6 Mar 2020
A firsthand look at what a knowledge assessment involves when your qualification doesn’t quite meet the required standard.
You can become Chartered at the Professional Engineer level without a Washington Accord-accredited degree. But you will need to undertake a knowledge assessment to prove you have the required level of expertise in your field.
I recently went through a knowledge assessment to show I had the same level of knowledge as someone with a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil). I needed to do this before I could apply for Chartership because my highest full qualification is a Diploma in Engineering (Civil), however the knowledge assessment process is the same for someone wanting to become a Chartered Member.
Beforehand, people expressed their opinions about the process, however I found it was much more straightforward than I’d expected.
Firstly, look at the knowledge assessment requirements. They are based around eight parts: natural sciences, mathematics, engineering fundamentals, specialised engineering, design process, engineering practice, engineering in society and research-based knowledge. You will also need to upload a copy of your qualifications to your member area.
Then you need to show evidence of knowledge in each of the eight parts through work, academic studies and any other experience gained. I used work examples such as tied back retaining wall design to demonstrate knowledge of chemical reactions around galvanic corrosion and soil mechanics. My commercial pilot’s licence with a gas turbine rating showed knowledge of thermodynamics, entropy and fluid dynamics. Mathematics was covered by seismic assessments I had carried out, as well as the paper I had completed in the NZDE.
This was supported by extra papers I had completed towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering Technology through Weltec and the Open Polytechnic.
After submitting my initial documentation I received a phone call from the knowledge assessor saying he’d be looking at my information and would let me know if more was required. He asked for an outline of what was covered in each of the papers and a CV, as well as asking about what I had studied at school. Being in my 40s, remembering school subjects was a bit of a stretch! We also set up an appointment for a video interview.
The video interview was scheduled for two hours and the knowledge assessor wanted to start with the things he thought might present issues. We began with maths. I hadn’t done an advanced maths paper, and in my day-to-day work there wasn’t a need to be doing differential equations and the like. It turned out I had covered a bit more in my maths paper than was obvious from the description. Regarding Fourier equations and some of the more advanced maths questions, although I hadn’t studied them, I was aware of the concepts and could work out what was required because of my understanding of modal analysis with seismic assessments. We discussed various topics, ranging from the laws of thermodynamics to chemical reactions and some of the unknowns when using computer models.
The assessor was looking for gaps in my knowledge. This was so he could recommend a way forward if I didn’t have the right level of knowledge, using a mix of assessment and mentoring. For example, if I was deficient in maths, he might ask for an assignment to be completed, or for an advanced maths paper to be done through a polytechnic or university. Alternatively, if the gap had no relevance to the type of work for which I was applying for Chartership, then he might pass that information to the assessor so they would be aware of the knowledge gap and could decide whether it was an issue.
Typically, the assessor lets you know how the interview went once it’s finished. Because I work for Engineering New Zealand, he wanted to make sure there was no potential bias, so he asked for his assessment to be peer reviewed. As it turns out, I was ok. I passed with no extra work needed, and my Chartership application is progressing.
Originally published in the March 2020 edition of EG.
Martin Pratchett MEngNZ is Engineering Practice Manager at Engineering New Zealand.