Accreditation is a system for declaring that a program or institution meets established quality standards to provide assurance and confidence to the public. In the United States, accreditation is a voluntary, non-governmental, peer review process which provides a means of evaluating a program or institution (e.g. training program, school, college, hospital, etc.) against a set of established standards set by a profession or industry. Accreditation seeks to enhance the quality of a program/ institution by promoting self-evaluation; encouraging quality improvement; and providing public accountability by ensuring specific criteria are met. Accreditation in education includes two types of accreditation: institutional and specialized or programmatic accreditation.
Institutional accreditationevaluates overall institutional quality that provides education. (i.e., faculty/personnel, administration, finances, facilities, etc.). Examples of institutional accreditors include regional accreditation of colleges and universities: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Commission on Colleges, Western Association for Schools and Colleges (WASC); and career college accreditors: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT).
Specialized/programmatic accreditation focuses on specific programs of study, rather than an institution as a whole. The focus is on the particular curriculum, faculty, evaluation, and training related to the specific field of study. Specialized /programmatic accreditors require the institution to be accredited by an institutional accreditation, and only look at the specific training in their defined practice area. Many of these accreditation programs are conducted by the specific profession (e.g. dentistry, nursing, pharmacy) primarily to provide the public with assurance of the quality of the educational preparation of individuals that work within that profession. In pharmacy there are two major specialized/programmatic accreditors that review pharmacy education programs:
- The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE)accredits the Doctor of Pharmacy degree program for pharmacists, as well as continuing education program providers for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians' continuing education.
- ASHP and the Commission on Credentialing (COC) accredits pharmacy technician training programs and pharmacy residency programs that are postgraduate training programs for pharmacists.