There seems to be a proliferation of letters following people’s names. I’ll admit, I can add three different designations following my name. Well, actually I could use more based on some of the designations I have read, but I’ll stick with just three.

When I started in this profession, all my early bosses and colleagues told me there were only two initials that are important in the profession. They are P.E., which we all know indicates professional engineer. They claimed that anything other than P.E., is meaningless in the engineering profession.

I took that to heart, and like a lot of now veteran engineers I never used the initials EIT – or engineer in training – after my name. That only indicated that you were not a P.E. I’ll admit that looking back, this was kind of dumb. EIT means you have accomplished something. It also typically means you are on your way to a P.E. Hence, I like seeing EIT after an engineer’s name. I’m glad they have done away with my generation’s stupidity.

You could say ASPE started some of the additional letters following an engineer’s name. The initial designation used by the group was CIPE – for certified in plumbing engineering. All you have to do is take a test to receive these initials. Nothing else is involved and it was promoted as a means to recognize individuals that are not, or possibly could not become, a P.E

There were two problems with this initial designation. First, it had too many letters and it used P followed by E. The professional engineers didn’t like what appeared to be an attempt to designate someone as a quasi-professional engineer. While that was never the intent of ASPE, the designation was changed to CPD which stands for certified plumbing designer. Some of the original CIPE’s thought CPD was a step down and some even considered themselves better because they had a CIPE.

The reality is a CPD is a higher designation than a CIPE. There are qualifications required before one can take a test. Then there is continuing education required to maintain the CPD. Finally, the CPD test is harder than the original CIPE test.


Getting it straight

ASPE solved this dispute by retiring the designation CIPE, which is no longer permitted to be used by any plumbing professional.

For the longest time, I never took the CIPE or CPD test. The reason was simply because I am a P.E. When I became president of ASPE, I took the CPD test to support all ASPE members that had the designation. I continue to proudly maintain my CPD with continuing education.

Not long after ASPE did away with a four letter designation, The U.S. Green Building Council came out with the LEED designation after an individual’s name. Again, this is too long a designation. Originally, all you had to do was pass a test to receive the label. This test merely determines if someone knows the LEED requirements in the group’s standard.

I thought about this LEED designation and realized every other group missed the boat. Why not have a test that proves you know the IAPMO Uniform Plumbing Code or the ICC International Plumbing Code? Then you could have the initials CUPC, CIPC or both. The “C” meaning certified. You could continue that trend with every other code. Then you might start with various standards we use.

The USGBC had to make its LEED designation mean something so they assigned points to the building if the designer had a LEED certification. Think about that for a second. Does that make sense? What makes a building green just because someone took a test on a standard? Of course, the answer is nothing. But it helps to promote the designation.

LEED was criticized for not doing enough, so it also changed its designation by adding more letters. Now you have to certify a building to keep the designation, as well as maintain continuing education on green requirements.

There are very few plumbing requirements in the LEED test, so ASPE teamed up with IAPMO and developed a green plumbing designer designation or GPD. So, if an individual has a GPD, shouldn’t they get points for a LEED building? But, again, what does a certification have to do with a building being green?


What do you need?

With the long list of letters developed by the USGBC, the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association decided to also get into the business. They have the ARCSA-AP designation. I guess it had to outdo the length of initials that USGBC had. ARCSA requires you to design at least five systems before you can even consider taking the test for the designation. You also have to take the group’s two-day seminar.

Besides these certifications with letters assigned to you after your name, there are numerous other certifications available. So how many certifications do you need?

One of the many I received was a Department of Energy certification as a solar specialist. I’m glad they didn’t assign letters for this certification otherwise I would have to use “SS” after my name. That would not look good.

We should not blame the various organizations for starting this proliferation of initials after our names. If you want to blame someone, all you have to do is look at college professors. Listings after their names seem to go on forever.

I had one college professor that said the less you have after your name, the more important you are. The modern-day example he would give is Barack Obama, president. You can’t get much higher in this country. It’s a simple title.

I recently received a colleague’s business card. After his name was CPD, GPD, ARCSA-AP, LEED-AP. The list of initials was longer than his name. Missing from that list were the initials “P.E.,” still the most important ones for our profession.