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    Should we require licensing?

    AIPG Members and fellow Alaskan Geologists,

    As many of you are aware, the State of Alaska’s Board of Architects, Engineers, and Land Surveyors (AELS) is investigating the possibility of incorporating the licensing of geologists into AELS statutes and regulations in response to concerns geologists are conducting the work of mining engineers. Furthermore, the State is proposing to recognize new branches of engineering and redefining some existing branches. These actions may place legal limits on our profession and the way we practice. Without a clear definition of geology and the various areas of practice, geologists may be at risk of being issued a notice of violation for practicing engineering. Without some definition of the practice of geology in the state regulations, geologists would have little basis for appeal.

    Currently, Alaskan geologists are issued licenses under the centralized licensing statutes and regulations (AS 08.01-08.03; 12 AAC 02); however, there is no license requirement to practice geology in Alaska — anyone can call themselves a geologist. There is no explicit definition of “geology” or the “practice of geology” in the Alaskan statutes. Other states have established definitions of “geology” and the “practice of geology” in their statutes. It may be time to consider requiring a license to practice geology in Alaska to protect the integrity of our profession.

    The “practice of engineering” is defined in the Alaskan statutes (AS 08.48; 12 AAC 36); the AELS is in the process of further subdividing their disciplines. According to AELs regulations, “Mining engineering means that branch of professional engineering which embraces studies or activities relating to the exploration, location, and recovery of mineral commodities; it is concerned with research, design, construction, and development of structures, devices, and facilities of production and the economic aspects related to these studies and activities.” This is a broad definition overlapping with geology. Other states (33) have statutes and regulations to define overlapping areas of practice and several states have reached memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between geologists and engineers, establishing procedures to reconcile issues related to overlapping areas of practice.

    Another area of practice where there may be overlap is in the newly defined branch of environmental engineering, which lists environmental site assessments as an area of engineering practice. This broad definition may be interpreted to preclude geologists from this area of practice. The State of Alaska recognizes, through regulation (18 AAC 75 and  18 AAC 78) professionals other than engineers are qualified to conduct environmental assessment and remediation. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also recognizes professional engineers and professional geologists as being equally qualified to conduct environmental site assessments.

    The Alaska Section of the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG) will offer our webpage ( to facilitate a discussion among the geologic community in Alaska. This is a subject that will not be settled overnight. Please use this website as a forum to discuss this complex issue. We are in the process of compiling background information to provide facts for our discussions; and will post the documents on the downloads page. For details regarding the AELS actions, review the AELS November 2008 meeting minutes [page 4], in which the special AELS subcommittee on geologist licensure was established, and the AELS May 2010 meeting minutes [page 90] for recent discussions ( .

    Feel free to login and leave a comment or drop me an e-mail. We will be scheduling meetings in Fairbanks and Anchorage to discuss this topic. I hope to hear from you soon.


    Mark Lockwood, C.P.G. AIPG Alaska Section President

    4 comments to Should we require licensing?

    • James E. Adler


      Licensing? My feelings are:

      This is simply a power grab by the Engineering Board to get more power and money.

      Today, the requirements for issuing licenses for Alaskan geologists are membership in AIPG.

      Many AIPG members in Alaska are members because of this requirement. Without this requirement for AIPG membership and the possibility of AIPG censorship for violations, I believe that membership in AIPG would be drastically slashed. The Alaska chapter of AIPG would suffer financially.

      Both the AIPG code of ethics and the Professional Engineering code of ethics are standards that provide the basis of our business.

      As you may know, I am a Professional Geologist in the State of Idaho .
      My son Kerry is an AIPG member and is a Professional Geologist in both Wyoming and Washington.
      One of our Senior Geologists, James Robson, has recently become an AIPG member.
      All three of us are Certified Professional Geologists in Alaska under the current statute.
      My son Kevin has a Masters Degree in Mining Engineering and is a P.E. in Alaska.

      If a change was made to require licensing, grandfathering current AIPG members and geologists now certified under the current Alaska law would be in order. There may be some who are doing a good job professional but are not licensed in another state.

      My major concern is those who are not ethical, who are not AIPG members, Professional Engineers or Licensed Geologists. Some of these are from Canada and do not even know the fundamentals of operating in Alaska.

      The bottom line as I see it: A change in the Alaska Licensing system should be unnecessary.
      It will cost AIPG financially and result in a reduction in membership while putting more money into the State licensing coffers.

      AIPG membership should be incorporated in any new requirements, like the old law. Don’t forget any new law change is chancy – dependent on the legislature.

      My best personnel regards,

      Jim Adler

    • tmt

      Hi Mark,

      I think we should be required to take the ASBOG. I have been out of school for a lot of years and the ASBOG would serve as a great refresher. The test covers such topics as Structural Geology, Map & Cross Section Interpretation, Geomorphology, Rocks & Minerals, Economic Geology, Field Investigations, Basic Hydrogeology, Water Quality and Groundwater Contamination Laws, Regulations & Guidelines, Engineering Characteristics of Earth Materials, Geologic and Seismic Hazards, and Siting of Engineered Structures. A lot of interesting material.

      I think it would also be great for Alaska to have our own supplemental exam that we should be required to take covering Alaska Geology and Alaska Geologic and Seismic Hazards.

      Engineers take the EIT exam and after 5 years can take the PE exam. I think Geologists should have a GIT exam and a PG exam. Other states have had such programs in-place for years.

      If we had enough of us interested in taking the exam we might be able to have the exam administered in Alaska. At the moment, we need to travel to Washington or California to take the exam.

      Thanks for the great website.


    • alex

      To those concerned;

      The ASBOG exam is very comprehensive and I find it hard to believe that The state of Alaska does not currently have a licensing requirement for geologists. I am currently a GIT in the state of Georgia and am moving to Alaska in a few weeks. When I told my employer that I was a GIT he responded by asking me what that was. The practice of geology and environmental science is a very responsible position and should not be haphazardly practiced. It is imperative that people be properly licensed and the ASBOG FG and PG exams are and excellent way making sure people start out in the oil and gas and mining industry with the proper credentials. the practice of geology should not be left in the hands of PE’s who have little if any exposure to geology.


    • Outsider perspective:

      I’m a Canadian, registered as a P.Geo. in several jurisdictions in Canada, and working exclusively in the north. Our company has an office in Alaska and does work for Alaskan clients.

      With few exceptions, geologists and geophysicists are registered under the same professional association as engineers in Canada. It is generally considered a good thing. This prevents turf wars between two professional associations which are trying to protect the public from people illegally practising either. The major exception is in Ontario, where the Engineers and Geoscientists had a falling out during the formative years of the professional association. It is much worse trying to practice geosciences in Ontario.

      I’d like to move over to Alaska to practice in the not too distant future. The lack of regulation and licensing is a bit of a turn off, honestly – particularly for Geophysicists. I would much rather have to jump through licensing hoops that would prove my ability to competently practice in Alaska, without having to face the constant barrage of negative ‘oh, he’s not from here, so doesn’t know how things work.’

      Just my two Canadian cents (1.5 cents US).

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