As a program director, administrator or supervisor, you likely strive for accreditations that give your institution a competitive advantage and boost your students’ future careers. Accreditation shows that your program meets certain criteria and quality standards and continually improves through self-study and review. An American Psychological Association (APA) accreditation is a particularly honorable achievement that ensures your program meets nationally endorsed standards for clinical psychology and related degrees.
While achieving accreditation provides long-term credibility and demonstrates consistency between program goals and outcomes, it can be a challenging and time-consuming process. To make this process easier, you can implement software that simplifies documentation and streamlines your program outcomes to make meeting APA accreditation standards much easier and more efficient.
What is APA Accreditation?
The American Psychological Association is the only programmatic accreditation agency authorized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit certain psychology programs. Receiving an APA accreditation ensures students, faculty and the general public that your program meets specific professional, scientific and quality standards that support the skillful and ethical delivery of psychological services.
The APA only accredits doctoral and postgraduate internships and residencies in school psychology, counseling psychology and clinical psychology programs. Accreditation is voluntary, meaning program directors and institutions must choose whether they want to apply for it. However, APA accreditation is seen as the gold standard in the world of psychology.
Accreditation is a stamp of approval that shows potential students and faculty that your program successfully meets the APA’s Standards of Accreditation and prepares graduates to provide research-based services associated with improved well-being. This achievement also signifies that your program is committed to external review and seeks to continuously enhance the quality of education and training for students.
APA Accreditation Requirements and Standards
The specific standards you need to meet to achieve an APA accreditation depend on the type of program you offer. Doctoral programs, doctoral internships and postdoctoral residencies all have slightly different standards and requirements. For example, an APA-accredited Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program student must complete substantial training in research methods and statistics to independently produce new scientific knowledge.
A Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) program student must be able to apply scientific knowledge of psychology and deliver empirically based service to individuals, groups and organizations. Both programs must ensure that all students have the minimum training and competency necessary for serving clients and treating patients.
The APA Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA) lists the scope of accreditation for students studying to provide psychological services to the general public in three categories of programs, which include:
- Doctoral programs
- Internship programs
- Postdoctoral residency programs
The APA-CoA reviews the doctoral and internship programs to ensure they provide broad and general training in scientific psychology. Practice areas in this program include school psychology, counseling psychology and clinical psychology, as well as general professional psychology. As for postdoctoral residencies, the CoA reviews whether the program has provided education and training at an advanced level of competency in a traditional area of psychology, including clinical, counseling, school or another area.
In previous years, the APA-CoA only extended its accreditation to doctoral, internship and postdoctoral residency psychology programs. However, after nearly 70 years of debate, the Council of Representatives enabled the American Psychological Association to develop a system of accreditation in health service areas of psychology for master’s programs. In December 2022, The APA listed the most recent education and training requirements for the accreditation of health service psychology programs at the master’s level. These standards of accreditation for health service psychology degrees at the master’s level must include the following:
- Integration of psychological science and practice.
- Evidence-based and research-informed practice.
- Sequential, cumulative training that is graded in complexity and prepares students for higher education practice.
- Actions that uphold respect for and understanding of diversity and cultural and individual differences.
To become accredited, The CoA must review the programs in a multistep process to ensure it meets the Standards of Accreditation. First, your program must submit a self-study document that contains specific information regarding your training, including:
- Program policies and procedures
- Student, faculty and financial resources
- Competencies students must obtain
- Outcome data that reflect the achievement of these competencies
Once you submit this self-study, the APA-CoA will conduct their review. If your application is accepted, the APA will send a team to conduct an on-site review of your institution or program. If your self-study is denied, it means it does not sufficiently align with the overall accreditation guidelines.
Which States Require APA Accreditation for Licensure?
Accreditation in any state is important for facilitating achievements and reflecting a program or institution’s quality. While some higher education degrees only require an institutional accreditation, there are certain states that require APA accreditation for licensure, which include:
Some states that do not require APA accreditation for psychologists include:
In many states, however, including some of those listed above, programs that are not APA-accredited may be accepted if they meet standards published by the State Board. This means your program must be reviewed to determine if it meets certain educational criteria.