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Harmonizing ABET accreditation and the certification of systems engineers



The ever-increasing complexity of technology-based systems that are conceived, designed, constructed, operated and maintained, and managed places heavy civic and professional responsibilities on engineers of all disciplines. Furthermore, the ubiquitous involvement of systems engineers in almost every sector of the economy and in government attests to the growing recognition of their pivotal contributions to systems' safety and effectiveness. For example, the expertise of systems engineers is commonly required in the planning, design, testing, operation, and maintenance of most physical and cyber-based infrastructures (e.g., transportation, telecommunication, and electric power). This paper explores the needs, requirements, and challenges associated with the academic-baccalaureate and professional certification of systems engineers, given the breadth and depth required of them, and especially the specific domain knowledge and expertise required to supplement their competence in systems engineering. The authors of this paper take no position on the repeated reference made by several certification organizations to the requirement of being a licensed professional engineer (PE). Finally, a closer partnership between ABET and the two major professional societies—INCOSE and the IEEE—would enable us to reach agreement on what constitutes a Body of Knowledge (BoK) in systems engineering at the baccalaureate level, which would provide an invaluable benchmark to colleges and universities that offer such degrees. The joint initiative by ABET and the two societies would (a) harmonize and solidify the specific requirements for the accreditation of systems engineering programs in colleges and universities in the United States and abroad, and (b) guide the development of BoK requirements for any certification of systems engineers beyond the baccalaureate level. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Syst Eng 14