We are proud to announce the approval of our first program-specific criteria for cybersecurity at the baccalaureate level. Programs at the U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, Towson University of Maryland and Southeast Missouri State University have earned the distinction of ABET accreditation under the newly adopted criteria.
ABET accreditation provides assurance that a college or university program meets the quality standards of the profession for which that program prepares graduates. With more and more institutions developing undergraduate cybersecurity programs, the Computing Accreditation Commission (CAC) of ABET saw a need to establish cybersecurity as a formal academic discipline. Shared expectations of core knowledge, abilities and skills of program graduates will help institutions developing curricula, as well as employers hiring graduates. While the Curricular Guidelines for Post-Secondary Degree Programs in Cybersecurity (CSEC 2017) from the Joint Task Force of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), IEEE-Computer Society, AIS and International Federation for Information Processing describe different aspects of cybersecurity education, they do not define what constitutes an undergraduate cybersecurity program.
“Cybersecurity is an interdisciplinary computing-based field that focuses on the creation, operation, analysis and testing of secure computer systems,” explained John Schnase, senior computer scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and CAC Chair. “It’s difficult to overstate cybersecurity’s importance in today’s world. By creating these program-specific criteria, CAC and ABET are helping to establish cybersecurity as an academic discipline, and helping to address the critical skills gap we’re seeing in this area.”
Guided by CSEC 2017 and input from the computing community, we created accreditation criteria that provide flexibility for programs to meet the criteria while supporting outcomes, quality and continuous improvement. The establishment of these criteria has been a years-long endeavor, requiring the coordination and cooperation of a diverse group of experts from academia and industry, as well as professional societies. In developing the criteria, we worked closely with the Cyber Education Project (CEP), IEEE and CSAB, our lead member society for computing.
ABET accreditation is an 18-month process, which required each of the newly accredited programs to submit Requests for Evaluation (RFEs) by January of 2017 in order to participate as a pilot in the Proposed Program Criteria for Cybersecurity and Similarly Named Computing Programs during the 2016–17 accreditation cycle. While several programs were approached to participate in the pilot program, the four programs to ultimately volunteer—USAFA, USNA, Towson and SEMO—were confident that they could meet the proposed cybersecurity criteria, which had not yet been finalized and was still undergoing revisions.
The criteria received preliminary approval from ABET in 2017, were published for public comment, and were formally adopted at the Computing Area Delegation meeting last month in Baltimore.
Prior to its approval, cybersecurity programs seeking accreditation would do so under the CAC General Criteria. General Criteria apply to all programs accredited by an ABET Commission, while Program Criteria provide discipline-specific accreditation criteria. Programs must show that they satisfy all program criteria implied by the program title. In addition to cybersecurity, the CAC has program-specific criteria for the disciplines of computer science, information technology and information systems.
When cybersecurity programs already accredited under the CAC General Criteria are up for their next accreditation review, they will be reviewed under the new program criteria for cybersecurity and similarly named computing programs. Moving forward, all computing programs using cybersecurity, computer security, cyber operations, information assurance, information security or similar terms in their titles will be reviewed under the newly approved criteria.
ABET accreditation means that students, employers and society can be confident that a program is producing graduates ready to enter the global workforce. The comprehensive evaluation processes determine that a program is meeting the needs of industry and continuously improving the education offered to students. With new programs in cybersecurity, we continue to expand our efforts in inspiring confidence in the programs we accredit, whose graduates are building a world that is safer, more efficient, more comfortable and more sustainable.
ABET is a forward-thinking, purpose-driven organization. All over the world, ABET accredits college and university technical programs committed to the quality of the education they provide.
Based in Baltimore, we are a global organization, with over 4,000 programs in 32 countries in the areas of applied and natural science, computing, engineering and engineering technology at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree levels.
Additional information regarding ABET, its member societies and the accreditation process can be found at www.abet.org.