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Professionals meet strenuous continuing ed requirements

Every year, architects and engineers return to school to keep up with continually changing aspects of their professions.

For example, all active AIA (American Institute of Architects) members are required to complete 18 learning unit (LU) hours per year, with at least eight of those hours relating to health, safety and/or welfare (HSW).

“Materials, technology, code issues, advances in structures and certainly environmental issues change, and we learn more about them as time and knowledge increase,” said Jim West, AIA, dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Design at Mississippi State University. “For instance, we know a lot more about issues of environmental sustainability now than we did 15 to 20 years ago.”

Depending on location, the most popular LU subject areas involve environmental issues, sustainable design practices, energy, materials technology and codes/regulations.

The guidelines are stringent, yet somewhat flexible. Any AIA member who fails to complete the annual requirement is given a nine-month grace period, and credits earned in the following year apply to the deficit. Members that exceed the annual requirement may carry up to 18 LU hours, including eight hours of HSW, over to the following year. However, it is not cumulative and may not be carried past the one-year limit. The activity reporting deadline is September 30; transcript records are updated daily on www.aia.org for AIA members.

“I consider continuing education as a challenge for our profession to stay current on new technologies and methods in order to better serve our clients and the public,” said JBHM Architects partner Joseph S. Henderson, AIA. “More and more states are moving towards an emphasis on continuing ed components that qualify as ‘health, safety and welfare’ issues.”

HSW subject areas, based on the Architect Registration Examination, encompass some 30 topics ranging from acoustics and construction administration to interior design and surveying methods.

The AIA has a network of more than 2,500 educational providers, and private vendors offer many continuing education courses online and through the mail. Professional conferences typically offer continuing education courses, and local AIA chapters periodically offer workshops and seminars.

“Some architectural offices have vendors that make learning lunch presentations to discuss their products and services,” said West. “The most effective of these methods are the half- and full-day CEU workshops.”

Licensed engineers are required to earn 15 technical professional development hour (PDH) credits per year and two PDH ethics credits every three years.

“Engineering as a whole is a profession that changes all the time,” said Amber Cutcliff, P.E., president of the Jackson branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and a Neel-Schaffer engineer. “It’s a field that’s always trying to improve upon itself, and new issues are arising constantly. For instance, electronic waste is becoming important because it affects the environment negatively.

There are always advances in materials like concrete and asphalt, so you have to keep up with how to handle and install the material.”

The 139,000-member ASCE hosts more than 275 seminars and computer workshops annually on a variety of technical, management and regulatory topics. These seminars are held in dozens of cities across the U.S. In addition, the society offers customized onsite training and numerous distance-learning programs, including live interactive web/teleconference seminars, online courses and courses on CD, videotape and audiotape.

“At our monthly meetings, we usually have a speaker do a technical presentation for us, for which we get a half-hour professional development credit,” said Cutcliff. “Also, the Mississippi section, which is made up of four branches, has a two-day annual meeting in November, where we’ll have three different presentations going on at any one time. People can choose which to attend based on how it applies to their area of expertise. The opportunity is there to earn multiple credits.”

The ASCE would like to see additional education required for its members by seeking national support for Policy Statement 465, said Cutcliff.

“If adopted, it would require engineers to obtain a master’s degree or approved equivalent before they may sit for the licensing exam,” she said.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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