What is Accreditation?

Accreditation ensures that academic and professional programs achieve and maintain a level of performance, integrity, and quality that entitles them to the confidence of the educational community and public they serve.

In the United States this recognition is extended primarily through non-governmental, voluntary, institutional, or professional associations. These groups establish criteria for accreditation, arrange site visits, evaluate those institutions and professional programs seeking accreditation, and publicly designate those programs that meet the criteria.

Accreditation, which applies to institutions or programs, is distinguished from certification and licensure, which apply to individuals. Although accreditation is basically a private, voluntary process, accrediting decisions are used as a consideration in many formal actions by governmental funding agencies, scholarship commissions, foundations, employers, counselors, and potential students.

Accrediting bodies have, therefore, come to be viewed as quasi-public entities with important responsibilities to the many groups who interact with the educational community.

There are two types of accreditation:

Institutional accreditation is granted by regional and national accrediting commissions of schools and colleges, which collectively serve most of the institutions chartered or licensed in the United States. These commissions and associations accredit the institution as a whole.

Specialized accreditation of professional and occupational schools and programs is granted by commissions on accreditation established by national professional organizations.

Each of these groups has its own distinct definition of eligibility, criteria for accreditation, and operating procedures. However, all have undertaken accreditation activities primarily to ensure that the members of the profession or occupation have received the highest level of educational preparation possible.