TD1 Studio desk critiques on April 21, 2016. Pictured: Unknown; Manuela Mariani, Assistant Director of Foundations Studio.
TD1 Studio desk critiques on April 21, 2016. Pictured: Unknown; Manuela Mariani, Assistant Director of Foundations Studio.

What is accreditation?

Accreditation, is a review of the quality of higher education institutions and programs. In the United States, accreditation is a major way that students, families, government officials, and the press know that an institution or program provides a quality education.

Any accreditation system includes five core elements:

  • The evaluation is carried out by a non-profit, non-governmental organization.
  • The program or institution prepares a self-evaluation report.
  • The program or institution hosts a visit by a team.
  • Judgments are made by peers who are trained.
  • The program has opportunities to respond to the process at certain points along the way.

What is architectural accreditation?

NAAB accreditation is the primary means by which professional degree programs in architecture assure quality to students and the public.

In addition to the five core elements, the NAAB system also relies on the work of students to demonstrate that the program is preparing all graduates with the knowledge and skills needed for the next steps in their careers, including experience and, examination.

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?

Architecture, like law and medicine, is regulated at the state level. The NAAB-accredited degree meets the education requirement for registration in all 55 U.S. jurisdictions; it is required in 38.

Graduating from a NAAB-accredited program does not guarantee registration. Nevertheless, those who have earned one are likely to complete the Architect Registration Examination is less time.