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NCEES approves new P.E. exam in software engineering

CLEMSON, S.C. — The NCEES Board of Directors has approved the development of a new PE exam for software engineers. The decision came during the board’s August 11 meeting in Louisville, Ky., in conjunction with the organization’s annual business meeting.

In accordance with existing exam development policies, 10 member licensing boards of NCEES presented letters supporting the proposed PE Software exam.

“The next step in the process is the PAKS, and if that goes as planned we plan to offer the exam in two-and-a half to three years,” said Tim Miller, P.E., director of Exam Services at NCEES.

The PAKS, or professional activities and knowledge study, is the initial step of the exam development process. The PAKS will include a survey of a diverse sample of software engineering professionals to gather information about the relative importance of various areas of knowledge within the discipline as they relate to the protection of the public welfare. This information will be used to determine the topics covered in the exam. After the survey is complete, exam items will be written for the initial exam administration. After that, the exam will be administered yearly.

Partnering with NCEES as co-sponsor of the exam is IEEE-USA, which will be assisted by the IEEE Computer Society, the National Society of Professional Engineers, and the Texas Board of Professional Engineers.

Groups representing software engineers have long maintained that software engineering should be licensed because it is increasingly practiced in areas that reach into the everyday lives of the general public, such as traffic control systems and the electrical grid. An IEEE

Computer Society survey of software engineers indicated that two-thirds of those employed in the industry support a licensure exam for their profession.

In Texas, the licensing board for professional engineers began offering licensure to software engineers in 1999 without a standardized exam covering software engineering in place. In 2006, the board changed its rules to require all applicants for licensure to pass a PE exam. This change effectively cut off the path to licensure for software engineers in the state.

“The Texas board believes that software engineering is a critical component of many engineering projects and that it’s important to recognize the impact that software engineering has on the public’s health, safety, and welfare,” said Lance Kinney, Deputy Executive Director of the Texas board. “We’re very encouraged by the support shown by IEEE, NSPE, and NCEES in the development of this exam.”

Prior to the approval of the software exam, the most recent PE exam to be added to the NCEES exam offerings is the architectural engineering exam, first administered in 2002.

NCEES is a national nonprofit organization composed of engineering and surveying licensing boards representing all U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. An accredited standards developer with the American National Standards Institute, NCEES develops, scores, and administers the examinations used for engineering and surveying licensure throughout the United States. NCEES also provides services facilitating professional mobility for licensed engineers and surveyors. Its headquarters is located in Clemson, S.C.; visit www.ncees.org for more information.