Accreditation is an effort to assess the quality of institutions, programs and services, measuring them against agreed-upon standards and thereby assuring that they meet those standards. In the case of post secondary education and training, there are two kinds of accreditation: institutional and programmatic (or specialized). Institutional accreditation helps to assure potential students that a school is a sound institution and has met certain minimum standards in terms of administration, resources, faculty and facilities. Programmatic (or specialized) accreditation examines specific schools or programs within an educational institution (e.g. the law school, the medical school, the nursing program). The standards by which these programs are measured have generally been developed by the professionals involved in each discipline and are intended to reflect what a person needs to know and be able to do to function successfully within that profession. Accreditation in the health-related disciplines also serves a very important public interest. Along with certification and licensure, accreditation is a tool intended to help assure a well-prepared and qualified workforce providing health care services.
The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) is the largest programmatic/specialized accreditor in the health sciences field. In collaboration with it’s Committees on Accreditation, CAAHEP reviews and accredits more than 2000 educational programs in twenty-one (21) health science occupations across the United State and Canada. Prior to 1994, accreditation in most of these disciplines was a function of a Committee within the American Medical Association (AMA). When the AMA decided to turn over accreditation of these programs to another entity, CAAHEP was born. The Committee on Accreditation for the Exercise Sciences (CoAES) represents the profession.
CAAHEP is a broad-based membership organization. It has five categories of membership. Categories 1, 2, and 5 are organizational memberships – this is where collaborating Committees on Accreditation (Category 2) and Sponsoring (Category 1) and Associate (Category 5) Member Organizations belong. Each of these organizational members is entitled to appoint one commissioner to represent the interests and concerns of that organization. Category 3 members are educational program sponsors – the schools, colleges and universities that maintain accredited programs. This category is entitled to a total of 18 Commisioners. Ten of those are appointed by the two organizations representing deans at those sponsoring institutions (the National Network of Health Career Programs in Two Year Colleges, NN2 and the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions, ASAHP). The other eight represent programs in other settings: hospitals, military bases, proprietary institutions and 2 year and 4 year schools not affiliated with NN2 or ASAHP. Category 4 represents recent allied health graduates and the general public. Representation of the public in the CAAHEP system is an acknowledgement that the society to be served by the graduates of our accredited programs has an important role to play in the decisions about accreditation.
Prior to applying for accreditation, one of the simplest things you can do is to review the CAAHEP Standards and Guidelines for the profession. The Standards and Guidelines are also available at the CAAHEP website.
CAAHEP is the largest specialized accreditor or allied health education programs in the United States, representing twenty-one professions. The Committees on Accreditation (CoA) represent the actual profession and are CAAHEP’s experts in evaluating and working with programs. The CoAES represents Personal Fitness Training, Exercise Science, and Exercise Physiology.
Once accredited by CAAHEP, CAAHEP charges an annual institutional fee (currently $450). This fee is for the institution and is NOT based on the number of CAAHEP accredited programs an institution has. However, CAAHEP has partners in the accreditation process, the CoAs. Each of the CoAs has its own set of fees. Generally speaking there is a fee for applying for accreditation, the on-site review and an annual fee. The proposed CoAES fees for initial accreditation are $750, with an annual fee of $500 thereafter. Additionally, institutions applying for accreditation of their programs are responsible for paying the costs associated with the on-site review, which are estimated to be between $1,500 and $2,000. Discounts may apply for programs that are currently endorsed by ACSM.
Since 2000, CAAHEP has been asking that question of all programs completing the accreditation process. The benefits cited most often are: marketing, outside quality assurance, maintaining curriculum currency, and an ability for graduates either to sit for certification/licensure exams or obtain employment.
While there are some differences among the professions within CAAHEP, all accredited programs must go through a rigorous process that has certain elements in common.
- Application – the CAAHEP accreditation process is initiated by completing an application signed by the chief executive director or designated representative of the institution. A separate application must be completed for each CAAHEP program seeking accreditation.
- Self-Study – the program does its own analysis of how well it measires up to the established Standards.
- On-Site Evaluation – a team of “site visitors” travels to the institution to determine how accurately the self-study reflects the status of the program and to answer any additional questions that arise. This is a “peer review” process and often, after the formal part of the site visit is concluded, team members will share ideas for how a program can be strengthened or improved.
- Committee Review and Recommendation – the CoAES will review the report from the site visitors and develop a recommendation concerning accreditation. If there are areas where the program fails to meet the Standards, these “deficiencies” will be identified and progress reports will be requested to assure that each program continues its efforts to fully comply with all Standards.
- CAAHEP Board of Directors – the CAAHEP Board of Directors will then act upon the recommendations forwarded form the CoAES. The CAAHEP Board assures that due process has been met and that Standards are being applied in a consistent and equitable manner.
To begin the accreditation process, you must first complete a CAAHEP application. Once the application is complete, it should be fowarded to the CoAES. The CoAES will then contact your program and forward materials about accreditation fees, the self-study document and the comprehensive on-site review. To become accredited, a program must successfully complete a CAAHEP application, and an on-site review. Once a program has successfully completed these steps, the CoAES will then forward an accreditation recommendationto the CAAHEP Board of Directors for the Board to vote on.
The CAAHEP Board of Directors reviews accreditation recommendations six times per year (January, March, May, July, September, and November).
Immediately following the meeting of the CAAHEP Board of Directors (in which your program was presented), a letter will be sent to the President of your institution and copied to both the Dean and the Program Director indicating the outcome of the meeting. If accreditation was conferred, a CAAHEP certificate of accreditation will be included in the program director’s letter.
With the exception of initial accreditation, CAAHEP accreditation does not expire. Initial accreditation is for 3 to 5 years (the length of time is dependant on the CoA with whom you are working). At the end of the designated timeframe, a program may be awarded continuing accreditation or its initial accreditation may be allowed to expire. Once a program has received continuing accreditation, accreditation remains in place until the CAAHEP Board of Directors votes otherwise. CAAHEP policy does currently require a comprehensive review at least once every 10 years. The CAAHEP Board of Directors reserves the right to place a program on probation or withdraw accreditation at such time that the program no longer meets CAAHEP Standards and has been appropriately notified.
The accreditation process from application to the actual awarding of accreditation is approximately 1 year. This time period can vary based on the overall readiness of the program, the quality of the self-study document, the availability of volunteers for the on-site review, scheduled meetings of the various committees, etc.
Neither CAAHEP nor the CoAES requires the program name to be changed.
Neither CAAHEP or the CoAES requires the department name to be changed.
Neither CAAHEP or the CoAES requires a change to the names of the degrees your program currently awards.
CAAHEP program accreditation is outcomes-based. Specifically, this means that outcome measures, such as graduation rate, graduate employment rate, and employer comments regarding the competencies of program graduates are a few examples of the critical measures the CoAES will be evaluating. Therefore, recommended changes to a program’s curriculum, if necessary, should be minor and will be based on the program’s ability to meet and/or exceed these outcomes measures.
The majority of programs applying for accreditation already meet the standards for personnel, specifically with respect to the program director, faculty and/or instructional staff. Please refer to the current Standards and Guidelines for specific requirements.
No. There is no mandatory requirement for any institution to apply for accreditation through CAAHEP. Program accreditation through CAAHEP is a voluntary process.