From The American Engineer, January 1935
D.B. Steinman, P.E., NSPE Founding President
Reprinted by permission of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE).
“The National Society of Professional Engineers is the only national organization in which membership is limited exclusively to professional engineers. It is a nationwide organization devoted to the common interests and aspirations of all engineers. It unites engineers of all sections of the country, and of all branches of the profession, in a unity of strength, purpose, and accomplishment.
This organization, comprising national, state and county units, is devoted to the professional, as distinguished from the technical, interests of the engineer. It is consecrated to the human, economic, and welfare problems of the profession, in its relations to the public and to the individual engineer.
The philosophy of the organization can be simply stated: The technical problems of civil, mechanical, electrical, mining, and chemical engineers are divergent; but the professional problems are alike. The technical societies, for the best fulfillment of their essential purpose, are divided on lines of differentiation of technical branches or specialties. This division into separate organizations, with diverse traditions and viewpoints, prevents effective united effort for the interests of the profession as a whole. A single national professional society, with solidarity of purpose and concentration of strength, is needed to provide effectively for the professional interests of the engineering profession.
The form of organization of the National Society is clearly logical: It is subdivided only on the geographical lines of states and political subdivisions of states, and not on lines of technical differentiation or specialization. For successful accomplishment of a professional society, unity and geographical organization are the essentials. The state societies of professional engineers, having demonstrated the effectiveness of this form of organization, are joining their forces in the National Society in order to extend this program of service and accomplishment for the profession on a national scale. In this organization, the fundamental importance of the local unit will always be recognized. The National Society, the state societies, and the county chapters are closely and reciprocally integrated, and all are regarded of equal importance. Membership in one involves membership in all, wherever state societies and county chapters are organized. This is the logical and essential form of organization for building a united and integrated engineering profession.
The National Society of Professional Engineers is a federation of state societies; more than that, it is also a personal organization. Every professional engineer in a member state society will also be, personally and individually, a member of the National Society, and direct personal contact and responsiveness will be maintained.
The purposes of the National Society can also be simply and concisely stated. They are:
1) To do everything that can be done to advance the interests of the engineering profession; and
2) To act whenever the interests of the engineering profession are jeopardized.
The professional engineer has invested many years in study, training, and experience, as preparation for his professional career. The National Society of Professional Engineers is organized to protect and enhance the value of this investment. It is organized to protect engineers against discrimination, inadequate compensation, restriction of rights of practice, misappropriation of the designation, competition by the unqualified, and unethical practices injuring the profession. It is organized to increase the demand for engineering services, to raise standards of fees and salaries, and to build up public appreciation and recognition of the engineer. It is organized to do these things through united action, legislation, enforcement, and a planned campaign of public education.
What can the National Society, so organized and so motivated, accomplish? A complete answer would encompass all of our dreams and aspirations for the future of our profession. The ultimate scope of potential accomplishment of the National Society transcends present realization. We can, however, indicate some of the fields of action in which tangible achievements can early be recorded.
We can stimulate and sponsor the formation of additional local units until there is a state society of professional engineers in every state and a county chapter in every county, all united in the National Society of Professional Engineers. We can extend our membership until every registered engineer having any professional consciousness is enrolled. In this manner, we can attain the status of a clearly defined, organized, and integrated profession, with solidarity of purpose and concentration of strength.
2. Registration Laws
We can, by stimulating and assisting engineering groups in the individual states, extend and improve registration legislation until every state in the union has a model uniform registration law, with complete reciprocity for interstate practice. We can uniformly raise the qualification standards of the profession through such registration laws. We can stimulate and strengthen the enforcement of registration laws until all non-engineers are stopped from calling themselves engineers and from attempting to practice engineering.
We can initiate, draft, and sponsor national legislation, advancing the interests of the engineer. We can watch, report, and oppose any legislation, national or local, tending to subordinate the engineer or restrict his rights of practice. We can assist state societies in any local legislative efforts in the interests of the profession.
4. Public Education
We can conduct a planned publicity campaign, with periodical releases to newspapers and magazines, on behalf of the engineering profession. We can plan and arrange public lectures and radio programs to bring the profession’s messages before the public. Through press releases, public meetings, and radio, we can inform the public on the high qualifications of the engineer, the importance of his services to human progress, the requirements of registration, proper methods of selecting and engaging engineering services, and the desirability of appointing engineers in public councils and in high executive and administrative positions. We can impress upon the public the realization that engineering represents constructive vision, scientific analysis, intellectual integrity, and economic progress.
5. Public Recognition
We can conduct a campaign, through published resolutions, publicity, correspondence, and editorial cooperation, to secure proper public recognition of the engineer and his work. We can wage a campaign to secure credit for engineers in connection with the works designed and executed by them, including specific recognition and credit in published accounts and illustrations, in dedicatory exercises, on name plates, and on commemorative tablets.
6. Public Understanding
We can serve as the voice of the profession to correct popular misconceptions which are detrimental to the engineer, including such fallacies as “overproduction” and “technological unemployment” which tend to blame the engineer for our economic ills. We can educate the public on the correct place and attitude of the engineer in national economic problems. We can secure sympathetic understanding of the problems and the aspirations of the profession. We can secure for the engineer his rightful place in social and economic readjustment, planning, and progress.
