

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Jonny 28 March 2012, 11:32 pm

    Colin,

    Sorry to bring up such an old post!

    Excellent letter to the IET. Did they publish/comment on it?

    While I do strongly feel that Engineer should be a legally protected title, it may just be “too late” for that, and as such, Chartered Engineer is a good option, given that it is already legally protected!

    So, shouldn’t the IET lobby industry more to advertise the fact they hire Chartered Engineers? Additionally, shouldn’t more efforts be made to raise public awareness of such a title?

    I’m currently in my final year of my MEng, and look forward to becoming a CEng on day 🙂

    Cheers

    Jonny

  • Colin McNulty 19 April 2012, 12:03 pm

    No worries Jonny, I’m glad you liked it. They didn’t publish it, well not that I noticed anyway.

    Good luck with your studies. Whilst it’s hard to say that my Chartered status has definitely helped my career, I’m sure that somewhere along the line, it’s opened a few doors, or got me an interview, that might have remained shut otherwise. So you should definitely go for it.

  • Glenn Aitchison 2 June 2012, 9:53 pm

    Hi Colin, I have just read this blog as I have just attained Chartered Engineer status with the IET and was looking at what other engineers and the WWWs thoughts on the matter.

    I have long struggled in the past with the term engineeer and its protection. I realised at some point last year that this will not and probably could not happen, because of its wide use and accepted place in society. I agree with Jonny’s comments about the IET and I am making steps to get more involved with the IET and try and push this agenda through.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Glenn Aitchison BEng(Hons) CEng MIET

  • Colin McNulty 3 June 2012, 10:12 am

    Congrats Glenn, welcome to the club. These days I prefer to spend my emotional energy on battles that I have half a chance of winning. I’m happy with my solution so worrying about what the next door neighbours think about “Engineers” doesn’t make the cut any more.

  • Dipl.-Ing. Gareth Monkman BA, BSc(hons), MSc, PhD, NOT-C.Anything! 15 August 2012, 4:32 pm

    Hi Colin,

    stumbled over your interesting website whilst surfing.
    30 years ago I found myself in an auction: whilst working as a technician (at that time HND qualified for chartered status) did an OU BA. This was not recognized by IEE so I decided to do a BSc hons at a “proper” uni – by the time I was finished one needed a higher degree for chartered status. So I did an MSc and then a PhD, and in the meantime (because of my previous industrial experience) landed a position as industrial consultant – chartered status denied on the grounds of not having had a course of training (where does an industrial consultant get training?). Resigned from the IEE in disgust, went to Germany where an engineering degree = engineer! (without the need to be a fee paying member of some club!).
    Never looked back.

    Cheers

  • Colin McNulty 21 August 2012, 8:21 am

    Interesting story Gareth, when was it you did your BSc? My BEng (hons) was sufficient for Chartered status in 1999 (plus the requisite 2 years training and 2 years work monitoring).

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