URI to offer professional practice degree in ocean engineering

KINGSTON, R.I. – December 22, 2008 – In response to recommendations in a report issued by the National Academy of Engineering, the University of Rhode Island’s College of Engineering will begin offering a five-year, professional practice degree program in ocean engineering beginning in 2009.

“It is clear from this report that the professional engineering societies are strongly in favor of a professional engineering degree to allow graduates to fully enter into the real practice of engineering upon graduation,” said Malcolm Spaulding, URI professor of ocean engineering and the coordinator of the program. “Internationally, the five-year program is the standard for professional practice in the field.”

The National Academy report, Adapting Engineering Education to the New Century, recommends that a bachelor’s degree in an engineering discipline be considered a pre-engineering or engineer-in-training degree, and master’s degree programs should be accredited separately as professional degrees.

According to Spaulding, few engineering programs at universities in the United States have transitioned from 4-year degree programs to 5-year professional degree programs yet. As a first step, he proposed establishing a small pilot program in the URI Department of Ocean Engineering, which was approved by the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education earlier this year.

“The initial step will be a combination of elements in the existing BS and MS programs that can realistically be completed in five years,” he said. “About five to seven junior-level students with the academic skills and focus will be recruited for the pilot program.”

In addition to meeting all existing curricular requirements, students enrolled in the new program will also be required to pass the Fundamentals in Engineering certification exam offered by the Rhode Island Board of Professional Engineers; complete nine credits of engineering design experiences with a government laboratory or industry; conduct a research project led by a faculty member; and enroll in a systems engineering and project management course.

For information about enrolling in the program, contact Malcolm Spaulding at 401-874-6666 or Spaulding@oce.uri.edu.