What to Look For with Accreditation

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When you start the search for the right Masters in Psychology program, you may notice that schools will list whether or not they are accredited. Accreditation is an important factor to take into consideration when you start comparing programs, but it can be confusing because there are so many different accrediting bodies. It’s helpful to learn a little bit more about the accreditation process and how it works.

The Purpose of Accreditation

Accreditation can be considered to be a process, as well as a status. If a program or institution is accredited, this means that is has met all quality standards and qualifications that have been demanded by the accrediting agency. When an institution goes through the accrediting process, this means that it has an interest in meeting the accepted standards of the professional community, to provide the highest level of education and training for its students. When it comes to psychology, the Commission on Accreditation, or CoA, publishes a list of all accredited programs each year as well as the guidelines that these programs have met. The purpose of accreditation is to ensure that the academic psychology community has certain standards that are being upheld. This is helpful to students who are looking for a program that will be accepted by the professional world, helping them find employment and ensuring that their education is as high in quality as other students’ educations.

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Benefits of Accreditation

Simply graduating from an accredited psychology program will not guarantee a job for all students, but it will certainly help increase the odds of this happening. When employers see that you have graduated from an accredited school, they know that your education is up to a certain standard of quality even if they have never heard of the program before. There are different benefits associated with accreditation, including the following.

  • Benefits for Students – Students can be sure that their program is going to cover the basics of psychology that are revered by the greater professional community. They can also be sure that their program is concerned with meeting all national standards and holding itself accountable.
  • Benefits for Psychologists – Professionals can benefit from the accreditation process by having a way to discuss current standards and how they can be improved, for the greater good of the community.
  • Benefits for Faculty Members – Professors at accredited institutions have some guidance as to what needs to be taught and accomplished in the program. They have a standard of quality to work towards.

Types of Accreditation

In the field of Psychology, there are different types of accreditation. The American Psychological Association provides professional accreditation to programs at the doctoral level, or those master’s programs that are leading to this type of degree. However, regional accreditation is another type of qualification that is more common in Master’s degree programs. There are six different regional accrediting institutions, including the following:

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • North Central Association Commission on Accreditation
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Southern Association of Schools and Colleges

These regional accrediting bodies cover the entire institution, while professional accreditors will only cover a specific degree program.

Which Psychology Programs are Accredited?

There is a wide range of different specializations within any psychology department. Some of the graduate programs that are accredited by these professional and regional accrediting organizations include:

  • School psychology
  • Counseling psychology
  • Clinical psychology
  • Pre-doctoral internships

The CoA will not accredit Master’s programs, unless they are considered to be pre-doctoral. However, you can look for Master’s programs which have been accredited by regional organizations. 

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About the Author: Ann Steele

This website is co-authored by Ann Steele, a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego with extensive experience with children and adolescents. Ann Steele attended American School Of Psychology & Argosy University Online. She especially enjoys using music therapy for mental and emotional well-being.

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