Engineering as a Profession

Some more notes from my reading on proffessionalism.

Engineering is just different than the three archtypical professions Law, Medicine, and the Priesthood.

1. Knowledge base changes faster
1a. Reduces opportunity and value of standarizing practice patterns.
1b. Reducing the advantage of mature practitioners.

2. Work products are more tangible.
2a. Can be inspected by third parties
2b. Market performance plays much larger role in quality assesment.
2c. Services more easily mediated (i.e. thru middlemen)

3. Origins in market success, not failure.
3a. Origins in upper class entrepenurs.
3b. Exagerated: extent of both Consultancy and Entrepenurship.
3c. Conflicted loyalities: states via public goods, commerce entrepenurship.

4. Engineers are "Salaried Professionals"
4a. More like hired labor than service providers.
4b. Consequence of 2c.
4c. Fact at odds with 3b.

Some of this varies depending on which branch of engineering you look at. For example civil engineers often build public goods for the state and to a degree their platform of knowledge is more durable than say software engineers who are often tied to entrepenurial capital and thier platforms are in continual flux.

I think it’s quite telling that engineering as a practice, particularly in America, spun off of the upper class and it’s practitioners tend to presume they still have the power and mobility of members of that class inspite of the fact that the majority of engineers are hired labor working for large firms.

I’m amazed at how much consequence flows from the tangible nature of the work compared to the three professions mentioned above. These tangible objects can be tested in two ways. One very micro: another professional or the end user can evaluate them. The other is very macro: the marketplace can evalute them. The market is, of course, a swarm of idiots so this distinction is huge.

The other consquence of having working in a profession with a tangible work product is that third parties can buy and sell it. Politicions can sell the roads, tinmen can sell the aluminum siding, marketing can sell the software.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *