What is accreditation?
Accreditation, in general, is a process of external quality review used to scrutinize colleges, universities and educational programs for quality assurance and quality improvement. In the United States, accreditation is carried out by private, nonprofit organizations designed for this specific purpose. Institutions and educational programs seek accredited status as a means of demonstrating their academic quality to students and the public.
What is architectural accreditation?
NAAB accreditation is the primary means by which professional degree programs in architecture assure quality to students and the public. Accredited status is a signal to students and the public that a program meets basic standards for its faculty, curriculum, student services and libraries. The accrediting process is intended to verify that each accredited program substantially meets those standards that, as a whole, comprise an appropriate education for an architect. Since most state registration boards in the United States require any applicant for licensure to have graduated from a NAAB-accredited program, obtaining such a degree is an essential aspect of preparing for the professional practice of architecture.
What is the process for an architecture program to become accredited?
Accreditation of architectural programs takes place on a cycle that may range from every few years to as many as eight years. Accreditation is ongoing–the initial earning of accreditation is not entry to indefinite accredited status. Periodic review is a fact of life for programs. Self-accreditation is not an option. An architecture program seeking accreditation must go through a number of steps stipulated by NAAB. These steps involve a combination of several tasks:
- Self-study: Programs prepare a written summary of performance based on the NAAB Conditions and Procedures for Accreditation.
- Peer review: Accreditation review and site visits are conducted by a team of educators, practitioners, regulators and students. These colleagues review the self-study and serve on the visiting team that reviews the program after the self-study is complete. Teams, in addition to the peers described above, may also include public members (non-academics who have an interest in architectural education), program sponsored observers or NAAB observers. All team members are volunteers and are not compensated.
- Preparation of visiting team report (VTR): The visiting team prepares the VTR at the end of the visit. The report includes progress since the previous site visit, conditions met, conditions not met and causes of concern. The team recommends a term of accreditation to the NAAB board. The team’s recommendation remains confidential.
- Action (judgment) by the NAAB Board: Based on a reading of the VTR, the NAAB directors may determine a term of accreditation for new programs, reaffirm accreditation for ongoing programs, or deny accreditation to a program.
- Ongoing external review: Architecture programs continue to be reviewed over time on cycles that range from every few years to eight years.
Why should I choose an accredited architecture program?
Most state registration boards in the United States require an applicant for licensure to have graduated from a NAAB-accredited program, obtaining such a degree is an essential aspect of preparing for the professional practice of architecture. While graduation from a NAAB-accredited program does not assure registration, the accrediting process is intended to verify that each accredited program substantially meets those standards that, as a whole, comprise an appropriate education for an architect. Further, the NAAB-accredited degree is the principal means for meeting for the education requirement for an NCARB Certificate.