You may think that finding a college or university with regional accreditation is the only assurance of quality and acceptance you need, but if your plan is to become a licensed professional or practitioner, it’s also important to learn if your specific field requires a degree program with programmatic or specialized accreditation.
What does Programmatic Accreditation mean?
Programmatic accreditation focuses on specific programs, departments or schools that are a division of a larger institution. There are programs in education, business, marriage and family therapy and many more that voluntarily request to be reviewed by reputable accreditation bodies in order to be recognized or certified as quality programs in their associated industries.
Because there are many career-related and programmatic accrediting agencies, review processes aren’t exactly the same. However, most require:
- Self-examination report (including evidence) of its program accomplishments consistent with the standards set by the accreditation organization.
- Peer review of the prepared materials and written report.
- Visit and examination sent by the accreditation organization. This delegation is often made up of volunteer peers who have a strong interest in the quality standards of higher education in their associated fields.
- Continuous review to ensure the program maintains the required accreditation standards.
Who accredits the accreditors?
In addition to the U.S. Department of Education, which recognizes accrediting organizations that have an impact on federal student aid or federal programs, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is a “private sector” association that recognizes and maintains a database of higher education accreditors career-related and programmatic accrediting agencies that have met their high standards of eligibility.
CHEA confirms three basic purposes before recognizing an accrediting body:
- To advance academic quality that emphasizes student achievement and high expectations of teaching and learning, research and services developed within the structure of an institutional mission.
- To demonstrate accountability by communicating the results of their educational efforts to the public and higher education community and exhibiting a commitment to involve their constituents in accreditation decision making.
- To encourage self scrutiny and planning for change by focusing on effective ways to achieve their institution and program goals.
Researching a first-class degree program that precisely fits your career needs can be tedious and time-consuming. So first ask if the program is accredited by an agency that is also held to high industry standards and let them do some of the work for you.