Posted in HS4CC

Informed Consent

Studying for recreation in college is expensive, so before you let your teen wander into debt, let’s smash one of the big obstacles that stand in front of your teen: informed consent.

As your teen’s guidance counselor, you get to counsel! That’s the bonus of having homeschooled all these years, and trust me, no one will do a better job than you.

Does your teen want to be a nurse, teacher, engineer, lawyer, welder, chef, golf course manager? Seriously, there are majors and degrees for almost every possible career- but let me save you from a serious mistake. Degrees do not all lead to employment! In fact, many people assume that colleges create degrees so that students are prepared to work in that field. While that is sometimes true, it’s not always true, and this is something you need to know before you let them enroll.

Insider tip: Colleges often use confusing names or tricky wording to help a degree sound marketable.  Enrollment, after all, is always the college’s goal.

I’m 100% on board with any student earning any degree they want- this isn’t about telling people what to study. Enter: informed consent.

Informed consent is required in healthcare and research. In short, informed consent shares with (informs) you of possible consequences. Armed with that knowledge, you “consent” to going forward or not. For example, when you take a medication, you’re told of the side effects before you take the pill. If you’re a participant in a research study, our government has extensive laws and guidelines for transparency and consent. Education? Not so much.

Don’t you think you should know whether the degree your teen is earning actually prepares them for the career they want? I do! Degrees are very expensive investments of time and money. Informed consent should be part of the process- but it’s not. So, let’s explore how you can quickly secure this information on your own in 3 quick steps.


Step 1

Use the United States Department of Labor Occupational Outlook link to type in the name of career or job your teen is considering into the search box on the top right.


Search box:  “Engineer”

Returns:   (this is a partial list- there were 10 pages!)  After browsing, choose the one that best matches what you have in mind.

Architecture and Engineering Occupations
Industrial Engineers…engineering/industrial-engineers.htm
Mechanical Engineers…and-engineering/mechanical-engineers.htm
Biomedical Engineers…and-engineering/biomedical-engineers.htm
Civil Engineers
Computer Hardware Engineers…engineering/computer-hardware-engineers.htm

Step 2

Once you’ve selected the occupation (I’ve selected Civil Engineer for this exercise) you’ll want to open the link and explore the tab “How to Become One” and begin scanning for the required credential(s). I’ve highlighted in red everywhere that I’ve found mention of a credential. Notice the words used- if it says “need” or “required” that should be taken as a minimum requirement. If it says “may include” or “suggested” you can consider that as optional. Also noteworthy, since a state license will be required to practice, I’ll have to dig into my state’s requirements off of this page.


Civil engineers need a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, in one of its specialties, or in civil engineering technology. Programs in civil engineering and civil engineering technology include coursework in math, statistics, engineering mechanics and systems, and fluid dynamics, depending on the specialty. Courses include a mix of traditional classroom learning, work in laboratories, and fieldwork. Programs may include cooperative programs, also known as co-ops, in which students gain work experience while pursuing a degree.

A degree from a program accredited by ABET is needed to earn the professional engineer (PE) license. In many states, a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering technology also meets the academic requirement for obtaining a license.

Step 3

One final check, I want to know if the industry segment for this occupation has an impact on the credential needed. Explore the other tabs like “Work Environment” and “Job Outlook” to get more details about working in different segments and industries as a Civil Engineer.

Job Prospects

Applicants who gain experience by participating in a co-op program while in college will have the best opportunities. In addition, new standards known collectively as the Body of Knowledge are growing in importance within civil engineering, and this development is likely to result in a heightened need for graduate education. Therefore, those who enter the occupation with a graduate degree will likely have better prospects.

In this exercise, I’ve obtained valuable information about the right path to becoming a Civil Engineer.  Here’s what I learned:

  • A Bachelor’s Degree is required
  • The Bachelor’s Degree needs to major in Civil Engineering
  • Possible target schools need ABET accreditation
  • PE License may be required
  • My state will have license requirements
  • My target school should have a co-op program
  • A master’s degree will likely be required eventually


With this information, I know now review target colleges, compare programs, compare costs, look at their college credit acceptance policies, revise my high school program, and guide my teen properly as an informed guidance counselor!

Here’s the punchline. I can pull a list of a dozen Civil Engineering degrees from accredited colleges that won’t work for this career path. I also found listings for Associate Degrees in Civil Engineering Technology that do NOT transfer to a 4-year bachelor’s degree program.  (In other words, if you want to become licensed, you’ve wasted 100% of your time). I don’t want to call out colleges- so I’m leaving off the names, but see how my local community college explains (markets) this Associate Degree in Civil Engineering Technology – take special note that working as a Civil Engineer is not listed. The license option here (if pursued after the degree) is to become a general contractor.

Civil engineering technology graduates find jobs with the  Department of Transportation, general and specialty contractors, engineering materials testing laboratories, engineering material suppliers, engineering material fabricators, commercial and residential developers, consulting engineering companies, municipalities, and environmental firms. Graduates may become licensed general or specialty contractors and operate their own businesses. Job titles include estimator, construction superintendent, project manager, materials testing technician, engineering design aid, technical representative, construction surveyor, and inspector. 

This second entry is for my local state university’s program.  Notice the difference? They take care to hit on every important requirement for this occupation.

The department offers undergraduate degree programs leading to the Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, the Bachelor of Science in Construction Engineering, and the Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering. All three programs are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, Graduation from an ABET-accredited engineering degree program is the first step toward licensure as a Professional Engineer. All three programs also prepare students for graduate education.

Informed consent- now you know!


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