What is ABET?

ABET stands for the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. It is the major accrediting body for engineering programs in the US and Canada and, increasingly, internationally.

Why is ABET accreditation important?

Graduating from an ABET accredited program allows students access to: - Graduate programs in engineering

- Professional engineering registration

- Membership in certain professional societies

What is the accreditation process?

Every 6 years, all programs wishing to retain ABET accreditation must complete a self-study that details how the program is meeting ABET’s criteria for accreditation. This document, usually several hundred pages long, provides evidence of the program's objectives and outcomes (what students should be able to do when and after they graduate) and the assessment processes that are in place to evaluate whether these objectives and outcomes have been met.
Following submission of the self-study, an evaluation team is sent to the campus for a site visit. The team meets with administrators, faculty, staff, students, and other parties (such as industrial representatives) to gain further information on whether the criteria set by ABET are being met.
The evaluation team drafts a report listing strengths, concerns, and weaknesses in the program. Concerns and weaknesses are areas that need to be addressed by the program – either immediately (weakness) or before the next general visit (concern). If no weaknesses are identified, the program may be granted accreditation until the “Next General Review” – for six years. If weaknesses are identified, the program may be asked to submit an “interim report” and possibly to have an “interim visit” in order to see if progress is being made on addressing the weaknesses. Those occur on 2-year cycles.

What are objectives and outcomes?

Program objectives are the things that we expect our graduates to be able to do approximately 2-3 years after graduation. Program outcomes are the things that we expect our students to be able to do at the time they graduate. Objectives and outcomes should be action-oriented (e.g. demonstrate, not know) and measurable (e.g. can we check and see if a student can actually do something.)

What is my role as a student?

ABET evaluators may ask to speak with students formally, or may stop some to chat in the hallway. They want an honest opinion about the School and the programs – but this should not be a gripe session. Try to give constructive information.

What should I know before ABET arrives?

Review your program's objectives and outcomes – they are posted on the department website. Be familiar with the assessment processes that are in place for your program. They may include student surveys, exit interviews, alumni surveys, capstone design projects, and other ways to determine if graduates can do what is expected of them. Having the program’s associated professional society talk with the program’s ABET coordinator is a good way to get this information.