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I. Professionalism (~9%) - NPPE Syllabus Category

a. professionalism (10%) - nppe and bc ppe exam topic
What does professionalism mean on your exam?

Professionalism is the first topic on the NPPE Exam. What does professionalism mean in an engineering context?  Let me teach you in the 19-minute video below. This video is included in my NPPE Course to help members learn the content quickly. Enjoy!

Video & transcript below.

To accompany this video, please download the attached syllabus reading material.   After watching the video you should go to the noted pages for further reading & understanding.

NPPE Syllabus - I. Professionalism.pdf
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I.1 Definition & Interpretation of Professionalism & Professional Status

A.1 Definition and Interpretation of Professionalism and Professional Status
  1. Technical knowledge & skills
    • Have advanced technical knowledge and skills - is gained through studying engineering or geoscience in university, gaining experience applying engineering/scientific principles under a professional, exercising judgement based on a situation and real constraints, developing alternative solutions and then carrying out the best option.
  2. Public service
    • Give service to the public and in the public interest - is about putting the public and environmental interest ahead of any personal interest. Taking on work that your competent to perform so that no one is placed in danger as a result of your work. It's about keeping yourself updated and current with design standards and best practices.
  3. Bound by an ethical code
    • Each association has a distinct ethical code that professional are bound by. Each association in Canada has their own version, but they share similar themes that discuss a professionals duty to: society, employers, clients, colleagues, subordinates, the profession and to oneself.
  4. Self-governing organizations regulate the profession
    • Professionals belong to self-governing organizations that regulate the profession to maintain standards - These organizations are called Associations. They receive their power from the provincial or territorial government. The government regulates engineering by developing an Act. The Act gives the Association legal power to self-regulate. Duties include: setting standards for admission, practice and discipline. Since Associations are funded through dues and many positions are volunteer, they don’t require public money to operate.
  5. Long and intensive preparation
    • Professionals undergoing long and intensive preparation in order to earn their licence. It starts with a university degree. For those educated outside of Canada, then their academics have to be assessed against a Canadian equivalent education. Writing this exam, the professional practice exam, is also part of this process where the aspiring professional has to demonstrate law, ethics and professional practice knowledge. Lastly, all associations require 4 years of relevant experience, except Quebec that only requires 3 years. Of those 3 or 4 years, 1 year needs to be in a Canadian environment so the professional can gain exposure to local practices, codes, customs and climate. Lastly, it’s essential to work under a professional member for a period of at least a year to better understand how technical theory is applied in real life.
  6. Require continued study and development.
    • Professionals must maintain their skills and knowledge up to date to comply with their Association's code of ethics. Continued professional development is a key part of this to ensure one doesn’t get left behind with current and best practices. Professional development is a requirement for most Associations in Canada. You can gain experience through a variety of activities including: professional practice, formal courses, informal courses, presenting at conferences and developing codes and standards.

I.2 The Roles & Responsibilities of Professionals in Society

keep your designation current
  1. Skilled and regulated practice
    • Engineering and geoscience requires professionals to be highly skilled combining years of education and experience. It’s a self-regulated profession just like medicine or law. As discussed in the previous slide, the provincial government create an engineering or geoscience Act that allows Associations to self-regulate its members by handing admission, standards of practice and discipline. Engineering is regulated profession in every province and territory, while geoscience is regulated everywhere except Prince Edward Island and Yukon.
  2. Personal accountability and responsibility for own professional practice
    • Each professional is personally responsible for their own professional practice, meaning they must make their own decisions about how they practice, collaborate, communicate, and develop professionally to provide high quality services. In order to reduce issues in professional practice, one must follow basic duties like: due diligence, codes and standards, planning for risks, act ethically, strive for quality, and develop sustainably.
  3. Accountable for the professional practice of those under their supervision
    • Professionals must be accountable for the professional practice of those under their supervision. In other words, if you are a professional engineer and supervise an engineer in training, you must ensure that the proper processes are in place to allow them to develop their skills to attain a professional level. Also, your company must have a document approval process in place to ensure that the professional on record is reviewing, approving and taking responsibility for the work of direct reports.
  4. Dependence on the confidence of stakeholders: employers, clients, authorities, public
    • The work of an engineer or geoscientist impacts the lives of many different people and stakeholders. As a result, the professional’s duty is to understand the needs of their different stakeholders, including employers, clients, authorities and the public. The goal of the professional should be to provide quality work that adheres to his/her associations codes, bylaws and act. To satisfy these different groups, it’s important that the professional keep their skills current in order to provide valuable expertise to employers and clients, apply safety and environmental regulations to protect the public and follows laws to satisfy requirements from authorities.
  5. Justify and uphold trust from the stakeholders
    • Engineering and geoscience and are among the most trusted professions in Canada according to a recent study. To keep this trust, professionals must avoid actions that erode it. Examples include: accepting secret commissions, insider trading, abusing confidential information as well as acting incompetent or negligent.
  6. Protection of the public
    • Professionals are obligated to protect the public and this can be done by maintaining competence, enforcing and applying safety standards, and acting ethically.

