The American Psychological Association (APA) is a strong presence in the field of psychology. Most practicing psychologists are members and most psychology programs work towards earning accreditation by the APA. There are a number restrictions and guidelines that psychology programs must follow in order to receive APA accreditation.
American Psychological Association Accreditation for Doctoral Programs
The American Psychological Association only grants accreditation to doctoral programs in psychology. Some of the types of programs that are eligible to receive APA accreditation are Doctoral graduate programs in clinical, counseling, school psychology, other accepted practice areas, as well as combinations of two or more of those areas. Pre-doctoral internships in those same areas of practice may also be accredited. Postdoctoral residencies in traditional (clinical, counseling, school) or specialty areas (forensic, developmental, family) of professional psychology are eligible for accreditation.
This accreditation is optional and schools must apply with the APA for such accreditation. Whether or not a school is granted the approval is based upon academic and program outcomes. Outcomes of interest to educators and accreditors include:
• Educational achievement/student learning — development of student knowledge and skills in academics overall or specific to a profession or occupation
• Indicators of performance — graduation rates, licensure pass rates, etc.
• Procedural compliance — the support structure for a quality program, e.g., schedules, course sequences, rules, deadlines, etc.
American Psychological Association Accreditation for Online Programs
Another limitation to APA accreditation is the lack of accreditation eligibility for online graduate programs in psychology. The APA noted in the 2012 article, What You Should Know About Online Education, that the APA’s Commission on Accreditation (COA) adopted an implementing regulation (Regulation C-27) that restricts doctoral programs that are largely or completely online from receiving APA accreditation. This means that in order for a doctoral psychology program to become APA accredited the majority of coursework must be completed in a traditional face-to-face format.
American Psychological Association Guidelines and Principles for Accreditation of Programs in Professional Psychology
What many undergraduate, Master’s Degree Level and online programs in psychology are choosing to do is adhere to the Guidelines and Principles for Accreditation of Programs in Professional Psychology. These guidelines lay out a number of curriculum recommendations, institutional and program specific directives that programs must abide by in order to receive APA accreditation. Whiles these non-doctoral level programs and online programs are not eligible for APA accreditation, they may still outline their attempts to follow the guidelines laid out by the APA’s Commission on Accreditation.
In spite of the fact that many programs are not eligible to become APA accredited, there are steps that each psychology program can take in order to become recognized by the APA. Additionally, undergraduate, Master’s Level and online psychology programs can seek out the accreditation of several other accrediting bodies such as the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE), the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). While APA accreditation is important for doctoral level psychology programs, other psychology programs are ineligible to become fully accredited by this body.