ABET, incorporated as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc., is a non-governmental organization that accredits post-secondary education programs in "applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology".
The accreditation of these programs occurs mainly in the United States but also internationally. As of October 2016, 3,709 programs are accredited, distributed over 752 universities and colleges in 30 countries.
ABET is the recognized U.S. accreditor of college and university programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology. ABET also provides leadership internationally through workshops, consultancies, memoranda of understanding, and mutual recognition agreements, such as the Washington Accord. ABET has been recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) since 1997. Also, ABET evaluates programs offered in a 100-percent online format.
ABET was established in 1932 as the Engineers' Council for Professional Development (ECPD) by seven engineering societies: The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers – now the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers (AIME), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the American Institute of Electrical Engineers – now the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education – now the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), and the National Council of State Boards of Engineering Examiners – now the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).
ECPD was originally founded to provide a "joint program for upbuilding engineering as a profession." However, it almost immediately began developing as an accreditation agency, evaluating its first engineering program in 1936 and its first engineering technology program in 1946. By 1947, 580 programs at 133 institutions had been accredited.
ECPD changed its name to the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. in 1980, and began doing business as ABET in 2005. In 1985, ABET helped establish the Computing Sciences Accreditation Board (CSAB), which is now one of ABET's largest member societies with over 300 programs, in response to a dramatic rise in interest of computer science education.
ABET is a federation of 35 professional and technical member societies representing the fields of applied science, computing, engineering, and technology.
Member societiesAAEES – American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists
AAMI – Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation
ACerS – American Ceramic Society with their National Institute of Ceramic Engineers (NICE)
AIAA – American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
AIChE – American Institute of Chemical Engineers
AIHA – American Industrial Hygiene Association
ANS – American Nuclear Society
ASABE – American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers
ASCE – American Society of Civil Engineers
ASEE – American Society for Engineering Education
ASHRAE – American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers
ASME – American Society of Mechanical Engineers
ASSE – American Society of Safety Engineers
BMES – Biomedical Engineering Society
CMAA – Construction Management Association of America
CSAB – formerly called the Computing Sciences Accreditation Board
IEEE – officially still the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
IISE – Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers
INCOSE – International Council on Systems Engineering
ISA – formerly the Instrument Society of America, now International Society of Automation
MRS – Materials Research Society
NACME – National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering
NCEES – National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying
NSPE – National Society of Professional Engineers
NSPS – National Society of Professional Surveyors
SAE International – formerly called the Society of Automotive Engineers
SFPE – Society of Fire Protection Engineers
SME – Society of Manufacturing Engineers
SME-AIME – Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Inc.
SNAME – Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers
SPE – Society of Petroleum Engineers
SPIE – formerly called the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers
SWE – Society of Women Engineers
TMS – The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society
WEPAN – Women in Engineering ProActive Network
ABET accredits post-secondary degree-granting programs offered by institutions that are regionally accredited in the U.S. and nationally accredited outside of the U.S. Certification, training, or doctoral programs are not accredited.
ABET accreditation is voluntary; the request for accreditation is initiated by the institution seeking accreditation. Accreditation is given to individual programs within an institution rather than to the institution as a whole. Accredited programs must request re-evaluation every six years to retain accreditation; if the accreditation criteria are not satisfied, additional evaluations may be required within the six-year interval. Programs without previous accreditation can apply for accreditation as long as they have produced at least one program graduate.
The first step in securing or retaining ABET accreditation is for an institution to request an evaluation of its program(s) by January 31 of the year in which accreditation is being sought. The eligibility of the institution must be established, which can be satisfied if the institution is accredited by a regional accreditation agency. Each program is then assigned to one of four accreditation commissions within ABET:Applied Science Accreditation Commission (ASAC)
Computing Accreditation Commission (CAC)
Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC)
Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission (ETAC)
The program is assigned to a commission based on its title (the program name shown on the transcript). Each commission has different accreditation criteria.
Each program then conducts an internal evaluation and completes a self-study report. The self-study documents how well the program is meeting the established accreditation criteria in multiple areas, such as their students, curriculum, faculty, administration, facilities, and institutional support. The self-study report must be provided to ABET by July 1.
While the program conducts its self-study, the appropriate ABET commission (Applied Science, Computing, Engineering, or Technology Commission) will choose a team chair to head the on-campus evaluation visit. A visit date (generally in the September – December time frame) is negotiated between the team chair and the institution. Once the date is set, the ABET commission will assign program evaluators (generally one per program being evaluated). The institution is provided the opportunity to reject the team chair or program evaluators if a conflict of interest is perceived. The team chair and evaluators are volunteers from academe, government, industry, and private practice.
Once the program evaluators are accepted by the institution, they are provided with the self-study report for their assigned program. This report forms the basis of their evaluation of the program, and prepares them for the campus visit.
The evaluation team (team chair and program evaluators) will normally arrive on campus on a Saturday or Sunday. During the on-campus visit, the evaluation team will review course materials from each program, as well as student projects and sample assignments. Evaluators will also interview students, faculty, and administrators, and tour the facilities to investigate any questions raised by the self-study. The visit will normally conclude the following Tuesday with an exit interview with the institution's chief executive officer, dean, and other appropriate institution personnel as appropriate. This interview is intended to summarize the results of the evaluation for each program.
Following the campus visit, the institution has 7 days in which to correct perceived errors of fact communicated during the exit interview. Following this period, the team chair will begin preparation of a draft statement to the institution; this statement undergoes extensive editing and will typically be provided to the institution several months after the visit. On receipt of the draft statement, the institution has 30 days to respond to issues identified in the evaluation. After this response, the team chair prepares a final statement to the institution.
The final statement and recommended accreditation action is reviewed by the large annual meeting of all ABET commission members in July after the campus visit. Based on the findings, the commission members vote on the final accreditation action, and the school is notified of the decision in August.
The information the school receives identifies strengths, concerns, weaknesses, and deficiencies of the program, as well as recommendations for compliance with ABET criteria. Accreditation is granted for a maximum of six years, after which the institution must request another evaluation.
ABET specifies minimum curricula for various engineering programs. For instance, ABET requires that all engineering graduates of a baccalaureate program receive at least one year of study in the natural or physical sciences and mathematics, and requires some study within general education. ABET also requires that each student complete a capstone project or design class in their education. Because of ABET's involvement, engineering curricula are somewhat standardized at the bachelor's level, thus ensuring that graduates of any ABET-accredited program have some minimal skill set for entry into the workforce or for future education.
For most of its history, ABET's accreditation criteria specifically outlined the major elements that accredited engineering programs must have, including the program curricula, the faculty type, and the facilities. However, in the mid-1990s, the engineering community began to question the appropriateness of such rigid accreditation requirements.
After intense discussion, in 1997, ABET adopted Engineering Criteria 2000 (EC2000). The EC2000 criteria shifted the focus away from the inputs (what material is taught) and to the outputs (what students learned). EC2000 stresses continuous improvement, and accounts for specific missions and goals of the individual institutions and programs. The intention of this approach was to enable innovation in engineering programs rather than forcing all programs to conform to a standard, as well as to encourage new assessment processes and program improvements.
To become a licensed professional engineer, one common prerequisite is graduation from an EAC or ETAC of ABET-accredited program. Requirements for professional engineer testing for EAC and ETAC accredited programs vary from state to state.
The Engineering Credential Evaluation International (ECEI) was established in 1997 as the credential evaluation service of ABET. ECEI specialized in the evaluation of degrees in engineering, engineering technology, computer science, and surveying from outside the U.S. As of October 30, 2006, ECEI stopped accepting applications for credentials evaluation; a business decision made by the ABET board of directors.