As it does every year, the NCEES organization has already released its 2020 Annual Report, in which it provides an overview of the initiatives it has been involved in, a roadmap of what happened in the previous year, and where it’s headed looking forward. Today, Isaac walks us through some of the most important points and how they affect our licensure as professional engineers, but also how we prepare and take the FE, PE, and SE exams.
Starting with a frustrated 100-year celebration due to COVID and more efforts towards educating policymakers about the value of a professional license, the report details the drop in the overall number of test-takers, the attempts to make engineering international work more accessible, and the stronger push towards accelerating the timeline to make the Civil PE Exam become a closed-book, computer-based test.
Today’s episode is a mandatory listen for every engineer out there, regardless of whether or not you already have your license. Our work is regulated by the NCEES along with individual State laws, so we should always be aware of potential threats to licensure, where the industry and its standard exams are heading, as well as the initiatives and activities being funded by the organization to spread the word (and joy) about the field.
School of PE – http://www.civilengineeringacademy.com/sope
Purple Mattress – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/purple
NCEES – https://ncees.org
The NCEES 2020 Annual Report – https://ncees.org/wp-content/uploads/AR-2020_spreads_web.pdf
Advance: An NCEES Podcast Series – https://ncees.org/podcast
CEA Podcast Ep. 51 with Tim Miller (Video) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMS11n5s3yY
CEA Podcast Ep. 51 with Tim Miller (Audio) – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/cea-51-the-ncees-chief-officer-of-exams-tim-miller-pe
International Professional Engineers Agreement (IPEA) – https://www.ieagreements.org/agreements/ipea
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Engineers Agreement – https://www.ieagreements.org/agreements/apec
The Ultimate Civil PE Review Course – https://civilpereviewcourse.com
The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course – https://civilfereviewcourse.com
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Civil Engineering Academy’s Youtube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPeFLBZ2gk0uO5M9uE2zj0Q
If you need exams, solved problems, or courses, make sure to check out our home base – https://civilengineeringacademy.com
Reach out to Isaac – [email protected]
Transcript of Show
You can download our show notes summary here or get our transcript of the show below!
Isaac Oakeson: What's going on, everybody? Isaac here with Civil Engineering Academy, jumping on with another sweet podcast episode. Thanks for being here, whether you're finding us on YouTube or whether you're finding us in audio format. Really appreciate you being here and the enjoy that you are listening to this and providing value to you on your own journey to becoming a professional engineer. It's really fun for me to do. In today's podcast episode, what I would like to do is kind of do a review of what NCEES produces, which is called the 2020 Annual Report. Every year they produce these reports and they kind of give a roadmap about what happened the previous year. So between basically October of 2019 up until September about 2020. And they produce these every single year. In them, they detail some of the facts and figures about test takers, they go over financials, they go over kind of where they're headed as a testing organization, and some of the things they've contributed to.
Isaac Oakeson: They also dive into a lot of financials. Obviously in this last year, we had to deal with COVID. NCEES dealt with COVID a lot, as many of you are fully aware of what a headache that has been in rescheduling exams and trying to figure out where you can take an exam and all that fun stuff. So today's going to be a fun episode as we dive into some of those details. For me, it's always fun to see where the NCEES is going, where they're pointed towards. And hopefully it gives you a better idea as the roadmap -- You know, if you've already passed your exams, it's just fun to see where things are going. But if you are still working on exams, it's fun to see where we are headed. So with that, let's dive right into some of the facts and figures, and some of the bullet points I want to talk about, in our review of the 2020 NCEES annual review.
Isaac Oakeson: All right, guys! So let's talk about the first thing that I had listed. And that's basically that the year of 2020 was a hundred year celebration for the organization of the NCEES. And so the first thing they detail in their report is kind of the history of how the NCEES started. A meeting in Chicago and to where it is today, where they are based in South Carolina. And we'll talk about that they've built a new building and all kinds of fun stuff. But things were put obviously on hold on --Oh, not on hold. But there was a damper to the spirit of celebration because of COVID and really that affected everybody's life, including every aspect of industry. So NCEES was no exception to that, as many of you are aware.
