How does a program become accredited?

APA Accreditation is voluntary, meaning that programs choose whether and when to apply for it. The process begins when a program submits a self-study, a document that includes:

  • Training goals, objectives and practices

  • Student, faculty and financial resources

  • Program policies and procedures

  • Competencies students are expected to obtain

  • Actual outcome data that demonstrates the achievement of these competencies

The self-study will undergo an initial review, with the following possible:

  • Approval of a site visit, meaning that the self-study materials are in place for a site visit team of professional colleagues to conduct an on-site review of the program

  • Denial of a site visit, meaning that the self-study does not demonstrate sufficient consistency with the Guidelines and Principles for Accreditation of Programs in Professional Psychology (G&P) in order for a site visit to be of value to the program.

After the site visit, the site visit team submits a report to the CoA, and the program has an opportunity to review and comment on that report. After this process is complete, the program is placed on the CoA’s next program review agenda. The CoA awards accreditation to those programs judged to be in accordance with the G&P. The CoA can also deny accreditation to applicant programs if the program does not meet the G&P.

How long does this process take? The process of accreditation takes on average about 18 months from the time a program submits a self-study until the CoA reaches a decision. The process may take longer, as the CoA can defer making a decision either prior to or after the site visit in order to request further information from the program. If accredited, the effective accreditation date is the date of the site visit. There is no guarantee that an applicant program will obtain accredited status, or even be granted a site visit. This means that as a student, there is a risk involved in entering a program that is not yet accredited.

The Accreditation Operating Procedures (PDF, 253KB) is the document that fully articulates the accreditation process.

Accreditation process questions

What happens when a program's accreditation is revoked?

An accredited program cannot have its accreditation revoked without first being placed on “accredited, on probation” status. Programs placed on “accredited, on probation” status will be reviewed in no less than 1 and no more than 2 years. This provides the public with notice that the program is not currently consistent with the G&P.

Revocation of accreditation occurs when the Commission on Accreditation (CoA), in its review of a program on “accredited, on probation” status, has evidence that the program continues to be inconsistent with the G&P.

The effective date of the revocation is the date of the CoA meeting in which the decision was made. If the program appeals the CoA's decision to revoke, and that decision is upheld, the revocation will take effect 30 days after the appeal hearing is held. Individuals completing the program after that date are not considered to have completed an accredited program.

What happens when a decision has not been reached?

The Commission on Accreditation (CoA) may defer a program on its agenda when it needs further information from the program prior to making a decision. At any given meeting, the CoA defers a minimum of 10-15 percent of the programs on the agenda in order to make a fully informed decision.  Deferral actions are confidential. The CoA may defer programs for the following reasons:

Deferral for information

The CoA may defer making a decision about a program in order to obtain more information. Further, when in the CoA's judgment, information is incomplete or a significant disparity exists between the site visit report and information provided in the program's response to that report, the CoA may defer making a decision and seek additional information to resolve the difference. When a decision is deferred, the CoA will notify the program in writing and specify what additional information is needed to determine the program's consistency with the G&P.

Deferral for cause

When the CoA has concerns which may result in a decision to deny a site visit upon application, deny accreditation, place an accredited program on probation or revoke accreditation, it will defer its final decision, give written notice to the program of its concerns, and thereby provide opportunity to supplement the information provided by the program, before the final decision is made.

When the CoA has deferred a program, either for information or for cause, the program continues to hold its current accreditation status until a final decision has been reached.  Deferral actions by the CoA are confidential and will not be shared with the public.

How do I submit the self-study and other materials?
Why is the accreditation process confidential? What information can the Office provide?

The Commission on Accreditation conducts all of its final accreditation reviews and decisionmaking sessions in a closed meeting. In the end, only the accreditation decision is released to the public. Accreditation is meant to be a process of peer review and a forum for honest, ongoing self-evaluation. Accrediting bodies must strike a balance between the public’s right to information and the programs' need for honest self-evaluation. The purpose of this confidentiality throughout the accreditation process is for the programs' protection.

Effective July 1, 2005, the Accreditation Operating Procedures changed to allow the Office to provide the public with a list of programs that have applied for initial accreditation. If prospective students call to confirm a program’s application and progress in seeking accreditation, the staff can only confirm whether or not a program has submitted its initial application. Staff members do not have the ability to tell prospective students if or when a program might become accredited. In addition, staff will neither be able to confirm nor deny whether a program ever applied for initial accreditation prior to July 1, 2005.