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When I apply for jobs I have to compete with too many other software engineers who have little or no skill and dilute the candidate pool. I feel it devalues our profession and ultimately pushes down salary levels for all practicing software engineers.

I feel my career, and that of other skilled software engineers, would benefit if less unskilled software engineers were prevented from entering the field until they passed a standard set of tests to become "licensed", like other professions such as medicine and law -- they have made it very hard for others to join them, creating an artificial shortage via strict license and boards. They are paid a lot more than most engineers.

And even other engineers have PE exams before they are allowed to "practice".

Would requiring licensure of software engineers or having a Software Engineer Board increase skill and salary levels in the field?

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marked as duplicate by gnat, MichaelT, Bart van Ingen Schenau, Dan Pichelman, GlenH7 Oct 20 '14 at 14:28

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Why all of the down votes? – Todd Moses Sep 16 '11 at 14:00
You should read Professional Software Development by Steve Mcconnell , the same guy that wrote code complete. He compares software development to other older professions and contrasts and compares and makes some predictions about how software engineering as a profession will pan out – aceinthehole Sep 16 '11 at 14:09
I honestly can't explain the downvotes. It's a legitimate question about software engineering professionalism. – Thomas Owens Sep 16 '11 at 14:51
Hi Todd, hypothetical questions aren't on-topic here: if you have a question about a problem you're actually facing, feel free to ask about that, instead. – user8 Sep 16 '11 at 15:40
I just spent almost 2 hours trying to reword this question so it was more constructive. I came up with absolutely nothing. I could rewrite the question, but it would destroy the original meaning too much. – Thomas Owens Sep 16 '11 at 23:40

1 Answer 1

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I would recommend reading Steve McConnell's Professional Software Development. It has a section on professionalism in the industry, which includes a chapter on certifying and licensing software engineers. The book also discusses other topics, such as individual and organizational professionalism. It's a pretty good read, and exerpts are available online, although not for the chapter that pertains to this question.

Looking at other professions like Medicine, they have made it very hard for others to join them, creating an artificial shortage via strict license and boards. Thus they are paid allot more than most Engineers.

Licensing and boards are not designed to create artificial shortages. Instead, their purpose is to ensure that people performing certain tasks have the skills that they need and won't cause a danger to the public.

Even other Engineers have PE exams before they are allowed to "practice".

You do not need to take and pass the PE exam to practice engineering. Companies that do certain types of work are required to have licensed engineers to carry out certain responsibilities, but it's not a requirement that all engineers are licensed or even all engineers that do this type of work are required.

In McConnell's Professional Software Development, he provides a breakdown of what engineers take and pass the PE exam (a similar discussion exists on Wikipedia). 44% of civil engineers were licensed in 1996. Only 23% of mechanical engineers were licensed, and even fewer (9%) of electrical engineers obtained their PE license. McConnell attributed this to the type of work they do - civil engineers design safety and life critical structures such as highways, bridges, runways, and skyscrapers.

In 2009, NCESS approved a new PE exam for Software Engineering. However, it has not yet been created or released. I have not yet been able to find a newer update to the current status of this exam, however it was scheduled for release in 2012 when that article was posted.

What are others views on having a Software Engineer Board? Would this help us increase our demand while removing the offshore competition that is bringing our salaries down? Any thoughts?

Software engineering is still in the very early stages of professionalization, and it's one of the younger engineering disciplines.

The first use of the term "software engineering" was in the late 1960s at a NATO conference. It wasn't until 1996 that the Rochester Institute of Technology launched the first undergraduate degree program in software engineering in the United States, which received ABET accrediation as an engineering program in 2003 (along with 3 other undergraduate software engineering programs).

Software engineering has two major international professional bodies in the IEEE Computer Society and the Association for Computing Machinery (with efforts toward improving collaboration between the two organizations). The IEEE, along with leading universities and commercial entities, has created a body of knowledge for the field, along with two certifications (CSDA, CSDP) based on that body of knowledge. The IEEE CS and ACM have also created the Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice. Software engineers who graduate from ABET-accredited engineering programs are also able to become members of the Order of the Engineer and take the Obligation of an Engineer.

As a discipline, software engineering has a long way to go. Software engineering at an undergraduate level still isn't well-understood across the software development community. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked about the difference between SE, CS, and IT in an interview because the interviewer legitimately didn't know. There's also a difference in perspective (as discussed in McConnell's book) about "software engineering" versus "software engineering" and the role of empirical measurement, metrics, and scientific/engineering rigor in the field.

For full disclosure: I have been a member of the IEEE and ACM since 2006. I became an IEEE Certified Software Development Associate in December 2010 after passing the CSDA exam. I graduated from the RIT SE program in May 2011. In April 2011, I was inducted into the Order of the Engineer.

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+1, I hope that this gets reopened and you get the gold Reversal badge for this answer. :) – maple_shaft Sep 16 '11 at 16:05
@maple_shaft Thanks. I tried to reword the question to make it a little more objective. And I hope I didn't overlook anything in my answer. I used a Pomorodo Short Break and a Pomodoro Long Break to write it! – Thomas Owens Sep 16 '11 at 16:09
I am a member of IEEE but what prompted the question was my friends employment security that is created by his ME PE. – Todd Moses Sep 16 '11 at 17:43

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