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The Changing Landscape of Texas Engineering Registration

The second article I wrote for this newsletter (17 years ago) was on the topic of the history of engineering registration in Texas. Having recently reviewed the roster of the Texas Board of Professional Engineers, I thought I’d compare some ways the composition of Texas-registered Engineers has changed between 2000 vs. 2017.

In a nutshell, my 2000 article recounted that in 1937, under the leadership of ASCE, prominent Texas engineers had tried repeatedly for 25 years to convince the Texas Legislature that it was essential to the protection of the public that a law be passed to separate the qualified from the unqualified among those calling themselves “engineers”.

Not much apparent progress was being made until an unfortunate event March 18, 1937. Early on that morning there was a disastrous explosion of the natural gas fired boiler in the consolidated school in the east Texas town of New London. This was the largest school of its kind in the world at the time. The explosion leveled the school, killing 294 students and teachers. Many others were left seriously injured and burned. (This was a terribly large loss of life; almost double the 168 killed in the tragic 1995 Oklahoma City bombing incident.). On May 28, 1937, a new engineering registration law was introduced in Texas and it became effective January 1, 1938. (In 1965, engineering legally became a “learned profession” in the State of Texas and Professional Engineers had new and higher responsibilities both to the state and the public).

Today, there are about 62,000 engineers of all disciplines holding a P.E. license in Texas. About 51,000 of those are “active” licensees. Comparatively, in 2000 there were roughly 47,000 active Texas-registered engineers of all disciplines.

Due to retirement, death, etc. some of the year 2000-era P.E.’s are no longer practicing here. Still, the total number of active practicing engineers of all disciplines has increased. Perhaps surprisingly though, the overall rate of increase is only about 235 per year over the last 17 years. However, likely influenced by the demand for additional infrastructure to support the massive population growth in Texas, the number of active Texas-licensed Civil Engineers has increased by about 630 per year during that same period.

Today, there are 24 disciplines of registration. But 97% of the total 51,000 active engineers today are self-proclaimed to be practicing primarily in the 10 disciplines shown below.

Photo of Graph

While Civil Engineers continue to comprise the largest single discipline, the number of Civil Engineers has more than doubled. The growth in the next two most populous disciplines has been less robust. About 80% of the 20,325 active Civil Engineers reside in Texas.

Lastly, how long do you think your engineering career might last? Well, the earliest active Texas registration today was granted in 1947 (and that person is a Civil Engineer!).

- John P. Wier, P.E., R.P.L.S., Historical Co-Chair, Fort Worth Branch ASCE, April 2017

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