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AIC Certification Testing Site: Montana State University

By Roger W. Liska, EdD, FAIC, CPC, FCIOB, FRICS, PE

Today, we are recognizing Montana State University (MSU) as one of our leading University Partners. MSU serves as an AIC Certification testing site for its construction management students.

This is the third in a series of articles recognizing AIC certification college and university Certified Associate Constructor (CAC Level I) testing sites.

These sites are being recognized for their long-term dedication to providing their students with an opportunity to obtain the CAC professional certification and their commitment to enhancing professionalism in the construction industry. All of these university programs have experienced an increased level of visibility and credibility as a result of serving as a test site.  

Specific to Montana State University, I interviewed Ms. Penny Knoll, MS, CPC, who is an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, Internship Director in the Department of Civil Engineering, which houses the Bachelor of Science in Construction Engineering Technology (CET) Program, and Coordinator of the CET Program.

I also interviewed Mr. Shawn Warner, Senior Vice President of Sletten Construction and a member of the Civil Engineering Board of Advisors. Learn more about how MSU is committed to student excellence.

Overview of Montana State University Construction Engineering Technology Program 

Montana State University is located in Bozeman, Montana.  The program has its roots in what began as the initiation of a Bachelor of Science Degree in Construction Technology in 1964.  Shortly thereafter, the program was renamed Construction Engineering Technology and was first accredited by ABET-TAC in 1974. The program has maintained its accreditation status with ABET-TAC ever since.

  • The BS CET Program graduates an average of 45 students each year.
  • There are currently 180 CET majors.

CET Program’s Service as an AIC CAC Certification Examination Test Site

The CET Program requires all of its students to take the CAC examination. The program administers the CAC examination twice yearly, and students pay all costs to take it. MSU has administered the CAC examination since 1998, and during that time, approximately 1,230 CET students have been tested.

In addition, the program has had four of the highest scores nationally since 1998 and three classes have obtained a 100% pass rate on the examination. Since MSU began testing, the school has delivered pass rates of 80% and greater for each testing period. 

The Department and Program administration and faculty – with support from their Civil Engineering Board of Advisors – have realized the value of having their students take the exam and become certified. They see this outcome as a critical ingredient in the growth and success of each student’s career in the construction industry.

CET Department’s Commitment to Professional Certification

The CET Department clearly demonstrates its commitment to having all CET students pass the exam and become certified. The staff at MSU dedicates both time and resources to helping their students be successful.

Students learn about the importance and value of professional certification and the requirement to take the CAC examination throughout their entire program. In addition, the program helps students prepare to take the CAC examination in their capstone course – ETCC 499R – Capstone: Construction Engineering Technology – by utilizing the online practice test. While students are not required to pass the examination in order to graduate, their scores count for 15% of their final grade in their capstone course.

Not only does the CET Program require all students to take the CAC exam, but it also uses the resulting scores on the exam as direct measures for assessing each student’s mastery of the appropriate ABET-TAC outcomes as part of the accreditation process. The program has found doing so reduces the amount of work that has to be done in preparing for future ABET-TAC accreditation visits. This effort creates a more objective (third-party) assessment of the academic performance of their students.

How Professor Knoll is Supporting the Advancement of the Industry

Penny Knoll devotes a lot of time and effort to helping improve the image of the construction profession and Constructor Certification. She has served in various leadership roles on the Constructor Certification Commission and is currently Vice Chair.

Professor Knoll feels that “acquiring a CAC qualification is similar to having a professional entry-level qualification for architects and engineers.”

“Furthermore, the CAC exam allows their faculty to know if their students are leaving their institution with the skills the industry thinks are important,” says Professor Knoll. “It gives their students that pass the exam a sense of pride and the first set of professional letters to put after their name.” 

Finally, she “hopes this will inspire students to be the lifelong learners that the construction industry needs by continuing to add professional credentials to their name.”

Construction Industry Commitment to Having Students Become Certified

Penny Knoll indicated that her Civil Engineering Board of Advisors highly supports her students having to take the CAC examination. She feels, “that her Board of Advisors value the CAC exam in that it helps ensure employers that the CET Program graduates have attained minimum targeted competencies.” 

Penny also indicated that she regularly shares the results of the CAC examination with her Board of Advisors and, when appropriate, considers their feedback in future program curriculum reviews.

Mr. Shawn Warner, Senior Vice President of Sletten Construction, has been an active member of the Civil Engineering Board of Advisors for over six years. He is also a graduate of the Civil Engineering program at Montana State and a Registered Licensed Engineer in Wyoming. His company hires interns and graduates from the CET program. The company is typically very pleased with their performance.

Shawn indicated that the members of the Board highly support the requirement that students must take the CAC examination.  He indicated that “he loves the examination because it serves to clearly demonstrate that what the CET students learn in the program will meet or exceed what is expected of the construction industry nationally.”

Based on his experience, he feels the national examination is highly regarded by the Program students, the university, and the construction industry. Finally, he indicated that the CAC examination serves as an effective third-party national assessment of the skills and knowledge required of an entry-level employee.

Shawn believes that construction students who pass the CAC exam have separated themselves from peers who don’t take and/or pass the exam, which can be an advantage for CACs when seeking employment opportunities.

Join Montana State University as a University Partner

We appreciate our long-standing partnership with Montana State University as a certification testing site and the commitment from the faculty to integrate our certification exam into their Program.

We invite other accredited Construction Management programs to participate in our certification program to validate that their construction management students have the skills and knowledge necessary to manage construction projects.
Learn how your college or university can participate as an AIC exam testing site. Let’s work together to accelerate constructor excellence.

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