Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and Pittsburg, Kansas-based Pittsburg State University are the first two U.S. universities to have their undergraduate construction management (CM) programs independently accredited, says the Construction Management Association of America.

CMAA worked with ABET—the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology, which accredits U.S. engineering schools and other technology programs—to develop uniform CM school standards, the group says. 

Many university CM programs now are accredited through "general criteria" under which ABET accredits affiliated engineering schools, but the board was convinced that CM "warrants its own, unique classification," says CMAA. ABET works closely with CMAA to review, vet and approve applicant programs.

"The main thing has been to clearly associate CM with engineering, which was something the industry has seemed to prefer," says CMAA Senior Vice President John McKeon. "At the same time, setting up a distinct accreditation for CM recognizes that CM is not simply a subset of engineering but requires its own set of skills and knowledge."

He says that ABET is set to approve program-specific criteria for CM in October that will govern future accreditation applications.

Among areas of expertise required of program graduates will be construction-project management from pre-design through commissioning; project life cycle and sustainability; health and safety, accident prevention and regulatory compliance; law, contract documents administration, and dispute prevention and resolution; materials, labor and methods of construction; finance and accounting principles; planning and scheduling; cost management, including plan reading, quantity takeoffs and estimating; project delivery methods; leadership and managing people; and business and communication skills.

CM program officials at the universities say ABET accreditation will better tie their curricula with engineering-school criteria. Brigham Young's CM program is within its Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology, "so being ABET accredited feels like the program is more aligned and integrated into the college," says program director Kevin Miller.

He adds that ABET's "outcomes-based accreditation moved away from bean counting and focused more on student learning and educational processes."

“ABET is the gold standard for accreditation nationally,” says Jim Otter, chair of the PSU School of Construction. "This is a big deal for our program, college and university, and we’re very proud of it.”

A CMAA spokesman says up to five additional universities could apply for separate CM accreditation next year.

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