Today, Mark Oakeson jumps back on the show to discuss Professional Development Hours, aka PDHs. Given today’s world, the interplay between science and technology has allowed groundbreaking methods and processes to constantly disrupt “old-fashioned” ways of building, doing, and creating things. Within civil engineering, this wouldn’t be different. As an applied science in itself, civil engineering is constantly changing and going through innovative transformations that enhance specific aspects of the field. Therefore, professionals need to keep up with these changes, and PDHs play a big role in this day-to-day update on industry news and trends.
This episode touches on a variety of topics regarding PDHs, including the existing differences between states, the resources available in order to get your credit hours, how to pace yourself so that they do not pile up, as well as the vital importance of keeping your certificates or any record stating that you’ve completed a specific course.
This is a great episode for both the rising engineers of the future, who will need to get their required credit hours in order to renew their licenses and the professionals already practicing in the field. Check this out and don’t forget to visit our home base for all things civil engineering, whether it’s related to the FE, PE, or practice materials.
ASCE – American Society of Civil Engineers
ACI – American Concrete Institute
NCEES – National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying
PMI – Project Management Institute
AISC – American Institute of Steel Construction
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Reach out to Isaac – [email protected]
CEA Show Notes
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Isaac Oakeson: All right, what's going on, everybody? I got Mark back on with me. How are you doing, Mark?
Mark Oakeson: I'm doing okay. I'm hanging in there.
Isaac Oakeson: Sweet.
Mark Oakeson: Yeah.
Isaac Oakeson: We're doing this a little late night episode. So, you know, forgive us if we sound a little tired, but it's all good. We're going to get it to you. So today we want to talk about maintaining our professional engineering license by earning our professional development hours. So, we want to talk about everything to do with PDHs, and sometimes I think engineers don't grasp this when they're earning their license, but maybe they do. But, if you are in a civil engineering world, after you get your PE license, you still have to continue your learning even after you received that, that license.
Mark Oakeson: Yeah. And what's your experience, Isaac? I mean, for me it's sometimes that's become a little bit of a burden to every year you're thinking, "Oh man, I gotta get some more PDHs under my belt so I can renew my license". Sometimes it's a little bit of a burden.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. I agree. Because a lot of times you're putting it off or you're not thinking about it. It's not top of mind. And then what happens is typically when they're due, then everybody rushes to try to fill in the gaps or figure out what they have to make sure keep your license going. So..
Mark Oakeson: Yeah. Yeah.
Isaac Oakeson: It's definitely worth talking about. Something we want to touch on today. I guess one of the things we want to mention though, as we get started is that like every state has different requirements for how many PDHs that you actually need. So we're actually in the state of Utah. So how many do we need here, Mark?
Mark Oakeson: Well, we renew every two years and we have to have 30 credit hours for every two years. So, if you split those up, obviously we need about 15 per year. So, you think about you know, maybe trying to squeeze in an hour of PDH time every month, you still wouldn't have enough to get the job done. So, I always try to keep that in the back of my mind as I'm going along that, "Man, I at least gotta get one a month, just to kind of keep paced". And then I always have a few fillers at the end of the end of the year, but that's what I always try to think about.
Isaac Oakeson: You're better at keeping track of that than I am. I'm one of those kind of last-minute rush to get it all. So yeah, we're in Utah. We need those 30 credit hours every two years. Do you know what other States require at all?
Mark Oakeson: Well, I knowI'm licensed in several other States and, you know, some require 20, others, 25. And I'm saying this in terms of every couple of years for the renewal period. And most of them let you carry over. If you've got extra PDH hours, they'll actually let you carry those over intofollowing year if you've got extra. So, which is nice because,you know, you're not wasting time where,say, you know, for whatever reason you get 33, you know, PDHs,ou can carry over those three years into the next term. Which is nice.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah, that is nice. So the key though, is that because every state is different, you need to check out your own state's division of professional licensing, find out what the requirements are for your own state. And that's what you have to do. Now, if you're licensed, like Mark is in other States, then you have to follow all those different States requirements.
Mark Oakeson: Yeah! And It's tough. Some of the States are a little bit more lenient with some things. Like, Idaho is really good about giving you PDHs for affiliations and professional associations. So, I'm professionally associated with ACI,ith ASCE and I automatically get PDH hours just for being a member of those organizations, which is nice. So, when you're looking at your state's requirements,if you happen to be members of different professional organizations, sometimes that can help too. Just being a member.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. That's good advice. So, as we dive into, where you can get PDHs, let's first talk about the benefit of a live course or webinar or, you know, a place where you're going as a live event for instruction or online. Maybe, what are your thoughts on those too? Some States require or limit the amount of online PDHs you can get? But, what do you think are the benefits between the two and talk about that.
