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Is it Time for a Three-Year Accredited Civil Engineering Degree in the United States? A Critical Review

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Thinking Outside the BOKs: ABET, Ethics, Civil Engineering as Liberal Education, and 3-Year Degrees

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Brian J. Swenty P.E. University of Evansville

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Brian J. Swenty, Ph.D., P.E. is chair of the Mechanical and Civil Engineering Department at the University of Evansville. He earned his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Missouri-Rolla and his M.S. degree in civil engineering from the University of Florida. He is a licensed professional engineer in California, Florida, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. He has held positions as an active duty Army officer, a senior civil engineer with a consulting firm, and the director of Missouri’s Dam and Reservoir Safety Program. Since 1993, he has been at the University of Evansville, serving as department chair for the past 21 years. He continues to work as a consultant on projects involving the design and construction of new dams, modifications to existing dams, and the investigation of dam failures.

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Matthew K Swenty P.E. Virginia Military Institute

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Matthew (Matt) Swenty obtained his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Civil Engineering from Missouri S&T and then worked as a bridge designer at the Missouri Department of Transportation. He returned to school to obtain his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech followed by research work at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center on concrete bridges. He is currently an associate professor of Civil Engineering at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). He teaches engineering mechanics and structural engineering courses at VMI and enjoys working with the students on bridge related research projects and with the ASCE student chapter.

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Universities are faced with the increasing challenge of making bachelor degree programs rigorous while making them more affordable and improving graduation rates. One possible approach is to create an accredited, rigorous engineering program that can be completed in less time. Using recently published data on the content of a typical 4-year civil engineering program, a three-year civil engineering curriculum was created and critiqued. This paper evaluates the challenges associated with developing and implementing a three-year civil engineering degree with respect to the new 2019-2020 EAC-ABET criteria, the bachelor degree outcomes in ASCE’s Body of Knowledge (BOK3), state licensure laws, and regional accreditation criteria.

The new EAC-ABET Criterion 5 requirements for the 2019-2020 accreditation cycle require 30 credit hours of mathematics and science, 45 credit hours of engineering science, a broad education component, and a culminating engineering design experience. The EAC-ABET criteria do not include a minimum number of years to obtain a degree or a minimum number of credit hours. ASCE’s BOK3 is written with the premise that the outcomes should be attained through education and experience. While the BOK3 sets expected levels of achievement through formal education, there is no expectation that all education will come from one source.

A three-year civil engineering degree offers many benefits for students, but creates challenges for state licensure boards, universities, and employers. Benefits include reduced cost and time for students to complete their degree, exposure to civil engineering courses earlier in the curriculum, and program equivalency to Bologna Process universities. Challenges include regional accreditation requirements, reduced breadth in the curriculum, reciprocity of licensure laws, graduate school admissions, and public perception of a three-year civil engineering degree. Comprehensive education and licensure reform would be required to challenge the status quo and implement a three-year degree in civil engineering education.

Swenty, B. J., & Swenty, M. K. (2019, June), Is it Time for a Three-Year Accredited Civil Engineering Degree in the United States? A Critical Review Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33028

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