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The History and Importance of Professional Registration

Thu, 11 May, 2023

As The Welding Institute celebrates 100 years of supporting welding and joining professionals, we wanted to explore the importance of professional registration for your career.

In 1996, the Institute was granted licence from the Engineering Council to assess candidates for inclusion on the national register of professional engineers and technicians, allowing them to use the professional titles of Engineering Technician (EngTech), Incorporated Engineer (IEng) and Chartered Engineer (CEng).

Why seek a professional title?

It all begins with UK legislation, which is generally permissive in nature, meaning that the title of ‘engineer’ is not protected by law. This means that anyone can call themselves an engineer, a professional engineer or even a registered engineer. The problem then is how to differentiate yourself as a highly-trained professional from a semi-skilled or unskilled person who is simply using the title of engineer?

This is where the Engineering Council steps in, granting professional titles (ICTTech, EngTech, IEng and CEng), which are protected by law. While registration with the Engineering Council is voluntary, attaining these internationally-recognised titles requires you to demonstrate your professional competence. Assessments of your competence are typically carried out on behalf of the Engineering Council by a licensed member institution, like The Welding Institute.

According to the Engineering Council, chartered engineers, “are characterised by their ability to develop appropriate solutions to engineering problems, using new or existing technologies, through innovation, creativity and change. They might develop and apply new technologies, promote advanced designs and design methods, introduce new and more efficient production techniques, marketing and construction concepts, pioneer new engineering services and management methods. Chartered engineers are variously engaged in technical and commercial leadership and possess interpersonal skills."

Professional Engineering Institutions: A short history

The first professional institution formed in the UK was the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1818, followed by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1847 and the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1871. Between them, this ’big three’ represent 80% of registered UK engineers.

In 1964, the Joint Council of Engineering Institutions was formed, changing its name to the Council of Engineering Institutions (CEI) in 1965 and gaining a Royal Charter.

Royal charters have been granted in the UK for centuries, with the earliest on record being granted to the University of Cambridge in 1231 by Henry III of England. However, older charters are known to have existed, including that granted to the Worshipful Company of Weavers in 1150. Royal charters began to be granted to guilds, learned societies and professional bodies in 1272, when a royal charter was given to the Saddlers Company, followed by the Merchant Taylors Company in 1326 and the Skinners Company in 1327.

The CEI, complete with royal charter, provided a similar function to today’s Engineering Council as being the UK regulatory authority for the registration of chartered, incorporated and technician level engineers. A royal commission created by Sir Monty Finniston in 1977 investigated the possibility of direct government control of professional engineers, but it was eventually decided that it would be best not to follow this course of action. Instead, the Engineering Council was set up, with a royal charter of its own, in 1981 to replace the CEI.

The Engineering Council now holds national registers for over 228,000 engineers and technicians, providing recognised standards of professional competence and ethics, and ensuring employers, governments and wider society, both nationally and internationally, can be confident in the knowledge, experience and commitments of those holding professional registration titles.

The Welding Institute and Professional Registration

Having originally evolved as a small institute uniting acetylene welders with electric arc welders in 1923, The Welding Institute grew over the ensuing decades, becoming a professional engineering institution granted licence from the Engineering Council in 1996. This allowed the Institute to assess candidates for inclusion on the national register of professional engineers and technicians, awarding the titles of Engineering Technician (EngTech), Incorporated Engineer (IEng) and Chartered Engineer (CEng).

Over 42.5% of Institute Members are professionally registered and, if you’re interested in learning more about professional membership and registration, or beginning your journey to becoming professionally registered, you can find out more or speak to our membership team.

For more information please email: