A question of status

20 November 2012
By Kate Parker
Aerial group shot

The IET, together with the Engineering Council, works hard to support and promote the status of engineers, rigorously providing assurance, serving to protect the public and giving confidence to society as a whole.

The status of engineers has always been a controversial subject, an on-going issue that has been much debated, with many a magazine ‘Letters’ page given over to the discussion. A look at the global picture reveals a situation where different countries have differing systems in the way in which they protect the title ‘engineer’, together with the professional designatory titles afforded them, further fuelling the debate.

However, against this backdrop, the IET, together with the Engineering Council, works tirelessly to promote awareness and understanding of professional engineering titles, to emphasise the professional standing of their holders.

The IET and the Engineering Council have worked together for over 40 years in registering professional engineers. Currently, the IET has over 68,600 professionally registered members in 125 countries, across all four categories: Chartered Engineer (CEng), Incorporated Engineer (IEng), Engineering Technician (EngTech), and ICT Technician (ICTTech).

With the invaluable support of its volunteers, the IET actively promotes these professional titles to non-registered members and non-members of the IET alike in a number of ways: through IET Local Networks, company accreditation schemes, approved apprentice providers, Regional Development Managers, Corporate Partners, Academic Partners, and marketing, together with a number of media tools. In addition, the IET and the Engineering Council run joint campaigns to encourage and support professional registration, highlighting the value of professional recognition.

Through the Engineering Council all professional titles offered by the IET are protected by Royal Charter and are listed as regulated titles and designatory letters. The Engineering Council is a signatory to agreements with ‘overseas’ engineering organisations, providing mutual recognition of accredited academic programmes. This enables recognition of UK qualifications for engineers wishing to work in other signatory countries. Similarly, it makes Engineering Council registration easier for applicants whose qualifications are accredited by the partner organisations in other countries.

The question of why there is no restriction on who can call themselves an engineer in the UK has been raised many times before. However, seeking to regulate or legislate on the use of a now common term is recognised by the Engineering Council as impractical.

The words ‘engineer’ and ‘engineering’ have been in common use for centuries in the UK. Neither is legally defined and in everyday language the term engineer is very often taken to mean anyone who is in some way associated with engineering. Any attempt, therefore, to restrict use of the term would have little prospect of success. However, specific titles denoting professional engineering competence are quite different and are protected by law, with their use restricted.

The Engineering Council maintains that the regulatory system we have in place today and which the IET works so hard to support and promote, rigorously provides assurance, serves to protect the public and gives confidence to society as a whole.

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