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Thinking of choosing an ABET-accredited software engineering program? Wondering if it makes a difference to employers? Our practical guide to software engineering degree accreditation has the answers. Learn more about how ABET accredits tech-focused engineering programs. Discover why some top schools don’t hold ABET accreditation. And explore the benefits of ABET accreditation for certain types of career paths.
Who Accredits Software Engineering Degree Programs?
The Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is the primary accrediting agency for software engineering programs. ABET accredits Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) programs at regionally accredited U.S. institutions. This non-profit, non-governmental agency assures that an institution’s program meets the standards of the profession for which it trains students.
ABET accreditation is widely recognized as the most desired accreditation a software engineering program can have. However, this does not mean that a software engineering program must be ABET-accredited in order to be a strong degree. Or that an ABET-accredited software engineering program is the only route to a career in software engineering. For instance, ABET’s accredited-program search tool turns up just 44 software engineering programs.
ABET-Accredited Software Engineering Programs
How ABET Accreditation Works
ABET accredits postsecondary programs that grant degrees. An institution must submit a preliminary Self-Study Report for all programs seeking accreditation if it currently has no ABET-accredited programs within that disciplinary area—or what ABET calls a “commission.” Upon review, ABET decides whether an institution can move forward with a formal Request for Evaluation (RFE).
ABET has 35 member societies representing various professions that develop policies & strategies and perform accreditation activities. Accreditation activities involve on-site reviews, curriculum reviews, and interviews with faculty and staff to determine if programs meet the present-day standards of a particular profession.
Why Don’t All Software Engineering Programs Pursue ABET Accreditation?
Many well-regarded software engineering programs are not ABET-accredited. This category includes programs at some very highly rated institutions, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, and Carnegie Melon. There are a few major reasons why schools do not seek ABET accreditation:
- ABET requires programs to include certain STEM courses that are unrelated to computer science and software engineering. These courses are relevant to certain engineering disciplines, but arguably not to computer science and software engineering.
- Many employers and graduate schools don’t pay much attention to ABET accreditation—they are much more concerned with your skill sets and knowledge.
- Some software engineers choose to train in computer science, rather than software engineering programs.
- Schools like Harvard and Yale may feel that their reputation is sufficient to attract applicants to their programs without ABET accreditation.
For example, Brigham Young University–Idaho is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, but its software engineering and computer science programs are not ABET-accredited. They explain their rationale for not pursuing ABET accreditation on their website.
What Are the Benefits of ABET Accreditation for Software Engineering Programs?
It’s important to thoroughly evaluate an institution’s software engineering program—ABET-accredited or not—against your personal academic and career objectives. Many working software engineers feel that attending an ABET-accredited program is not key to finding a job in the field.
However, ABET accreditation may be required in order for you to:
- Work in the public sector
- Work for a multinational corporation
- Qualify for some types of technical licensure, registration, or certification
- Qualify for some federal student loans, grants, or scholarships
- Transfer credit to certain institutions
Who Accredits Online Software Engineering Degree Programs?
Online programs usually earn accreditation from the same agencies that accredit on-campus programs. ABET has accredited many online and hybrid software engineering programs. For instance, Penn State University and Arizona State University offer ABET-accredited online software engineering programs.
The growth of postsecondary online education has led to the appearance of dubious or fake accrediting agencies. When seeking an online software engineering program, be sure to fully research an institution’s accreditation at the regional and programmatic levels. Cross-reference the university’s accreditations with the appropriate regional accreditation agency.
Key Takeaways: What to Know About Software Engineering Accreditation
- Know how accreditation tallies up with your unique goals. Do your research to find out what—if any—accreditation a program needs to suit your objectives.
- ABET accreditation gives some assurance of a software engineering program’s quality. It may also be important for certain types of aid, credit transfer, or employment at some organizations. However, isn’t absolutely necessary.
- Pursue a degree with regional accreditation (at minimum) and ABET accreditation if it aligns with your career aims.