I.3 Engineering & Geoscience Professionals in Canada; Definitions & Scopes of Practice

  1. Provincial and territorial associations
    • Provincial and territorial associations gain their authority to license and self-regulate the profession from the provincial government that legislates an Act. These associations administer the Act by having members follow regulations, bylaws and code of ethics that are derived from the Act. Regulations provide the authority to discipline members and enforce the mis-use of protect titles or services offered by non-members. The Associations govern engineering and geoscience work within the province. Professionals working outside of their province of licence, are expected to obtain the necessary license/permit for that region, or work with a company that has it.
  2. Right to title & scope of practice
    • Once licensed, you have the right to use your engineering or geoscience title (for instance a P.Eng. or P.Geo. or something else) within the guidelines of your Associations. This is a significant benefit, because you have met all license requirements and now you can do more with the title, in terms of billing more for your time and providing more services to your clients. People who don’t have a licence cannot use the title and it’s enforceable by law in Canada. It is the obligation of the Association to protect and enforce the proper use of titles. As for the scope of practice, each association in Canada defines what professionals do to give its members the advantage of performing those services, while non-members can be sued if they practice engineering or geoscience without holding a proper licence. As for the individual professional, it is his/her responsibility to be aware of their personal ability and how wide or narrow their own scope of practice is. Practicing outside of one’s area of expertise can lead to negligence.
  3. Engineering
    • Engineering can be defined as the design, fabrication and construction of human solutions which rest on the knowledge and proper use of engineering and scientific principles.
  4. Geoscience
    • Geoscience can be defined as a science that puts to use a scientific method to predict, investigate, map and model the Earth’s natural systems behaviour.
  5. Professional seals
    • Professional seals are commonly given to new members, but they come with the responsibility to use them properly. Seals are used on final documents such as drawing and specifications to take responsibility for the contents of the information within. The professional should always ensure that they are intimately familiar with the contents of what they are sealing even if it was largely developed by a junior staff. A signature and date must accompany each seal. If more than one professional collaborate on different aspects of the document, then both would seal the final document and note the aspects they are taking responsibility for. If a professional releases a final document and fails to seal it, he/she is in violation of the Act and still liable for the content despite the missing seal.
  6. Engineers Canada and Geoscientists Canada
    • Engineers Canada and Geoscientists Canada play the role of promoting consistency in licensing and regulation for the provincial and territorial associations across Canada. They publish non-binding policies guidelines and position statements. Both organizations evaluate and provide accreditation for undergraduate programs. Lastly, they develop national guidelines for registration and licensing in attempts to make it consistent across Canada.
  7. Brief histories
    • The brief history of engineering as a profession can be dated back to 1887 when the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers held its first general meeting. Engineering were initially regulated in a similar way to the British model of education and apprenticeship. Many engineering disasters like the Quebec Bridge collapse put pressure on governments for the need for strict regulation. By 1920, all provinces but 3 had passed licensing laws. Some were closed licenses – meaning only members could practice engineering, while others were open – meaning anyone could still practice engineer but just couldn’t use the title. By 1955, all of Canada’s provinces and territories had licensing laws to regulate the profession and the P.Eng. title. Geoscience can date its licensing journey back to 1842 when the Geological Survey of Canada was established. The first Association to licence geoscience was APEGA in 1955 due the extensive use of geoscientists for resources development. Other provinces and territories joined over the years. The Bre-X mining fraud in 1997 and the Walkerton drinking water contamination tragedy in 2000 led to Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia all begin regulating geoscience by 2002. Today, all provinces except PEI and all territories except Yukon licence geoscientist.
  8. The iron and earth rings.
    • The iron ring (for engineers) and earth ring (for geoscientists) are given at ring ceremonies to indicate that the individual has participated in a ceremony and has voluntary agreed to commit to high standards. It doesn’t mean they have graduated from a university program or are professionally licensed.

