Continuing Professional Education: Can the Law Save Lives?

19 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2010 Last revised: 10 Oct 2010

See all articles by Jay A. Schwarz

Jay A. Schwarz

Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

Date Written: October 7, 2010


All states in the U.S. have Continuing Professional Education (CPE) laws for at least some professionals which require licensees to periodically participate in certain activities deemed to promote professional growth and competence. These laws impose costs on professionals, their employers, and society but promise improved practice. Perhaps surprisingly, given the wave of professional continuing education legislation that has rolled through legislatures in the last two decades, no national evaluations of professional continuing education's e effectiveness exist. In this study, I estimate whether state CPE laws for professional engineers (PEs) contributed to decreases in traffic fatality rates. Vast resources have been directed at developing roadway safety technologies but implementing these technologies (by specifying them in designs) is often left to engineers on individual projects. I suggest that CPE laws may hasten the diffusion of knowledge about proven safety technologies. As firms compete for projects, the market mechanism encourages firms to implement this knowledge of new safety technologies. Empirical results show that CPE laws decrease fatality rates by a modest yet economically justifiable amount. This provides the first evidence such laws for engineers are effective in the United States.

Keywords: occupational licensing, continuing education

JEL Classification: J44, J48, K23

Suggested Citation

Schwarz, Jay A., Continuing Professional Education: Can the Law Save Lives? (October 7, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Jay A. Schwarz (Contact Author)

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ( email )

445 12th Street SW
Rm. TW-B204
Washington, DC 20554
United States

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