Mark Oakeson: Well, my professional opinion is your first option should be to go to live events. And the reason I say that is because live events, I think you get more out of a live event. And live events have a secondary benefit too. It helps you network with your colleagues in the industry. I get more out of live events because I can refresh my relationships that I've got with other professionals in the industry, you know? Guys that maybe I haven't seen for a few years. Guys that I've worked with on other projects, you know, five years ago and I haven't seen the guy in a while and, man, he shows up to the same PDH, you know, seminar, whatever that happens to be, and I can get my relationship, I guess, renewed with that person. So, I would advise that -- I think you get more out of a live event. It's just, I think, you're a little more engaged. I know,with online events, you can learn things and they can be instructive, but,at least for me, you tend to -- At least my attention wanes a little bit earlier on an online event versus when I'm at a live event and I'm rubbing shoulders with other industry professionals. And, it's a little more of an active environment for me.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah, I agree. I hope everybody that's listening to this is hearing that advice that a huge component of going to a live event is networking. And so, if you're ever looking for an upgrade in your career, or you've lost a job for whatever reason having those connections is a huge piece of going to a live event. People get to know you.
Mark Oakeson: And not only that. In my job, where I'm trying to design build teams, and sometimes when I'm actively pursuing projects it makes that easier for me, because I've gotten to know individuals over the years and I've re-upped my relationship with them, every time I see them at these events. And so, when it's crunch time and I'm trying to put a design build team together, I know the guys I gotta call and they know me, and there's a level of comfort there because you've seen them.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah, that's great. Sookay. So, that's live courses. We've touched a little bit on online courses, kind of the benefits between those two. I would say typically, what most engineers do, is that they attend live as much as possible and fill in the gaps with online courses where it makes sense to. These things cost money, though. Right?
Mark Oakeson: They do.
Isaac Oakeson: And so, you know, talk about what your employer does, typically, what your employer does, trying to get all these credits under your belt.
Mark Oakeson: Yeah. In my experience, all my employers, they valued, you know, having a credentialed PE personnel ontheir staff, right? And then they understand what it takes to maintain that license for that credentialed professional, right? And so, they've always been willing to pay for those professional development hours. But I know that's not the case everywhere. Right, Isaac?
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. So, I work for Utility and typically well at least for utility, it's not required for the utility to have I mean, it's always a benefit to have your license because that's typically what's on the application and resumes and they want people with PEs, but because they are a utility, a lot of utilities, at least the one I work for, they're not required to stamp their own drawings because they own the asset. They own what they're building. So, if we hire anything out, if we go to a contractor, we make them stamp everything. And so, you know. But, I obviously, I think every civil engineer should get their PE license, but you can see that, depending on where you work some value those things a lot more than others. And so, trying to get your employer to maybe pay for things, sometimes can be a struggle depending on where you are. But I would say, in general, for civil engineers, everybody wants you to keep your license and is willing to help pay for that. So, and I think even at a utility, like where I'm at you can make a strong case for that and they will help you to get those PDHs. So that's good. Anything else you want to touch on that?
Mark Oakeson: Well, just, I would say, just, you know, check with your manager, obviously, if you're new to an organization, you just got hired and you're worried about that, get that cleared up with your manager. I mean, they'll tell you the policy. Usually it's a tax deductible expense for a company as well. And so, that's another little incentive that they have to, you know, to pay for those things for you. So, it's usually not a problem. But, if you're worried about it, you can always always check.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. Yeah. And if you're interviewing, you can ask, you know, depending wherever you are in your stage of your career, make sure you're asking those things. That's a very good point. The only thing I'd add to that is, as you're getting PDHs, you're required to keep track of them, whether that's a certificate that they give you. The NCEES also has a free tool. So, if you've taken the FE or the PE, you've got a free tool there that you can get in there and track your own PDHs.
Mark Oakeson: Which can be nice in the event of an audit. Have you ever heard of those nasty things?
Isaac Oakeson: Of course. I've never experienced one. Have you ever had one?
Mark Oakeson: No, I haven't. But I have heard of individuals that have gone through that. And it's not fun if you don't have all your certificates and a record of all your PDHs. They can be rough on you. So, yeah. That's another little piece of advice. Make sure that you've kept all your certificates, whatever record has been given to you of completing whatever course that you've taken. Make sure you're saving that. So, in case an audit comes up, you're covered.
Isaac Oakeson: So, good points. Good tips. I guess lastly, you know, we kind of emphasized this earlier, but attending a live -- Trying to attend live PDHs. Typically are offered by different organizations. So, you've touched upon some that you have attended, but it sounds like there's a lot more.