I.4 The Value of Engineering & Geoscience Professions to Society

engineering challenge - clean drinking water
  1. Economic benefits of work and projects
    • The economic benefits of engineering and geoscience work and projects is rich and diversified. Engineering and geoscience has been integral to every mode transportation creation and development. By allowing humans to reach all points of the Earth, trade is possible between distanced nations and things like tourism in remote locations is possible. Engineering and geoscience also makes massive industries like the energy industry possible by making it possible to extraction or harness energy and then deliver it safely to where it can be used. Other industries like communication requires the materials and design that only engineers and geoscientist are capable of.
  2. Technology application
    • As just mentioned, engineering and geoscience plays a large role in the application of technology. Technology has the ability to make our lives easier and find quicker and better solutions to common or complex problems. Generally, the engineer would design the piece of technology and the geoscientist would work in the background discovering and mining the materials that would go into the technology.
  3. Technology research and development
    • Technology research and development is an ongoing pursuit of professional as there are always new ideas, materials and devices in the market that enable technology to continually evolve. Competition between companies or countries enables professionals to dedicate time and money into coming up with better, more efficient ways to solve a problem.
  4. Infrastructure development
    • Wikipedia defines infrastructure as being “composed of public and private physical improvements such as roads, bridges, tunnels, water supply, sewers, electrical grids and telecommunications” . Engineers and geoscientist have tools like computer hardware and software that wasn’t available decades ago.  Leveraging these tools along with lessons learned as well as more stringent codes and standards, professionals are in a position to safely develop and repair our infrastructure which is the backbone of a dynamic city.
  5. Energy research, development, production and generation
    • Energy research, development, production and generation is more and more important as climate change is impacting us all. We must continue to look for opportunities to harness cleaner energy and use all energy more efficiently. From capturing more of the sun’s energy in solar panels, to storing our emissions underground, engineers and geoscientist have the skills needed to solve this critical challenge.
  6. Products research and development
  7. Manufacturing and processing
  8. Resource research and development
    • Products, manufacturing and resource research and development are other areas you will find engineers and geoscientist innovating. Making products safer or more durable; enabling manufacturing in a plant or at home with a 3D printer; and finding the resources to achieve these advancements.
  9. Limits and sustainability

    • Let’s talk first about the Limitations of practical engineering or geoscience. When you’re designing a solution, you have to be aware of limitations of production methods - for instance, is there a company that can actually build what you are designing and do it cost effectively? There are limits in manufacturing tolerances - if you design a part that is slightly too small or too big - will it fit within the system? Operating and maintenance limitations also exist as the professional’s solution will likely have to be fixed, updated and scrapped in the future - how easy is it for each of these tasks? Sustainability is another aspect that professional have to be aware of. It’s important to recognize the difference between sustainability and environmental compliance. Simply complying with environmental laws and regulations is needed, however, most environmental regulations are set fairly low to ensure everyone can comply. The professional should be looking at opportunities to go well beyond compliance by looking at things like: drastically reducing energy use (for example, a building that produces as much energy as it consumes), minimizing the use of virgin material by using reclaimed and recycled goods, considering renewable energies and developing new sources of clean and sustainable energy.


If you would like all 6 videos (over 3 hours of rapid-learning content), then visit the NPPE Course page to order your access.  The course is continually updated and comes with a syllabus quiz, bank of sample questions, study checklist, and much more.  

p.s. Ordering the most current Law and Ethics textbooks may help you with your exam and the use of our prep course.  They are optional to use with our course since we provide trustworthy links to supporting material.  However, clients that do have the additional budget benefit as the textbooks are generally:

  • a little easier to reference (we'll point you to a specific page instead of having to read an entire webpage)
  • it is written in one author's voice (whereas different URLs will have different authors with various writing styles). links are below for your convenience if you decide to order the books.  

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