Chapter 11: Software Engineering Professional Practice
- Association for Computing Machinery
- British Computer Society
- Certified Software Development Associate
- Certified Software Development Professional
- International Electrotechnical Commission
- IEEE CS
- IEEE Computer Society
- International Federation for Information Processing
- Intellectual Property
- International Organization for Standardization
- Non-Disclosure Agreement
- World Intellectual Property Organization}
- World Trade Organization
The Software Engineering Professional Practice knowledge area (KA) is concerned with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that software engineers must possess to practice software engineering in a professional, responsible, and ethical manner. Because of the widespread applications of software products in social and personal life, the quality of software products can have profound impact on our personal well-being and societal harmony. Software engineers must handle unique engineering problems, producing software with known characteristics and reliability. This requirement calls for software engineers who possess a proper set of knowledge, skills, training, and experience in professional practice.
The term “professional practice” refers to a way of conducting services so as to achieve certain standards or criteria in both the process of performing a service and the end product resulting from the service. These standards and criteria can include both technical and nontechnical aspects. The concept of professional practice can be viewed as being more applicable within those professions that have a generally accepted body of knowledge; codes of ethics and professional conduct with penalties for violations; accepted processes for accreditation, certification, and licensing; and professional societies to provide and administer all of these. Admission to these professional societies is often predicated on a prescribed combination of education and experience.
A software engineer maintains a professional practice by performing all work in accordance with generally accepted practices, standards, and guidelines notably set forth by the applicable professional society. For example, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and IEEE Computer Society (IEEE CS) have established a Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice. Both the British Computer Society (BCS) and the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) have established similar professional practice standards. ISO/IEC and IEEE have further provided internationally accepted software engineering standards (see Appendix B of this Guide). IEEE CS has established two international certification programs (CSDA, CSDP) and a corresponding Guide to the Software Engineering Bodyof Knowledge (SWEBOK Guide). All of these are elements that lay the foundation for of the professional practice of software engineering.
The Software Engineering Professional Practice KA’s breakdown of topics is shown in Figure 11.1. The subareas presented in this KA are professionalism, group dynamics and psychology, and communication skills.
A software engineer displays professionalism notably through adherence to codes of ethics and professional conduct and to standards and practices that are established by the engineer’s professional community.
The professional community is often represented by one or more professional societies; those societies publish codes of ethics and professional conduct as well as criteria for admittance to the community. Those criteria form the basis for accreditation and licensing activities and may be used as a measure to determine engineering competence or negligence.
1.1 Accreditation, Certification, and Licensing
Accreditation is a process to certify the competency, authority, or credibility of an organization. Accredited schools or programs are assured to adhere to particular standards and maintain certain qualities. In many countries, the basic means by which engineers acquire knowledge is through completion of an accredited course of study. Often, engineering accreditation is performed by a government organization, such as the ministry of education. Such countries with government accreditations include China, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, and Russia.
In other countries, however, the accreditation process is independent of government and performed by private membership associations. For example, in the United States, engineering accreditation is performed by an organization known as ABET. An organization known as CSAB serving as a participating body of ABET is the lead society within ABET for the accreditation of degree programs in software engineering. While the process of accreditation may be different for each country and jurisdiction, the general meaning is the same. For an institution’s course of study to be accredited means that “the accreditation body recognizes an educational institution as maintaining standards that qualify the graduates for admission to higher or more specialized institutions or for professional practice” .
Certification refers to the confirmation of a person’s particular characteristics. A common type of certification is professional certification, where a person is certified as being able to complete an activity in a certain discipline at a stated level of competency. Professional certification also can also verify the holder’s ability to meet professional standards and to apply professional judgment in solving or addressing problems. Professional certification can also involve the verification of prescribed knowledge, the mastering of best practice and proven methodologies, and the amount of professional experience.
An engineer usually obtains certification by passing an examination in conjunction with other experience-based criteria. These examinations are often administered by nongovernmental organizations, such as professional societies.
In software engineering, certification testifies to one’s qualification as a software engineer. For example, the IEEE CS has enacted two certification programs (CSDA and CSDP) designed to confirm a software engineer’s knowledge of standard software engineering practices and to advance one’s career. A lack of certification does not exclude the individual from working as a software engineer. Currently certification in software engineering is completely voluntary. In fact, most software engineers are not certified under any program.
“Licensing” is the action of giving a person the authorization to perform certain kinds of activities and take responsibility for resultant engineering products. The noun “license” refers to both that authorization and the document recording that authorization. Governmental authorities or statutory bodies usually issue licenses.
Obtaining a license to practice requires not only that an individual meets a certain standard, but also that they do so with a certain ability to practice or operate. Sometimes there is an entry-level requirement which sets the minimum skills and capabilities to practice, but as the professional moves through his or her career, the required skills and capabilities change and evolve.
In general, engineers are licensed as a means of protecting the public from unqualified individuals. In some countries, no one can practice as a professional engineer unless licensed; or further, no company may offer “engineering services” unless at least one licensed engineer is employed there.