What is ABET?

ABET is the acronym for the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. This body accredits college degree programs in engineering, computing, technology, and applied science. Made up of 31 professional and technical societies, ABET includes many of the societies within IEEE. Currently, ABET accredits 2500 programs nationwide.

Why is it important to engineers and technical communicators?

Those who teach in engineering or other technical programs accredited by ABET must participate in regular accreditation reviews. Since about 2000, ABET has included a broad range of so-called “soft skills” including several related to professional communication. Here are the accreditation criteria from the Engineering Accreditation Committee (EAC):

Engineering programs must demonstrate that their graduates have:

  1. an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering
  2. an ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data
  3. an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs
  4. an ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams
  5. an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems
  6. an understanding of professional ethical responsibility
  7. an ability to communicate effectively
  8. the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context
  9. a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning
  10. a knowledge of contemporary issues
  11. an ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice.”

* http://www.abet.org—emphasis added

What does PCS offer in this area?

IEEE Professional Communication Society is directly contributing to ABET’s goals for educating young professionals in engineering and technology. Because we focus on communication skills within a wide range of professional contexts, we provide information relevant to all the criteria marked in bold above.

IEEE PCS is the only professional society to engage seriously in a discussion about accrediting technical communication programs. The abstract below summarizes a study conducted by an Ad Hoc committee on accreditation, 1997-98:

“Seeking ABET Accreditation for Technical Communication Programs” Haselkorn, M. Davis, M.T. Goodman, M.B. Nolen, B.E.
IPCC 98. Proceedings. 1998 IEEE International


Following up on an initial presentation at IPCC 97, the paper discusses the progress made on the issues of accrediting academic degree programs under ABET. IEEE is one of the sponsoring agencies of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), which accredits engineering degree programs. The Professional Communication Society plays a pivotal role in describing standards for ABET accreditation under the RAC commission (engineering-related programs). Discussion centers on the accreditation standards, showing how the criteria have been described and how sample programs could meet the criteria. The paper presents the advantages of accreditation for academic programs, for graduates of these programs, and for the industries that hire technical communicators. Additionally, discussion shows how accreditation has the potential to affect the development of the profession