Isaac Oakeson: But it's still worthy to know that they are celebrating a hundred years of being organized, which is quite a thing, quite an accomplishment, and something definitely to be recognized. If you want to learn more about their history, how they started, what they're all about, the detail that in their annual report. So definitely download that and check it out, if you'd like to check out more of their history. But that's the first thing I definitely want to hit on is that they've hit their hundred-year mark. It's very awesome as they strive to keep the public safe by, you know, not only holding exams, but they're really trying to get involved in public policy and making sure that licensure is really held up to a very high standard in legislation. So anyway, good thing to note and definitely a worthy achievement. A hundred years. That's awesome! Way to go in NCEES.
Isaac Oakeson: All right! The second thing I want to talk about today is that the NCEES details in their report that they have joined forces in what they call the Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing, or the acronym of ARPL. And so what this organization does as they go out, basically the goal is to try to educate policymakers so that they value the license, right? People sometimes get confused in state legislation and they might want to get rid of professional licensing, but they rope in a lot of complex positions, including engineering, architecture, and other industries that they rope all of that into. And it's a problem. So in order to keep the public safe, they've teamed up with this organization to really help influence policy making and educate.
Isaac Oakeson: And in fact, this organization, the ARPL, did a survey and they found out that, in their survey, 70% of people that took the survey do want people that have these complex jobs, like engineering, architecture, they want them to have professional licensing, because they are in the public venue, you know? They need to keep the public safe, they need to make sure that's top of mind, and that licensing and getting a professional license is part of those qualifications that at least says that you care and you are going to do your best to keep the public safe and that you meet certain standards to do that. So that's one of the things they wanted to highlight that they did. I think that's a good thing, if we can definitely encourage policymakers to look at the professional license and make sure they value that. Don't just wipe that off of everybody in every industry, but really look at who influences the public, keeping public safe and making sure we're setting barriers to that so everything is good there. So anyway, I thought that was a good thing. Definitely worth mentioning, and you can read about it in their report.
Isaac Oakeson: All right, let's go over point number three that I thought was very interesting. And that is that the NCEES is doing more at an international level. They have got a registry and they've got two organizations that they are with. One of them is called the Asia Pacific Economic Co-op, and the other one is called the International Professional Engineering Group. And those two organizations allow for US professional engineers to have more mobility in working for an international company or a country outside the United States. Now, there's a list of requirements that you have to do. There's some registry things you got to do on the NCEES side. But, you know, that's a growing area that they have found, and they are trying to unite being a United States professional engineer with these organizations so that you can practice in other parts of the world, which I think is pretty cool. And in fact, they state that they had about 659 people register for that, which is actually an uptick. So it's looking like it's close to 10% of registrants that they see in that arena. And that will probably go up as more and more people might be interested in working internationally, or if you want to work for a company that does international work. I don't know. In either case, it's a good thing. And that is something you can read about in the report and something I pulled out as something being pretty interesting. So that was point number three that I thought was fascinating for you.
Isaac Oakeson: All right! Point number four I thought was interesting is that they have officially built a brand new building in May of 2020. So, you know, you're dealing with COVID and all this stuff, but they got a brand new building thrown in there. And that's headquartered in South Carolina. It's 70,000 square feet, or just over that. I kind of wonder who did the engineering on that? You know, get all these professional engineers. I wonder how that works. But any case, they've moved into a new building. It's more space where they can collaborate on developing exams, brainstorming testing, all kinds of stuff. You can go check it out on their website. But yeah. New building, new NCEES stuff, and good for them. So anyway, that was something I wanted to pull out and talk about. And that was point number four.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. Let's jump into point number five. And that is last year's numbers for how many people actually took the exams. If you dive into the report, they do state that they actually had less people take the exams, which affects their revenue and all kinds of stuff. But in general, the numbers seem still pretty high to me, but I'd have to compare that with other reports and really see how they did. But in last year they had about 39,000 people take the FE exam. That's obviously a combination of all kinds of disciplines, but that's still quite a few people. Almost 39,000 people taking the FE exam. They had about 18,000 people take the PE exam. Also a mix of disciplines that took that exam, but close to about 18,000. And they had about a thousand people take the civil engineering, SE exam, the structural engineering exam, which is pretty good.