Mark Oakeson: Yeah. There's a lot out there. Like, I'm typically going to all the ACI events. So we've got a local chapter of ACI called the Inner Mountain Chapter and they're a pretty active group. They put on a seminar every month and they bring in, I mean, some really interesting presentations that I've enjoyed over the years, but I usually try to hit that one every time, because it's pertinent to my industry that I'm in. And, again, I get a network and I learn a lot of things. But, you know, your DOTs offer a lot of opportunities to get PDHs. I know UDOT here locally offers, every October, they have a big convention that they put on and local vendors and stuff get together. But they also put on a ton of courses that are more transportation-engineering-oriented, butthey're always good events. But ASCE always puts on local events. And they're obviously a bignational organization so they've got local events everywhere. AISC is a good source, you know. I've gotten to a lot of PTI events post-tensioning Institute events. PMI, Isaac.
Isaac Oakeson: That's Project Management. So the PMI certificates kind of a big deal if you're in the PM kind of world. I know it's been geared a lot towards computer kind of networking industry. But now that certificate seems to be kind of a growing industry, similar to the PE, and they want as many people as possible to become a professional. A PMI professinoal in the PM world.
Mark Oakeson: Yeah. Yeah. That's becoming more and more of a valued credential, isn't it?
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. And they require PDHs, if you get that as well. And, you know, they kind of cross pollinate between getting them for your PE and for PMI. So, yeah. I think everybody can look up where your local chapters are for each of these, and you can find those in your own state.
Mark Oakeson: Yeah. Another sourcesif you're into, maybe, more of the construction engineering, is AGC. Every local chapter of AGC offers courses as well.
Isaac Oakeson: Sweet. So, good. We've touched upon what to do for your life stuff. We've talked about audits. We've talked about our thoughts on that stuff. Let's dive now into kind of some online resources that people could go. And like we said earlier, we feel like, you know, these could fill in the gaps. Some States, like I say, put the brakes on how many hours you can get online. So, you'll have to research that yourself in your own individual state. But some States don't care and you can get all your credits online. So, just kind of depends where you're at. But, I want to list some websites I found that were helpful for those PDHs, and you can go check those out if you need them. So, the first one that I've kind of listed was a site I've used before is called PDHDirect.com. The nice thing about these kinds of sites is that you can pay a one-time fee, like, right now, they're charging $1.99, but they give you an unlimited option. So you can go in there and take as many courses as you want. They give you a full year of access to try to earn those. And you can take those anytime you want, and it applies on their website. They apply to all 50 States. So you know, go check them out if that's a source for you. Mark, when you dive into the ASCE, what are you thinking about that?
Mark Oakeson: Yeah. So, I'm a member of ASCE, so I'm a dues paying member. And the primary reason for that actually is to get PDHs. T o get access to PDHs. And so ASCE has -- I would saytheir courses, there's kind of a higher-end course. And I would say a middle-grade course and probably a lower-grade course. There's kind of a range of offerings there. Just as if you renew your membership with ASCE every year, they offer 10 free PDHs. But, I would say that those free PDHs that they offer are probably the lower-end type courses. It's not maybe, the industry specific type courses that you might be looking for. It's more of the broad topics that they offer with those 10 free ones. So, just kind of an FYI there that the free ones, aren't maybe something you might be specifically interested in, you know? They're pretty broad. I mean, they deal with, I don't know, project management,ou know. I did one on rebar inspection and just some -- I don't know, I would consider those very broad, less specific kind of topics that may be a little bit of a surprise to you, you know? Yeah. Being ASCE.
Isaac Oakeson: But they offer, I'm sure more specific courses if you want to dive into it. So if you are a member, they probably give you a discount to those. And if you're not you'll pay a lot more.
Mark Oakeson: Yeah. It's usually about a hundred dollars discount for every course if you are an ASCE member. So they are cheaper, but that is one good thing about being a member ASCE. I mean, you can drill down into, like, some really specific topics that -- I mean on whatever subject you're talking about, you know? Geotechnical, Structural. I mean, they get down into the nitty gritty stuff, like, you know, connection design and, you know. They offer stuff, you know, you can get down into the bolts for concrete, you know? They don't just stay at like the 30,000 foot level and just say, "Well, we're going to talk about mixed design". They'll actually get into courses that actually talk about the chemistry of mixed design, you know? You can really drill down into some specifics with the courses that they offer. So, in that regard it's good. But those aren't any of the free ones that they're offering.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. That's more the $200.
Mark Oakeson: Exactly. Exactly.
