National Society of Professional Engineers, American Society of Civil Engineers, Engineers Without Borders, American Nuclear Society, American Society of Safety Engineers, Biomedical Engineering Society, Institute of Transportation Engineers, Society of Manufacturing Engineers, Order of the Engineer, Institute of Industrial and System Engineers.
This is enough to make your head spin. The aforementioned engineering societies are only a portion of those that exist in the United States alone. Each has a set of rules, specific creeds, managerial structures etc.
Engineering societies do have merit; they hold engineers to a level of professionalism and they help to keep them ethical. The American Society of Civil Engineers, for example, has a good code of ethics that engineers in other industries could also benefit from.
And the National Society of Professional Engineers promises to do ‘everything that can be done’ to ensure engineering industries are transparent, ethical, and organized - in order to protect the engineering profession itself.
In today’s world, however, membership is dropping away. Often the only motivation to join one is because of the belief (misguided perhaps) that it will secure the member a job in industry.
On the social media site Reddit a user highlighted the issue. He reported that at the local American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics corporate board meeting the turn-up was poor. He went on to write:
“The older guys claimed that 10 years ago the chapter was full of life, with 30-40 members attending tours/lectures several times a year. But now, the local chapter is functionally an organization of officers.”
A popular response to the post speaks volumes: Jadbal wrote:
“Back when engineers would start at a company fresh out of college, and stay their whole career, it made sense to join a professional organization and attend regularly. Now, we move every two to three years for the first decade of our careers. Hard to get involved when you don’t know where you’ll be in six months.”
Build your own society
Joining an engineering society and being a name on an emailing list is no longer a functional way of keeping up to date with peers within the industry. Historically, societies provided engineers with internship opportunities and some even found jobs from being closely linked with other engineers in their disciplines.
Now with social media services like LinkedIn, engineers, on top of their already premium set of skills, are learning how to network in a different forum.
Keeping a virtual (or real) rolodex of names and numbers and acquaintances in the industry is a far better strategy. Engineers are more mobile so need the flexibility of networking online. And there is another reason contributing to the drop-off in membership: some societies charge monthly fees. Admittedly they often have the authority to confer ‘chartered status’, but projects demanding this elite status are also dwindling.
Society member or not, the following is a wholesome reminder of what it means to be an engineer. It is an oath and is called the ‘Obligation of an Engineer’.
“I am an Engineer. In my profession I take deep pride. To it I owe solemn obligations.
As an engineer, I pledge to practice integrity and fair dealing, tolerance and respect; and to uphold devotion to the standards and dignity of my profession, conscious always that my skill carries with it the obligation to serve humanity by making the best use of the Earth's precious wealth.
As an engineer, I shall participate in none but honest enterprises. When needed, my skill and knowledge shall be given without reservation for the public good. In the performance of duty, and in fidelity to my profession, I shall give my utmost.”
— "Obligation of an Engineer"
“The Death of the Professional/Technical Engineering Society? • r/Engineering.” Reddit, www.reddit.com/r/engineering/comments/7saj5y/the_death_of_the_professionaltechnical/.