Kirt's Cogitations™ #222
These original Kirt's Cogitations™ may be reproduced
(no more than 5, please) provided proper credit is given to me, Kirt Blattenberger.
here to return to the Table of Contents.
Cog·i·ta·tion [koj-i-tey'-shun] – noun: Concerted
reflection; meditation; contemplation.
Kirt [kert] – proper noun: RF Cafe webmaster.
Back in my days at defense contractor companies, first as a technician and then as an engineer, it was
virtually unheard of for anyone with the title of "Engineer" to not have at least a Bachelor's degree in
engineering or science. Only one instance, while at Westinghouse (now Northrop Grumman) comes to mind. I suspect
the requirement was dictated by the government, since many times (if not always), part of a proposal included
submitting resumes for many of the key personnel who would be working on the project being bid upon. In the
commercial realm, again, only one person that I can recall (at Comsat) had achieved the rank of engineer without a
degree. Now, having worked at a commercial communications IC design and manufacturing company for many years, I
have yet to run into any "engineers" who do not have at least a BSEE degree. Is it because people with engineering
degrees are so easy to come by that there is no need to even consider someone without the degree? Are there any
non-degreed engineers remaining? If so, are they a dying breed that will not be replaced?
Probably you, and
definitely I, have read of some very accomplished people who earned the title of “engineer” at The School of Hard
Knocks rather than at an accredited engineering school. Since engineering as a college degree has only been around
for a couple hundred years, referring to someone like Galileo or Isaac Newton as engineers is meaningless. Note:
Those institutions that claim to be the first to offer degrees in civil engineering, mechanical engineering,
electrical engineering, etc., are numerous according to Internet searches, so I will not mention any by name. That
neither Michelangelo nor Leonardo da Vinci nor Thomas Edison nor Benjamin Franklin nor the Wright Brothers
possessed formal college degrees did not prevent them from achieving great things. More contemporarily, Bill
Gates, Michael Dell, and Steve Jobs none ever completed their college degrees.
Some people are of the
opinion that the conferring of a professional title upon a person should be reserved for those would have followed
an established line of ascendancy. They are sometimes referred to as Degree Snobs, mostly by those who do not have
the requisite degrees. It is generally assumed that doctors, lawyers, nurses, and CPAs all possess certified
college degrees, and many engineers believe that our profession is no different. Even having earned a Bachelor of
Science in Electrical Engineering Technology (BSEET) degree is for most companies not good enough to qualify for
the title of “Engineer” since the curriculum is not considered as rigorous theoretically as a true engineering
degree, even though
ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology)
certifies many of the schools that award them. Even the U.S. military maintains a distinction of the
4-year-degreed members versus those who do not by awarding Warrant Officer status to officers without 4-year
degrees. There are of course exceptions in all cases, but they are very rare.
There evidently are still work-around methods for being granted the title of “engineer” without having earned a
college degree. Many state licensing departments that grant the Professional Engineer (PE) designation allow for
substitution of at least 20 years of experience in lieu of a college degree, plus the successful completion of the
PE exam, plus recommendation by someone who currently holds a similar license. Some companies will readily fill
engineering positions with personnel who hold only a 2-year degree and/or hands-on extensive military and/or
commercial experience. This can be a stepping stone for jobs later in life that advertise the need for an
engineering degree or relevant work experience. Federal, state, and local governments will often permit the
substitution of vast amounts of work experience for a college degree.
While an electronics technician first in the USAF and then at Westinghouse (Annapolis, MD), I desperately
wanted to be an engineer, and determined that for myself, the only way I would ever feel comfortable with being
called an engineer was to earn the degree. I really never have looked down upon those who wear the title, but do
not possess the sheepskin. Instead, my opinion about each "engineer" I have worked with has been formed based on
job performance. There have been extremely bright people without degrees who are capable of doing the work of a
Ph.D, while a few (very few, thankfully) PhDs have been deserving of serving his fellow engineers as a bench
technician. Come to think of it I have known bench technicians more deserving of a Ph.D’s job. Again, that is a
rare instance. For the most part, those people who have been in their jobs for more than a few years are very well
adapted to their positions. Most, thankfully, stop short of fulfilling the
There are many people who, like me, began their careers in electronics, or mechanics, or physics, or
mathematics, or name-a-profession, as technicians/underlings who have had the good fortune of working under the
tutelage of one or more highly capable mentors that inspired them to go to trouble of earning a degree. Many (if
not most) times the schooling is completed part-time over many years while working and providing for a family. I
seem to meet new fellow travelers all the time, either at work or via e-mails from RF Café visitors. I like to say
that I successfully crammed four years of engineering school into just eight years (that’s how long it took).
There were times when I truly never thought that I would live through it all. Years on end of night classes and
day jobs took its toll physically and spiritually. Crazily, after completing my BSEE and landing a job at General
Electric AESD in Utica, NY, I took a couple Masters classes, but was just too worn out by then to suffer through
any more. Alas, my highest earned degree will remain forevermore the BSEE. Honorary Ph.Ds are welcome, however, if
your institution wishes to bestow one (or more) upon me.
Please take a moment to make your opinion known in