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A Year of Professional Development - Pandemic Edition

A friend recently asked me for updates to the final cost of some of the events/professional development based on my previous blog post, so some of the information will be a repeat. Rather than chronologically, I’ll detail by type instead.

Professional Licensure - The PE

Detailed below are the final figures for cost of licensure in CA (with some caveats). Thanks to the pandemic, my subject exams were cancelled and eventually able to be rescheduled for the latter half of 2020 at no additional cost. In addition, as of 2021, licensure fees for California state exams will be jumping up 40-60%, including the cost of renewing your initial license - $180 for 2 years (which is only good for about 6 months.)

NCEES PE Licensure ~$1200 - The PE exam fees ($350 for the 8 hour and ~~$150~~ $175 apiece for Seismic and Surveying for California specific exam ) are only covered by my employer if you pass on the first try; I was able to get a study day and a day off under professional development overhead to take the subject exams, which are still CBT in a Prometric Testing Center even though they are open book. Fingerprinting was $79, and the reference material was $270.

Additionally, the references required to pass the national exam (and I do not use that term lightly; you cannot pass the exam without some of these references as the code will be explicitly referenced) cost several thousand dollars all totaled up if you can’t get them from your employer. When I worked as a bridge engineer, I didn’t have access to most of these references, as my company never did masonry or timber bridges. What follows is a reference by reference breakdown. While being a member of the organizations that write these codes will cut down on the reference cost (i.e. being a member of AISC), there’s not much incentive to do so if the membership outstrips the savings for buying the reference.

  • AASHTO - $520 - PDF Download - Single User
  • ASCE 7-16 - $240 - Soft Cover
  • ACI 318-14 - $274 - Soft Cover
  • AISC 14th Ed - $400 - Hardbound[^1]
  • NDS & Supplement - $150 [^2]
  • PCI - $500 - ebook or Hardbound
  • TMS 402/602 - $150
  • IBC - $156 - Soft Cover [^2]
  • Lindbergh PE “Bible”- $150 - $200

Flying to California to bypass the years of experience requirement doesn’t seem like a bright idea these days, and many young engineers will have missed out on the exam cycle of the past year because many states cancelled the exam (I believe California suggested that people drive to Nevada to sit it). In the aftermath of the pandemic, there will be a number of young engineers that will be behind their licensing requirements and lose out on promotion and career advancement because of the very rigid path to becoming a professional in this industry.

[^1] I give AISC a slight pass because the provisions that you are tested on are freely available on, so you could print and bind what is necessary for the exam. That being said, the steel manual is an excellent desk resource, though you can generate the design tables yourself using Python (and an abundance of free time).

[^2] Viewable for “free” online.

Architecture/Engineering/Construction Professional Development and Conferences

To be honest, I didn’t participate in that many AEC related conferences/initiatives this year, other than my continued involvement in SE3 and the pilot group for ElevateHer, which were more long term initiatives than a one off conference.

One good thing that I would say about the pandemic is that it did make at least the content of professional conferences more accessible to young engineers. I was pleasantly surprised by how many professional organizations instituted a pay what you want or a greatly reduced fee in 2020. I can’t speak to how effective networking virtually is at these professional events, but something is better than nothing in the wake of a significant industry downturn. That being said, the upcoming fees for mostly virtual conferences are pretty dang steep.

Upcoming: (Nonmember fees without early discounts, membership fees have not been reduced in the past year)

Things I Did Instead of AEC Professional Development

This year has been brutal. Despite working at what on paper appears to be the ideal company for someone with my skillset, I have deeply questioned where/if I belong in this industry anymore. I’ve found myself in the position of getting sucked into money pit projects in an economy that can’t sustain money pit projects, not when there are layoffs and the idea of losing money on a project to get the next one is now unfathomable. I had hoped that leveraging computational skills would be something that would serve me well, but instead it has meant being tossed at the projects that can’t be done without programming skills or fancy analysis software. These projects have ill-defined scope and are chronically underbudgeted. I don’t know what’s next for me, but it’s highly unlikely that my next job title will have the word “structural” anywhere in it.

Instead of AEC Conferences I…

  • Participated in my first Never Graduate Week through the Recurse Center
  • Gave my first large conference technical talk at PyGotham.TV
  • Hosted several informal women in AEC meetups with my old friends in NYC - something that wouldn’t have been possible if things were normal.
  • Reverse engineered a constraint/physics solver in Cython (and learned C++ to do so!)
  • Went to my first Haskell conference (online! for free)
  • Went to my first open source conference (online! for nearly free plus swag)
  • Became completely obsessed with all things eink and adafruit (including Adaboxes) and built two open source productivity managers
  • Wrote a semi-viral (for structural engineering) Twitter thread about the state of the AEC industry
  • Finally got some closure about my PhD research experience. It wasn’t much, but it felt good to be heard and validated.
  • Learned to be more resilient and adopt a growth mindset.
  • Filled in gaps in my programming knowledge and discovered algorithms are kind of fun
  • Started writing again (including this blog!)
  • Started researching again

…I think it was worth it.

Published Mar 22, 2021

Striving to stay curious.