Isaac Oakeson: You're going to pay for that. Another good option, or at least a very popular option, is a site called RedVector, redvector.com. And they have a ton of courses. I think most engineers end up finding them. They're a very large company. But their price ranges vary all over the place, depending on the amount of credit hours that you're looking at. They have recently looks like, unleashed a unlimited option if you're looking for an option to get unlimited hoursprobably in competition with some of these other sites that offer unlimited hours, but they also do one offs where they sell these individual courses and their prices range all over the place. So, similar to other sites, where it's like $200 to $300 plus. So, depending on what you want to do. And I've noticed just cruising around their website, that they also get a little more specific in the course offering that they have there. So, it might be a good option if maybe you're not a member of ASCE to go check out RedVector. Do you have any experience with red vector?
Mark Oakeson: I have a little bit of experience with RedVector. They offer some good courses. I've usually gone to those guys as, you know, my fill in. I'm scrambling, maybe I got a week or two before my renewal, my PE license is due, and "Oh man, I'm missing a couple PDHs". They're my resource for those kind of things. I can squeeze a few quick courses in with those guys.
Isaac Oakeson: Excellent. Okay. I guess some of these last ones we listed, or just some other ones we kind of picked up and found, I don't know if they're the most popular, but they're, you know, they're cheaper option. One of them is called pdhlibrary.com and you can go check them out. They sell individual courses. They're probably a little more broad in what they're offering, but if you're looking for cheaper courses, they might be worth checking out. And their prices range basically between 20 and $50, depending on how many credit hours they're offering and the type of course it is. Sothat's another one you can go check out. And, and lastly, another one we kind of discovered was one called civilpdh.com. They've basically tailored their entire website to specifically civil engineering courses, although they can work for all disciplines. But they are basically for civil engineers. Sothey've listed their site as something that is efficient and cost effective and they are definitely cost effective. They are priced at $10 per credit hour. Soif you're looking for cheaper options, those are out there. If you're looking for more expensive options, those are out there. I just think there's a lot of options for you, if you're looking for an online PDH course.
Mark Oakeson: Yeah. There's a ton of them.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. So what I'm thinking is, we've kind of hit everything about live. We've hit everything about online stuff. You know, the whole point of getting these things done isI guess -- What is the whole point, Mark, of getting your PDHs? Why is this required?
Mark Oakeson: Well, it's so you are keeping up on the latest and greatest information in your craft, in civil engineering. Things are changing all the time. New productsnew innovative ways of building things or new processes that you just -- You need to be getting exposed to those things so that you're current and you're on top of your game. That's the reason for it. And you can use that to your advantage. I mean, you can -- I don't know. I've had years where PDHs are like I say, a real burden, but I've also had years where I've tried to structure my PDH pursuits into areas that I'm very interested in or areas of engineering that I want to learn more about. And when I structure them like thatit's interesting to me and it's not a burden, right? It's kind of like, "Oh, cool. I get to learn about this new process" or "this new product", or whatever. And, and so I would just say that the goal is so that you're constantly learning and being on top of your game, but make it interesting to, you know? Enroll in those courses and in those subjects that you want to learn more about, and that are interesting to you. And then it won't be a burden. It'll be fun.
Isaac Oakeson: I agree. I Think if you can find stuff that you're interested in, or at least that are applicable to what you're doing in your industry, I think that'll help you kind of get through that every year, or explore something you haven't seen in a while if you've been at it for many, many years.
Mark Oakeson: Yeah.
Isaac Oakeson: I really like your point that networking is a huge piece of this. So, I know LinkedIn is kind of the online networking platform, but, you know, seeing people in person goes a long way as well. And so, hopefully this whole discussion about PDHs has gotten everybody thinking about them or at least educated you a little bit on them, if you don't know anything about them. And if you haven't earned them, you're probably now thinking, "Crap, I gotta go get some PDHs".
Mark Oakeson: Yeah, "I gotta get going".
Isaac Oakeson: You're at some stage somewhere in that spectrum. Cool. Is there anything else you want to add to this one, Mark?
Mark Oakeson: No, just -- I don't know, make sure you're pacing yourself as you're getting your PDHs so they don't all pile up on top of you at once. And, Isaac emphasize this again, but I would say it again, use them for networking opportunities. I think that's a big deal. Face to face contact with individuals is way better than the LinkedIn connections that you've got.
Isaac Oakeson: A little message.
Mark Oakeson: Yeah. It's just -- It's way better. So, that'd be my advice.
Isaac Oakeson: Wellthanks for your tips. Hopefully we shared some valuable knowledge with everybody out there and -- Yeah, I think it was a good one. So, thanks for jumping on again with me, Mark. We'll see you on another one.
Mark Oakeson: Okay. See you.
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