Accreditation refers to the official, voluntary, and time-limited certification that a school or organization receives to designate that its programs meet the standardized criteria set by a nongovernmental external regulator.
The accreditation of programs that serve to train professionals within an industry are often established to ensure the health, welfare, and safety of the public and other important stakeholders with whom the future professionals might work. Accreditation also provides a benchmark by which potential students can compare similar but non-accredited programs to determine the level of quality of the training. Accredited programs are periodically reviewed for reaccreditation by the agencies that uphold industry standards in order to ensure that they continue to meet and/or adapt to the ever-changing industry standards.
The process of accrediting a certifying organization, academic program, or institution is carried out by the accrediting agencies that develop and periodically update quality standards to meet the needs of the profession.
While the process of accreditation can vary, it generally begins with an organizational self-study whereby program constituents internally evaluate the program against the identified quality standards. The accrediting agency then conducts an external peer-evaluation that consists of a review of the self-study materials and potentially a visit with program officials for further evaluation. While accreditation is usually awarded for a limited period of time before reaccreditation is necessary, the length of time can vary based upon the degree to which a program has met the established
Within the field of sport psychology, there is potential for both academic programs and certifying organizations to receive accreditation. The agencies responsible for evaluating sport psychology programs and organizations for accreditation vary from country to country and may utilize differing evaluation standards, criteria, and processes. Because sport psychology is an interdisciplinary field, academic programs are often housed in various colleges/departments, including kinesiology, psychology, counseling, and education. Some of these larger divisions may also require additional specific accreditations to meet their educational/professional missions and guidelines.
While the term accreditation is generally used to identify the process of certifying programs, in some instances it has been used synonymously with the term certification to signify that an individual possesses the minimum necessary knowledge, skills, and understanding to be a competent practitioner.
***Contributed by Jack C. Watson II & Carra Johnson for Hackfort, D., Schinke, R. J., & Strauss, B. (Eds.). (2019). Dictionary of sport psychology: sport, exercise, and performing arts. Academic Press.