7. Engineering Works
We can conduct a campaign to stimulate worthy engineering projects and public works, and to promote increased demand for engineering services. We can actively support and promote programs of highway construction, grade crossing elimination, electrification, control surveys, flood control, industrial expansion, power development, transportation, and rapid transit development. We can successfully advance the recognition of the principle that the large-scale planning of these programs, as well as the detailed execution of these projects, should be done by professional engineers.
We can promote employment of engineers by stimulating worthy engineering projects and public works, by eliminating the competition of the non-engineer, and by publicizing the eminent qualifications of the engineer for all work of planning, management, and administration. We can correct and improve methods of engaging engineering services. We can facilitate the engagement of engineers and engineering assistants by extending placement and employment service on a national scale. We can curtail the oversupply of engineers by curbing the over-enthusiastic propaganda of engineering schools, by insisting on a program of selective enrollment of engineering students, by supporting high standards for accrediting of engineering schools, and by raising the qualification requirements for licensing of engineers.
We can wage a militant campaign for more adequate compensation for engineering services. We can protect the engineer against exploitation, discrimination, inadequate compensation, and unprofessional competition. We can formulate and improve conditions of employment and standards of compensation for engineers. We can establish schedules of fees and regional schedules of salaries, and we can exert the united pressure of the profession to correct any fees or salaries below these standards. We can maintain proper standards of compensation by increasing the demand for engineering services and by reducing the over-supply of engineers. We can protect adequate fees and salaries by fighting such practices as fee-competition, contingent work, and free services, and by eliminating the competition of the unqualified. We can strengthen the foundation for higher compensation by increasing public respect for the engineer and his services.
10. Civil Service
We can fight for the integrity of Civil Service, to protect it against political sabotage and disruption. We can exert our effort to increase opportunities, standing, compensation, and security for engineers in Civil Service. We can successfully demand restriction to professional engineers of technical and administrative positions in which engineering training or method is necessary or desirable. We can improve classifications, designations, and salaries of engineering positions, and eliminate the misapplication of the term “engineers” to non-professional classifications.
11. Professional Relations
We can break down sectional differences in the profession and strengthen mutual respect, understanding, cooperation, and fraternal relations. We can build up professional consciousness and esprit de corps, with engineers in all sections of the country united in common purpose, endeavor, and accomplishment. We can engage in cooperative activities with other organizations and professions on behalf of the engineering profession.
12. Professional Designation
We can conduct a campaign of nationwide scope to restrict the use of the designation engineer to the members of the engineering profession. Through legislation, enforcement, correspondence, publicity, editorial cooperation, and official understanding, we can stop the misappropriation, misuse, and abuse of our professional designation. We can enlist the cooperation of the Census Bureau, the Civil Service, legislators, public officials, corporations, contractors, railroads, organizations, magazines, newspapers, radio-broadcasters, directory publishers, and enforcement agencies to this end.
13. Protection of Practice
We can watch, report, and fight any legislation, national or local, tending to subordinate the engineer or restrict his rights of practice. We can protect the rightful practice of engineers against encroachments by any other groups or professions. We can establish harmonious relations and mutual understanding with other professions, while making it clear that the engineering profession will fight any attempt at restriction of its rights or improper encroachment on its field of practice.
14. Public Affairs
We can conduct a campaign to stimulate and establish leadership in civic problems and public affairs. We can confer with public officials and government agencies on behalf of the profession in matters affecting the interests of the engineer. We can develop and strengthen recognition of the qualifications of the engineer for leadership, organization, administration, planning, and management. We can drive home the need for the engineering method in national problems, economic planning, and local government.
We can publish a magazine covering the professional, social, and economic interests of the engineer, to focus and converge thought on the problems of the profession and on our progress in conquering these problems. We can publish and distribute other educational material and pamphlets, for the dissemination of thought and information to the profession and to the public.
We can strengthen and develop leadership in the profession through successive selection and training in offices and committee positions in the county, state, and national units of our organization. We can discover leadership material and provide opportunities for development through effective service.
We can plan and conduct programs for encouraging and guiding student engineers and engineering assistants. Through meetings, training classes, and publications, we can help the younger men and orient them toward recognition and professional consciousness.
We can formulate, develop, and perfect specific standards of professional conduct, and we can get these standards known, understood, and approved by the profession and by the public. We can get these standards incorporated in registration laws and in licensing procedures.
We can build up and administer a reserve fund for assisting engineers in economic distress. We can serve individual engineers and engineering assistants through placement and employment service. We can assist individual engineers in fighting cases of discrimination, exploitation, unprofessional competition, or inadequate compensation. We can furnish legal services and the backing of our organization wherever the interests of engineers are jeopardized.
We can fight to preserve the profession against control or absorption by corporate influence. We can strive to maintain and increase opportunities for engineers to enter into and survive in independent practice. We can fight the growing evils of government competition and corporation competition with engineers in private practice. These are some of the things the National Society of Professional Engineers can, and will, accomplish.
No other agency is prepared, equipped, or organized to do these things. The National Society of Professional Engineers will be “the fighting-arm of the engineering profession.” With trained, experienced, enthusiastic, self-sacrificing leaders and workers, who are “live-wires, self-starters, human dynamos,” imbued with a vision of a greater and more glorious profession, this program of accomplishments will be progressively realized. With clarity of vision and steadfastness of purpose, the National Society of Professional Engineers will march steadily onward toward its goal. “The world advances by impossibilities achieved.”