As technology evolves, so too does the curriculum that today’s college students must master if they’re to succeed in the global workforce. That’s why accreditation matters. Accreditation guarantees that your university and/or degree program has been vetted by experts to ensure that your education is relevant and that you’re fully prepared to compete for the jobs of tomorrow.
In STEM circles, one of the most important accreditations that employers look for comes from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). At UAGC, our Bachelor of Science in Information Systems recently received ABET accreditation – a program-specific accreditation that makes our University part of an elite group. In this blog, learn what ABET accreditation means, why it matters to students, and why it’s a big deal to hiring managers.
What Is ABET?
ABET is a non-governmental organization that accredits post-secondary education programs in applied and natural science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology. The accreditation acts as the seal of approval that your degree program has a solid STEM foundation so that you can graduate with the potential to lead the way in innovation and emerging technologies while anticipating the welfare and safety needs of the public.
According to Dr. Karen Lynne-Daniels Ivy, Ph.D., Technology Studies Department Chair and Professor in the Forbes School of Business and Technology® at the University of Arizona Global Campus, ABET accreditation is not easy to achieve and is a significant recognition for any program that earns it.
“ABET has very specific criteria that your program must align to, but it’s important because it shows prospective students that the program meets the global standards for technical education,” Dr. Lynne-Daniels Ivy explains.
There are many types of accreditations from many different accrediting bodies. As an institution, UAGC is accredited by WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), 1001 Marina Village Parkway, Suite 402, Alameda, CA 94501, 510.748.9001, www.wscuc.org. WSCUC is an institutional accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). UAGC also has additional programmatic accreditations, one of which is now ABET.
Dr. Ivy recently led the effort to attain ABET accreditation for the Bachelor of Science In Information Technology at UAGC. It was a yearlong process that successfully resulted in approval from ABET’s Computing Accreditation Commission (CAC).
“We had to look at the CAC criteria, look at how our program aligned, and even look at making some changes to meet the requirements ahead of a site visit from ABET,” Dr. Ivy explains.
The most crucial factor considered in ABET’s CAC academic criteria, she adds, is student performance. CAC evaluates whether a computer science program fosters success by the retention rate, job placement rate, and attainment of educational objectives.
What ABET Accreditation Means for Students
The ABET accreditation process involves more than 2,000 professionals from academia, industry, and government fields. This group knows their profession’s “dynamic and emerging workforce needs and reviews academic programs to ensure they provide the technical and professional skills graduates need to succeed,” Dr. Ivy says.
If you’re a student researching a STEM-related program and you see the ABET accreditation, it lets you know that your degree:
- Has received international recognition of its quality
- Promotes “best practices” in education
- Directly involves faculty and staff in self-assessment and continuous quality improvement processes
- Is based on “learning outcomes” rather than “teaching inputs”
- Can more easily determine the acceptability of transfer credits
Notably, when a university has an online program that earns ABET accreditation, it joins a very exclusive club. Currently, there are only 14 universities (UAGC among them) with ABET-accredited online programs.
“Being one of 14 is very elite,” Dr. Ivy says. “It’s not the easiest thing to provide technology programs online, but [UAGC] can provide a hands-on practical learning environment, for example, through virtual labs and by bringing in industry experts to collaborate with students.”
ABET Accreditation Matters to Employers
While students know that accreditation matters, they may not know that employers are also increasingly focused on accreditation when vetting potential new hires.
“There are national and international companies that specifically look for graduates from an ABET-accredited program,” Dr. Ivy says. “You can sometimes see that in the job description, and as a graduate, you will know that ABET accreditation gives you a bump because it signals to hiring managers the standards your program meets and the curriculum that you studied during your learning journey.”
Among the organizations she cites as examples: NASA. The space agency even has a website that shows you a list of ABET-accredited universities and their programs.
ABET accreditation stands out, Dr. Ivy adds, when you present yourself to a future employer because it:
What Is the Value of Choosing An ABET-Accredited Online Program?
Accreditation isn’t a one-and-done thing. Universities must continue to meet ABET standards in order to maintain their program accreditation. That’s critical for STEM learners in programs that concentrate on artificial intelligence, robotics, and other evolving technologies, Dr. Ivy says.
“We focus on continuous improvements,” she adds. “For example, as we integrate current and future technologies into the program, we will want to bring faculty onboard that have knowledge in current industry technology, have a vision of where we’re moving and where we’re heading as a university.”
- Verifies that your educational experience meets the global standard for technical education in your profession. Several technology jobs require graduation from an ABET-accredited program.
- Enhances your employment opportunities — multinational corporations may require graduation from an accredited program.
- Supports your entry to a technical profession through licensure, registration and certification — all of which often require graduation from an ABET-accredited program as a minimum qualification.
- Establishes your eligibility for many federal student loans, grants, and/or scholarships.
- Paves the way for you to work globally, because ABET accreditation is recognized worldwide through international agreements, and many other countries’ national accrediting systems are based on the ABET model.
- The bottom line, according to Dr. Ivy: “Not only does ABET accreditation allow program graduates to use their skills around the world, but it also raises their value to employers.”