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Professional Engineers and Dick Oliver

Professional Engineers and Dick Oliver

Professional Engineers and Dick Oliver

Dick Oliver at BAE is now weighing in on the debate about who should and should not be allowed to use the title of engineer in their job description:

Britain's Misuse Of The Title "Engineer" Is Detrimental To Profession, BAE Chief Says.
The Daily Telegraph (UK) (3/1) reported on Dick Olver, the chairman of BAE, who said in a recent interview, "Britain suffers from a language problem in that the word 'engineer' is applied to a lot of different people who do a range of jobs. ... Professional engineers need to take ownership of the brand and keep it for themselves." The ability for those of "limited technical qualifications" to call themselves engineers, according to Olver, "makes it more difficult to attract people to study engineering at university and enter the profession."

You can read the article here:


Mr. Oliver seems to have a vested interest in making the distinction between professional engineer and technician because a large proportion of his work force consists of chartered or professional engineers. This is one of the few examples that I have come across where a chairman actually has made a public statement about this subject. Mr. Oliver proposes that professional engineers should "take ownership of the brand and keep it for themselves"? The laws are already written clearly to make this distinction in the United States. Is this not the case in the UK?


RE: Professional Engineers and Dick Oliver

no its not a protected in UK. Qualified engineers are not even required to sign off plans by law (ridiculous in my view). Some clients demand it however. For example the guy who comes to re tuen my sky TV si called an engineer. Photocopier repairer - engineer.  

RE: Professional Engineers and Dick Oliver

The laws in the United States only pertain to one's representation of himself/herself to the public as I understand them.  Product manufacturing companies have an industrial exemption, which allows them to build/manufacture product without having a PE on staff and allows individuals within that company to use the title "engineer".  Hence, you will find many companies were there is an individual with the title of "Design Engineer", yet they only have two-year associates degree.

I total agree with Dick Oliver's position though.  The term engineering is the application of science and mathematical priciples to develop designs which benifit man.  I have seen the word engineer prefixed with some of the most insane words.  For instance....what is a "cost engineer"?  The person that held this title was nothing more than an Excel spreadsheet operator.

I detest the title "software engineer".  While this title may be applicable for those individuals developing software for use in the engineering or scientific industries, without that these people are "software developers".

I now step down from my soap box.


RE: Professional Engineers and Dick Oliver

Detest away, Seymour, but I consider myself a "software engineer"... no P.E., just a lowly MSECE.  My "engineering" consists of more than just software development... I ensure the hardware it runs on is compliant to project specific guidelines (be it FAA, FDA, FCC, or whatever regulatory agency wants to stick their finger in).  I still have to make sure the math I'm implementing in code is correct (usually my design), I don't just blindly implement someone else's routines.

Who's more of an engineer... the guy typing in numbers to a rule-of-thumb calculation, or the guy who programmed the rule-of-thumb code to be accurate within the intended parameter space?  Not an easy answer, IMO...

Dan - Owner

RE: Professional Engineers and Dick Oliver

Wow Dan...a little grumpy are we.

If you read my post you would have seen the line:

"While this title may be applicable for those individuals developing software for use in the engineering or scientific industries...".

Based upon your reponse, I would take it that this statement applys to you.

However, I have seen guys who program video games for the iPhone listing themselves as Software Engineers.

Who is more of an engineer...the guy who programmed the rule-of-thumb code program, or the guy who used his education and experience to know when the program is giving him the wrong answers whether it be a bug or a data entry error on his part.  Your right...not an easy answer.

RE: Professional Engineers and Dick Oliver

If the guy that designed the outer case for that iPhone can be called a mechanical engineer, why wouldn't the person that created the software be able to be called a software engineer?

-- MechEng2005

RE: Professional Engineers and Dick Oliver

Are trying to compare the guy who designed the case, performed tolerance stackups, located ribbing to prevent warpage during manufacture, etc....to the guy that wrote "The Bubble Smasher" app?

