Accreditation in Psychology & Related Questions
Many students, prospective students and others not familiar with all aspects of higher education and psychology are confused as to just what accreditation means, the varieties of accreditation which exist and to what kinds of educational institutions and programs any of these types of accreditation apply. Other questions and confusions relate to distinctions made between accreditation, certification, licensing and professional organizations. This statement is written to help clarify these matters, particularly as they relate to psychology students, and graduates of the University of West Georgia.
Every region in the United States has an accrediting agency to which colleges, universities, and schools, both public and private, apply when they feel they have met that agency's standards. In the South, this accrediting agency is called the Southern Association for Colleges and Schools (SACS); in the West, it is called Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). The University of West Georgia is and has been fully accredited by SACS, as are most of West Georgia's sister institutions, e.g., University of Georgia, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Emory, North Georgia, etc. Accreditation by such an agency means that all programs in that institution, such as English, History, Psychology, etc. are fully accredited. Since West Georgia is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, its psychology programs are fully accredited at the regional level.
Some, although not many, states also have accrediting agencies. Newer schools or colleges will often first apply for state approval to grant degrees before they are ready to apply for regional accreditation. Sometimes in reading a directory of schools, it will state: "Approved by the State (of California), or State Accredited."
Special Discipline and Area Accreditation
Some schools may want to format and orient their programs in special ways, such as "home study", i.e., where the student can do much or most of his or her program by correspondence, TV, etc. Some accrediting agencies specialize in this type of program and accredit such institutions. Some disciplines within more conventional schools or colleges, such as Education, Business, and Nursing seek special accreditation for a program at the Bachelor's, Master's, Specialist, or Doctoral levels. The standards for such accreditation are set by agencies giving particular attention to that discipline or profession. For example, the University of West Georgia's Psychology Department is fully accredited by the Consortium for Diversified Psychology Programs (CDPP). The CDPP is an association of programs in psychology committed to unique career professionals and mature learners. It is further committed to alternative processes that enhance diversity and enable access to graduate education for a wide range of students who might otherwise not be able to pursue degrees in professional psychology.
The American Psychological Association accredits only doctoral level programs and, even among these, only those which are professional in design. General, experimental, or other types of liberal arts doctoral programs are not accredited by the APA. Clinical, Clinical-Counseling, and other such professional training programs which offer a doctorate, (e.g., a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. degree), in these special areas may apply for APA accreditation. No Master's programs in psychology of any sort are accredited by the APA. Thus there is no APA accreditation possibility for the University of West Georgia psychology program or any other Master's level psychology program anywhere at another educational institution. APA
Difference Between Accreditation, Licensing and Certification
Whereas accreditation is something any appropriate educational program or institution may apply for from an agency which usually is not of the state or municipality, licensing is done by a state or local agency publicly legislated and sanctioned. Many professionals are approved and regulated by state licensing boards, e.g., plumbers, counselors, carpenters, nurses, etc. These boards set their own criteria for individuals applying and often this will include specification of some sort of professional training and educational background. These agencies establish tests for individuals applying to practice in their particular state or locale. They often have ethics boards to take up complaints in addition to the Professional Ethics Boards that are established by the professions themselves, e.g., the American Psychological Association or The Georgia Psychological Association. Certification is another means by which a state controls practice, by establishing levels of educational accomplishment. Typically a candidate seeking a certain level of certification must meet designated educational and other specific criteria.
What is APA?
APA is the American Psychological Association. It is the organization which represents all kinds of psychology and related areas, including academic psychology and professional psychology. Its membership consists of psychologists, or those in related areas, at all levels of membership and from all areas of the field. Only one part of APA is devoted to educational and accrediting functions. APA's traditional and still central function is to provide support for all psychologists, e.g., those engaged in research, practice, teaching, etc. APA
There exist also regional and state psychology organizations such as the Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA) and the Georgia Psychological Association (GPA). These represent psychologists and others in related areas at more local levels.
Another association is the American Psychological Society, a recent break-off organization from the APA. One of its main reasons for coming into being was its feeling that the APA had come too much to represent only the professional practice side of the field.
All these are professional organizations where psychologists meet, exchange views and papers, and discuss common issues. Most professional organizations have special student rates available for membership.