Isaac Oakeson: And I also want to highlight that as part of all of this, a lot of people are asking where they can take this international. And the NCEES is really trying to make an effort to allow people to take this exam in a lot of different countries. So currently they've listed that you can take the FE exam in Canada. You can also take the FE and the PE in quite a few countries. And those include Egypt. They include Japan. They include Qatar. Saudi Arabia is on that list. South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey. So, if you live in any of those countries, you are game to take the FE and the PE exam there as well. And I think that's the majority of the countries. I think they're always working on trying to do that. I think between those international agreements and they're working on trying to get those licenses recognized all over the world. They'll probably see more countries online and available to take this exam. But I thought that was pretty neat and something definitely worth mentioning.
Isaac Oakeson: At Civil Engineering Academy, I've noticed that we definitely see an uptick in questions being asked from some of these other countries. And so that's always fun to check out and see what's going on with the work that NCEES is doing international. Anyway guys, that's going to be point number five for you that I thought was interesting. Let's keep going.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. Point number six that I thought was interesting in this report is basically that they are trying to make a real push to have people log their continuing education credits, units --- whatever you want to call it, PDHs, Professional Development Hours --- onto their system. They specifically call that CPC, or Continuing Professional Competency (CPC). So you can get on there, onto your NCEES account, and you can go in and, let's say you took a course online, you can slap the score you got on a test or any other document onto the record and fill out a description with how many PDHs or credits you got for taking that class. And that's all in an effort to really just log all of the continuing education that you need to maintain your professional license. I've started using that myself, because I just found it way easier to throw stuff in there to track for me. You know, if I'm throwing stuff in a folder or a binder, if I throw it in somewhere at work, maybe that could get lost, you know what I mean? So, I just like the idea that it's online, that they're tracking it for you. But they are really trying to tout that.
Isaac Oakeson: And I think they've listed about 18,000 people that are using it. And they've also listed about 306,000 courses that were registered last year, that somebody put in to that database to track it. So I think it's a good tool. If you need continuing education credits and hours, every state has a little bit different requirement on how many you need and the time period you need them. But this is a very good tool, iIt's a free tool, to track that stuff for you. So definitely check it out. Go to ncees.org and register. If you don't have an account and get one, and you can start tracking your credits there for free. So they are trying to tout that. And that's also in their report. So that's going to wrap up the sixth thing that I thought was very interesting about the report. Let's get to the next one.
Isaac Oakeson: All right! Let's get to point number seven. And that is that there was a massive decrease in those that actually took the exams last year. And obviously that's because of COVID, but in the report they actually detail percentages of decreases that they had on the exam. So in 2019 to 2020, if I could read some of this stuff: compared to the period the year before, the same period, they actually had a 26% decrease in those that took the FE exam. That's quite a blow. For the PE, they had a 43% decrease in those taking the PE exam. I mean, that's almost 50%. That's a huge number. And for those that took the PE Structural, there was actually a 56% decrease. And then they get into surveing and all those. I won't detail that one, but they're are about 20%. You know, somewhere in there.
Isaac Oakeson: So overall you see this massive drop in exam test takers, which affects them, obviously. These exams, they cost money. They are a source of revenue for the NCEES to keep things going. And so they really had to scramble to make up for that in different ways. They also had some cash on hand. they detail all of that in their report. So, they're very open with their financials, and the amount of test takers, everything that's in there. I think you'll see an uptick in the coming year, because people still need to get their exams done, right? You can't just hold off forever. And so you'll see an uptick on that, I think. But in any case, due to COVID numbers were down. Way down. And that's the story with that.
Isaac Oakeson: All right! The eighth thing that I want to talk about today, that I pulled from the report, is that the CBT exams. So they detail a lot about their timeline of where they're headed with the CBT exam, the computer-based testing exam. Now the big doozy here is the PE exam, as well as the SE exam. But all the other exams have either transitioned or very close to transitioning already to computer-based testing. And with that, it comes with a lot of things, right? Similar to the FE, you're going to have your own handbook. So the PE is going away from an open book exam to where everything's going to be on their own resources. And I believe that will also include any standards that you need. They will probably have available to you, but they will be via computer-based testing. So a PDF format of some sort for you.
