Accreditation ABCs

What You Need To Know About Accreditation


Accreditation, as practiced by CAAHEP, is a systematic approach to asking and answering a simply-stated but fundamental question: How good is this educational program?
Who wants to know how good an educational program is?

  • Well, you do, of course. You are the director. If there are standards for determining the answer to how good is this educational program?, you want to know how your program measures up. And you especially will want to know where your program doesn't meet standards, and what you can do about that.
And who else wants to know how good an educational program is?
  • Your bosses and colleagues.
  • Your students, and potential students (and often, their parents and families, and perhaps their counselors).
  • Any competitors you may have.
  • Licensing boards, certifying agencies and perhaps other government agencies. (This will depend, to some degree, upon the profession your students one day will practice).
  • Future employers of your students.
  • And other members of the profession. Every profession wants its newcomers to have had a good education. And every working professional wants his or her new colleagues to have had a good education.

So, to a lot of people -- and to you most of all -- the answer to How good is this educational program? is important.


Now this may come as a surprise... You are. With considerable help, of course. But everyone else who gets involved looks to you, the program director, to assure that the question is answered for your program.

Dealing with the accreditation process is part of your job. When you decided to accept the responsibility to be a program director, you became a major actor in that "systematic approach to asking and answering that simply stated but fundamental question: How good is this educational program?" Because the question is important to so many people, dealing with the accreditation process is an important part of your job.



Fortunately, you don't have to do this in a vacuum. Long before you became a program director, processes (and organizations to administer those processes) were created to assist every program director in this very process. You may never have had reasons, before now, to be aware of CAAHEP or CoAs, but now that you are a program director, we will become very familiar to you.

  • CAAHEP is pronounced Kay-Hep. It stands for the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
  • CoA is short for Committee on Accredition. You'll hear people say See-Oh-Ay (spelling out the 3 letters). You'll hear others say Co-Uh or Co-Ay (as if CoA were a word).
  • Some CoAs perfer to use the term Joint Review Committee (JRC) or Review Board. So whether the profession chooses to use JRC or Review Board, CAAHEP refers to them all as CoAs.

For every profession, there is a committee on accreditation. Roughly 25 years ago, several of those CoAs came together into an arrangement that created CAAHEP. They formed a "commission" whose members - commissioners - represent 30 health professions. The Commission's job is to continuously review the systematic processes of accreditation in these several professions. From their ranks Commissioners elect a Board of Directors. And that Board employs a staff. Some day you may care to be a part of this national (and occasionally international) cadre, but for now you simply need to know that CAAHEP exists, and that in your particular profession a CoA exists, and these two collaborative organizations are the ones that you will be dealing with as you -- the program director for one educational program -- enable yourself and others to know how good your educational program is (if it has been ongoing for awhile) or intends to be (if you are just getting started).


"How good is this educational program?" is not a one-time question.

"How good is this educational program?" is an ongoing, frequently revisited question.

It's not unlike the question, "How healthy is this person?"

The answer is not just derived from one examination, but by periodic re-examination, by some data collection, by some periodic review of the data, by plans to improve where problems crop up, and by actions taken based on those plans. Moreover, the question is best asked by applying some standards; and by applying some judgment by people who know about the patient (or the program) and have watched its progress.

There's much more to know, and the CAAHEP Accreditation ABCs is here to share the wisdom of experienced practitioners and to explain the elements of the process. But if you only learn one thing, learn this:

Accreditation is a systematic approach to asking and answering a simply-stated but fundamental question: How good is this educational program? For your program, it is part of your job to see that the process occurs. It's a continuous process. And a CoA and CAAHEP exist to help you manage the process.



CAAHEP accredits educational programs, such as yours. Other agencies perform other kinds of accreditation.

Educational institutions are accredited -- entire schools and universities. CAAHEP is not engaged in "institutional accreditation." CAAHEP only accredits educational programs within educational institutions. The accrediting agencies that perform institutional accreditation are regional and national accreditors.

There are more than 70 health care professions. CAAHEP is the largest accreditor of educational programs, and at this time it accredits programs in 32 of these professions. Other health care professions are welcomed and encouraged to be part of the CAAHEP system.

Welcome to the accreditation process! Learn and do the process well, and it will serve you and your program and, ultimately, your students very well this year and every year.