The National Professional Engineers Register (NPER) and the National Engineering Technologists Register (NETR) and the National Engineering Associates Register (NEAR) are administered to safeguard the community at no cost to government.
All registered engineering practitioners observe a common Code of Ethics, undertake to accept responsibility for outcomes only within their area of competence and specifically commit to keeping up-to-date through continuing professional development to sustain their engagement in delivering engineering services. They deliver engineering outcomes that minimise adverse social, economic and environmental consequences, with due regard for the safety, health and welfare of the community.
Determining who is a qualified engineering practitioner, particularly if it is an infrequent purchase, can be costly. A registration system aids the market by providing information to consumers on the education and experience levels of engineering practitioner. This enables consumers to make decisions that are more informed and, in particular, reduces the tendency for them to choose services based on price alone. A requirement for engineering services to be completed by an appropriately qualified and competent engineering practitioner selected from a credible register reduces risks associated with the appointment.
Public safety is assured when only competent practitioners are registered and provide engineering services in critical areas. Registered practitioners will be engaged to provide services in such areas only if stipulated by regulation or demanded by the market.
A registration system that distinguishes areas of engineering service and lists registered practitioners in those areas provides a ready and reliable means to confirm a practitioner's competence. Registration enables government, industry and individual consumers to engage the appropriate practitioner or team to perform the required engineering services.
There are three occupational categories in the engineering workforce - engineers, technologists and associates. Practitioners in these categories cooperate in various ways to perform engineering services. Their activities and competencies are often closely inter-related and it is difficult and sometimes artificial to say where the responsibilities of one occupational category end and those of another begin. There are activities that could be undertaken in different circumstances by any member of the engineering team. Other activities are clearly the province of one occupational category but not of another - for example, the province of a Professional Engineer but not an Engineering Associate, or vice versa. This distinction will often be determined by the standard to which competency has been demonstrated against the Australian Engineering Competency Standards Stage 2.
Some features of engineering are common to all three categories. All engineering is about the application of a distinctive body of knowledge, based on mathematics, science and technology. Engineering practice is integrated with business opportunity and risk management. Practice continually evolves in the light of new theories, new evidence and new experience, and specialises to a greater or lesser extent in particular fields of application.
Engineers Australia administers the national engineering registers with input from the National Engineering Registration Board to ensure that the registers operate in the public interest.
Admission to the registers is not restricted to members of Engineers Australia or any other professional association. However, the registers currently are aligned to occupational categories - Professional Engineers, Engineering Technologists and Engineering Associates.
The occupational category a member belongs to is determined on the basis of his or her original qualification, normally a BEng (4 years), a BTech (3 years) or a TAFE Advanced Diploma / Associate Degree (2 years), respectively.
The Board has proposed that registration should be more closely aligned to the observable functions that are carried out competently in the workplace. The integrity of the registration system demands that applicants should be assessed against objective competency standards in a way that is both visible and defensible. A proposal to move towards a unified registration system is fully explained in a discussion paper (please see below).