Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge

Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge

The Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge is currently set forth in a proposal by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) entitled Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge for the 21st century. This proposal seeks to identify and implement improvements to the education and licensure process for civil engineers in the United States of America.


Current status

In the United States, the body of knowledge necessary to obtain a license to practice engineering is defined by the laws or regulations of each state or territory. Most states currently have a standard that is a four step process. First, an individual must obtain a Bachelor's degree from a university program that is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. A two-step examination process administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying must be completed. The first eight-hour test is the Fundamentals of Engineering exam; the second, also eight hours long, is the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. The other step is to work an apprenticeship, usually of four years in length, under an already-licensed engineer. The second exam is generally the fourth and final step; the fundamentals exam can be taken before or after the apprenticeship in most states.

The first state to regulate the practice of engineering was Wyoming in 1907. After that, ASCE established a model law for licensure. The last state to pass licensure laws for engineers was Montana.[1]

Many states now require continuing education to maintain a license to practice engineering. In 1979, Iowa became the first. Since then about half of the states have added continuing education to their engineering laws.[1]


The ASCE board of directors adopted a policy in 1998 (Policy Statement 465) that supported a change to make the master's degree be the first professional degree to enable practice of civil engineering. This proposed change was not widely accepted within the civil engineering profession[2] and the policy was first revised in 2001 to support a requirement for a "master’s degree or equivalent". It was revised again in 2004 to support "the attainment of a body of knowledge for entry into the practice of civil engineering at the professional level"[3]

The ASCE board created a standing committee, the Committee on Academic Prerequisites for Professional Practice (CAP3), charged with the implementation of Policy Statement 465. CAP3 determined that the best implementation of PS 465 was to define the body of knowledge (BOK) that would form the foundation of the licensure process. CAP3 in turn established the Body of Knowledge Committee which wrote the first (2004) and second (current, 2008) versions of the BOK.

Content the BOK

The body of knowledge defines twenty-four outcomes that make up the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to practice civil engineering. The outcomes are divided into three categories: foundational, technical, and professional.

  • Foundational

1. Mathematics  • 2. Natural sciences  • 3. Humanities  • 4. Social sciences

  • Technical

5. Materials science  • 6. Mechanics  • 7. Experiments  • 8. Problem recognition and solving  • 9. Design  • 10. Sustainability  • 11. Contemporary issues & historical perspectives  • 12. Risk and uncertainty  • 13. Project management  • 14. Breadth in civil engineering areas  • 15. Technical specialization

  • Professional

16. Communication  • 17. Public policy  • 18. Business and public administration  • 19. Globalization  • 20. Leadership  • 21. Teamwork  • 22. Attitudes  • 23. Lifelong learning  • 24. Professional and ethical responsibility

The body of knowledge uses Bloom's Taxonomy to outline the necessary level of achievement for each of the twenty-four outcomes.

Implementation status

ASCE has formed the BOK Educational Fulfillment Committee (BOKEdFC) to focus on the changes needed to engineering education. This committee is composed of representatives from universities with four-year civil engineering programs.[4]

NCEES considered the implementation of the BOK at their 2008 annual meeting and decided to establish a task force. The task force is provide an analysis of "(1) the potential educational, professional, regulatory, and economic impact of the master's or equivalent; and (2) any alternative solutions besides the master's or equivalent that could potentially address the challenge of better preparing engineering licensure candidates to enter the profession."[5]

In 2008, Nebraska became the first to consider legislation requiring college-level education beyond the Bachelors degree as a requirement for a professional engineering license.[6] The legislation was not enacted, in part to testimony from engineering associations. The Nebraska section of the American Council of Engineering Companies stated that the new requirement might have made it more difficult for companies located in their state to hire and keep entry-level engineers.[7]

See also


  1. ^ a b Change Takes Time: The History of Licensure and Continuing Professional Competency, American Academy of Water Resource Engineers, 2003.
  2. ^ American Society of Civil Engineers (2001-10-09), Engineering the Future of Civil Engineering: Report of the Task Committee on the First Professional Degree, pp. A–22–A–23,, retrieved 2008-08-23 [dead link]
  3. ^ BOK Committee, page 70.
  4. ^ ASCE Raise the Bar newsletter
  5. ^ NCEES press release, August 21, 2008.
  6. ^ ENR Magazine, Civil Engineers Unveil Updated Road Map For Profession’s Future Knowledge Journey, March 12, 2008
  7. ^ On First Attempt, Nebraska Struggles to Raise the Bar, PE magazine, April 2008.


External links

  • ASCE Body of Knowledge, Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge for the 21st century, Second Edition, American Society of Engineers.

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