The importance of competence in engineering.

How do you know whether you, as an engineer, are competent to make a decision which might have important personal consequences for people?

Page in a book with text defining competence as 'being good at what I do, capable, effective'  At first glance, competence may not appear to be an ethical value, but in fact engineers have a number of important ethical duties with regard to competence.

As a professional engineer, you have a duty to maintain your competence in your particular field. This means keeping up to date with technological developments and deepening and broadening your knowledge through continuing professional development. This is an ethical duty because it ensures that you can be relied upon to deliver work to a high standard, and so preserves public trust in the engineering profession.

As well as maintaining your competence, you have a duty to recognise the limits of your competence. This means not taking on work which you are not qualified or able to do well. In a similar way, you must not delegate work to subordinates who are not properly qualified or competent.

The first case study looks at competence in the context of the development of an intelligent application that can be used for assisting the elderly in their homes.

The second case study looks at competence in the context of a company engaged to carry out the mechanical and electrical design for a hospital’s intensive care unit.

You can also see which IET Rules of Conduct are relevant to competence