Software Engineering Accreditation in the United States

Software Engineering Accreditation in the United States

James McDonald (Monmouth University, USA), Mark J. Sebern (Milwaukee School of Engineering, USA) and James R. Vallino (Rochester Institute of Technology, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-102-5.ch013
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This chapter provides a brief history of the accreditation of software engineering programs in the United States and describes some of the experiences encountered by programs in achieving their accreditation and by program evaluators in reviewing those programs. It also describes how the accredited programs have addressed the most difficult issues that they have faced during the accreditation process. The authors have served as leaders of the accreditation efforts at their own institutions and as ABET program evaluators at several other academic institutions that have achieved accreditation. The objective of this chapter is to provide those software engineering programs that will be seeking accreditation in the future with some of the experiences of those who are familiar with the process from both the programs’ and the evaluators’ points of view. Leaders of programs that are planning to request an accreditation review will be well prepared for that review if they combine the information contained in this chapter with the recommendations contained in Chapter XIX of this text.
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Abet And Engineering Program Accreditation

ABET, Inc., formerly known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, is the recognized accreditation body in the United States for college and university programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology. It is a federation of professional and technical societies (28 at present) representing those fields. ABET accreditation activities are managed by four commissions; the two most directly related to software engineering are the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) and the Computing Accreditation Commission (CAC). Like other engineering disciplines, software engineering falls under the EAC, while the CAC is responsible for computer science, information systems, and information technology. In possible contrast to some other disciplines, accreditation has historically been an expected attribute of United States engineering programs, and is thus an important concern for software engineering educators.

Each discipline has an associated “lead society”, which is one of the member societies of ABET. This society has primary responsibility for defining discipline-specific accreditation criteria, as well as for selecting, training, and evaluating program evaluators. Initially, the lead society for software engineering was the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), which prepared the original version of the software engineering program criteria (Engineering Accreditation Commission, 1999, p. 47), discussed later in this chapter.

With the integration of ABET and the Computing Sciences Accreditation Board (CSAB) in November 2001, CSAB took over the role of lead society for software engineering, and the IEEE became a “cooperating society.” Unlike the IEEE and most other member societies of ABET, CSAB is not itself a membership society. Instead, the current members of CSAB are three other professional societies: the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the IEEE Computer Society (IEEE-CS), and the Association for Information Systems (AIS).

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