Isaac Oakeson: So you know, one of the things -- And I actually talked to Tim Miller about this, who is the director of these exams. He was brought on as podcast host and shortly after they actually started their podcast, which is another point we wanted to make. But in any case, they are accelerating the timeline for the PE exam. It went from 2023. They're now pushing it to April of 2022. And I reached out to them via Twitter when they were at a conference, and I asked if the specifications were going to change. They tweeted back to me that they were not. So, you know, there's that going for it. I don't think the specs are going to change much at all. It doesn't sound like they are. But it is going to be accelerated to go computer-based testing in 2022.
Isaac Oakeson: I personally feel like, if you can get the exam done in 21, then do it because it is still open book. You can bring in any resource you want. It doesn't mean you'll use all the resources, but there is a sense of comfort when you can bring in material that you know was going to help you on your exam. You know, it is what it is. And when it goes computer-based, I'm sure you'll be fine as you prepare for it. But, you know, it's helpful to get that out. I just think in 21 is the year to get it done. So anyway, with that, that was just one of the points I wanted to highlight. And that's point number eight.
Isaac Oakeson: All right! Point number nine that I want to pull out from this report is basically how much money that they give out and how much involvement they are trying to do in the community. And this includes getting engineering exciting in the K-12 range, being involved in that. They're very involved in that. They give away a lot of money to help programs outside of the NCEES organization. And I also wanted to highlight that they started their own podcast called Advance. And so we'll probably highlight that for you. But they have started their own podcast. It was shortly after we did our own interview with Tim Miller. But, you know, it's helpful to kind of get a pulse on where the NCEES is going, what they're working on, and things of that nature. So I think it was definitely a good move to do a podcast for them. So, their community involvement is a big thing. Getting engineering exciting in the K-12 timeframe and just their outreach and dollars that they contribute to help programs is really fascinating. And it's all detailed in that report as well. Definitely worth highlighting as we look through it.
Isaac Oakeson: All right! Point number 10, and the last point that I want to talk about, is the actual financials. In the very last of the report, they actually dive into quite a few of the financials. Probably more than you ever wanted to know about their financials, but they really detail everything about that. I want to only highlight a few things. One of them is that the revenue that they brought in last year was about 24.5 million dollars, and that's through exams and a lot of other things. And income for that comes from, like I said, exam services, member services, support services, and non-operating items. Those other things, I don't know what those are, but definitely they bring in some money from the exam services that they are providing. Everyone knows how expensive an exam is to take. So there you go. That's their numbers. They're very open and transparent about that, so you can definitely check that out in the report.
Isaac Oakeson: Most of their expenses kind of fall right back into those same categories. So if you're looking at income and expenses on their sheet, you'll notice that it costs almost as much to administer these exams as it does the income that they're bringing in to generate revenue. So, you know, it's a fine line. But obviously they do make a little money to keep the ship moving forward. But definitely that is part of this report and something they want to report on. COVID was a huge hit for them and they're able to survive and get through it. I think they'll probably see an uptick in exam test takers and all that, and probably an increase in revenue in the next year. So I don't think it's anything to be too worried about. In fact, I've noticed in industries in general -- I mean, I work in the utility industry. I've noticed work has definitely not slowed down. In fact, it's gotten even busier, even during COVID. So it's been crazy for me. And I'm sure they'll see an uptick in exam test takers as the years move forward.
Isaac Oakeson: Anyway, guys. That's going to wrap up some of the highlights that I pulled out of the 2020 Annual Report in Review from the NCEES organization. I'm curious about what your thoughts are. What do you think about the exam going computer-based testing? What do you think about some of the revenue numbers? What do you think about international licensing? What do you think about influencing policy makers? All of that kind of stuff. Give me comments. Feel free to email me: [email protected]. Or comment in the comments below. Always interested in hearing them, trying to participate in those.
Isaac Oakeson: Anyway, hope you guys are doing well. We are excited to help you on your own journey to become a professional engineer. And if you need any resources, go check out our site: civilengineeringacademy.com. We can help you with your FE, your PE. We're working on a Seismic course for people that need licensing in California. And we have some good references for every other exam that's out there. So definitely go check it out. And with that, I hope you guys have a great day and we'll see you next time. Bye!
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