Accreditation ABCs

Beginning Your Accreditation Process


If you are following the Accreditation ABC's topics in sequence, and you've gotten this far, you know that:

  • Your goal for the accreditation process is to systematically answer the fundamental question, How good is this educational program?
  • Your foremost contact for the accreditation process is the Committee on Accreditation (CoA, JRC, or Review Board) in the profession you teach.
  • You are the key person in the accreditation process for your program.
  • You will be gathering and analyzing and reporting data.
  • The accreditation process is focused on outcomes.
  • The accreditation process is continuous year-to-year.

So are you ready? Yes, if you have taken these preliminary steps:

  • found and studied the Standards that apply and are confident you know what they mean;
  • given careful consideration to the Guidelines;
  • found your CoA's website or received your CoA's instructions in print;
  • studied the exact details of your CoA's practices, timetable, forms, etc.
  • asked questions until you are certain you know what is expected of you;
  • made certain you know your program's accreditation status (if any), and what is required of you to gain or keep your status up to date;
  • built (or inherited from your predecessor) files - either on paper, or electronically - to house all the data about your program, all the student records, all the schedules, all the resources, all the contracts, all the survey results, etc., as prescribed by your CoA's data requests.

If you haven't done these preliminary things - Do them NOW. There is no substitute for them.

Once you've done these preliminaries, there should be no mystery about the accreditation process; you very likely will do everything correctly the first time; and you and your program will gain the most benefit from the process.

There is an unhappy alternative to taking these preliminary steps, but don't take this alternative route: You can charge into the accreditation process and muddle through, make mistakes that cost you time and excess effort, learn the process by trial and error but gain little from the process besides anguish. You can do this; too many have. You'll hate the process.


To state this advice in one succinct sports metaphor: Understand the rules before you play the game.

Or, as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts say: Be Prepared.


Within your institution, there may be someone whose job it is to help program directors through accreditation. If so, find that person and hold on tight! (If they cannot answer your questions, they surely can tell you who can.)

Often a dean, department chairperson, or another senior administrator is your best resource; they likely have been through accreditation themselves and have worked with other beginners before you.

Colleagues in another institution with similar responsibilities to your own may be helpful, especially if they've been responsible for accreditation for awhile.

And your CoA is always a good source. Your CoA is always just a phone call or an e-mail away.

Some CoAs offer workshops to Program Directors; these are excellent opportunities to ask questions of knowledgeable people face-to-face.

Some CoAs offer workshops designed for site visitors (the kinds of people who are chosen to visit Programs such as yours). While these workshops are not primarily for Program Directors, Program Directors often attend.

Most CoAs have annual conferences, or participate in annual conferences within their professional societies; these events represent another opportunity to find the right people and to talk face-to-face.

There are some private consultants who, for a fee, can guide you through accreditation. Your CoA can recommend someone.