The point is from what I have seen the title "software engineer" is one of the most abused engineering titles out in industry.

There are definitely guys in industry who write software and would be rightfully considered engineers.  From machine controllers to code applications the examples are plentiful.  However, I have witnessed many instances where individuals purport to be software engineers, but are more aptly data base administrators, website developers, or video game developers.

RE: Professional Engineers and Dick Oliver

Meanwhile the IMechE's comic for its members asks Mr James Cameron whether he considers himself to be an engineer, in a recent interview. The filmmaker quite rightly replies No.

The main problem with engineering in the UK is the institutes, who are beholden to academia and management, and consistently buckle when increases in engineering intake, and lessening of standards (eg incorporated engineers), takes place.



Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies  http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Professional Engineers and Dick Oliver

Software engineers to me are the ones who went to school to get their software engineering degree.  This was somewhat different than a computer science major who was a straight programmer in school.  I know plenty of straight programmers with CS degrees calling themselves engineers.  Along with companies calling programmers architects.  I know when my friend calls himself an engineer others around him ask if he has an engineering degree and he gets kind of quite.

I should just start calling myself Doctor of Law.

Civil Development Group, LLC
Los Angeles Civil Engineering specializing in Hillside Grading

RE: Professional Engineers and Dick Oliver

I think Software Engineering as an offshoot of electrical engineering is an accurate description and will become more accurate with time.  As a Mechanical Engineer I focus on building complex systems from simpler building blocks.  I don't design fasteners, but I expect that the fasteners I pick for my application were designed by an engineer.  Likewise a Software Engineer produces a complex piece of code comprised of simpler pieces such as sorting routines and system calls.  

What makes the difference between Software Engineering and Mechanical Engineer is the rigourousness of the certification process.  That is that while anyone can pick parts and put them together to design something, that does not make a designer a mechanical engineer and while someone can write code to make a useful program that does not make them a software engineer.  The certification, i.e. degree from and accredited school or PE or 'Committe for the stopping of dunces from using the term software engineer' try and restrict the useage to increase the percieved value by guarenteeing a level of competence for the task.  While current useage does not restrict the use of the term Software Engineer very much, I think it will in the future and with it the software creation process might be improved.


Kirby Wilkerson

Remember, first define the problem, then solve it.

RE: Professional Engineers and Dick Oliver

Seymours - I just don't follow where you draw the line between who may and may not be called an engineer.

A mechanical engineer at a furniture company might look at an existing desk design, make the opening for the chair 1" wider by making the drawers 1" skinnier. That's all he does with the project. No calculations, tolerance analysis, ect. Is he able to call himself an engineer? Does he need to have a degree to do so?

Now compare that guy to the guy that creates the software for a racing video game. He has written code to do some quite complex, involved physics calculations. Different cars might respond differently based on actual specs, location of CG, etc.

Now you're telling me that the furniture designer is fine to use the term "engineer" and the person that worked on the video game is not?

I agree with the idea that for the term "engineer" to mean something, there should be some regulations on who can use the term. However, I disagree that anybody working with software that is not "for use in the engineering or scientific industries" is excluded from the term "engineer" based solely on the product, and not what they do.

-- MechEng2005

RE: Professional Engineers and Dick Oliver

Licensing should be limited to areas where there is a safety issue. If the software is used for a video game, no need for a license. If the same software is used for controlling vehicles on the road, or for a training simulator, a license might be a good idea. The term "engineer" is useable for both (with a proper educational background). The use of the term "software engineer" is ok for both scenarios.

Peter Stockhausen
Senior Design Analyst (Checker)
Infotech Aerospace Services

RE: Professional Engineers and Dick Oliver

Going back to the original post the term Chartered Engineer is reserved in the UK so anybody who isn't can't use it. The term engineer on the other hand is fair game...planning engineer, sanitation engineer - you name it and someone will probably have used it!

Regards all, HM

No more things should be presumed to exist than are absolutely necessary - William of Occam

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