What Is Accreditation?

Accreditation is a process by which an agency or institution evaluates and recognizes a course of study, such as Fire Science Program, or an institution, such as a college or university, as meeting certain predetermined standards.

Accreditation is awarded only to programs or institutions, not to individuals. Thus, a program may be accredited by an agency, such as the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC Opens in new window) or the National Professional Qualifications Board (NPQB Opens in new window); a college may be accredited by one of the several regional accrediting agencies.

For colleges and universities, accreditation is essential to their ability to award recognizable degrees.

The objectives of accreditation is stated as follows:

  • To create organizational motivation and self-improvement
  • To provide a voluntary activity focused on self-evaluation and education as a viable means to improve service delivery
  • To provide a means to recognize quality performance
  • To protect the interests of the general public

Generally, accrediting agencies set standards by which agencies, programs, and institutions are measured, and they define the evaluation process.

Most accreditation programs involve a self-assessment by the agency, program, or institution itself, a process that can take several years. This is followed by a brief (2 to 3 days) on-site visit by a team representing an independent accrediting body to validate the self-assessment.

The team will issue a report of its findings, commenting on the strengths and weaknesses of the organization and will make recommendations for further improvement. The report is usually first presented to the applicant for validation and then to the accrediting agency.

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