Methods and Principles of Accreditation

Accreditation of specialized academic programs in the United States takes place outside the control of government. This separation differs from practices in most other countries; in fact, the emphasis on voluntary peer review is unique in the world. The non-governmental nature of accreditation has special meaning in journalism and mass communications because of the guarantees of free press and free speech in the First Amendment.

Accreditation by ACEJMC is voluntary. Educational units must initiate the process through a rigorous self-evaluation. ACEJMC accredits units (colleges, schools or departments) that offer, as a major part of their curriculum, professional programs to prepare students for careers in journalism and mass communications.

Bachelor’s and master’s degree programs at four-year colleges and universities are eligible to apply for accreditation. To maintain accreditation, a unit must be reviewed every six years.

ACEJMC is strongly committed to the idea that journalism and mass communications majors should get a broad background in the liberal arts and sciences in addition to the skills and theories taught in professional programs. Graduates need a solid foundation in such fields as economics, basic sciences, environment, ethics, law, political science, and history. These fields are central to the information they will handle. The accrediting standards require that students take about 75 percent of their course loads in liberal arts and sciences courses taught outside the journalism/mass communications unit.

The nine standards that constitute the basis of accreditation were developed by educators and working professionals. They recognize institutional diversity: the unique mission, situation, and resources of each program. The standards by which units are evaluated cover such areas as instruction, curriculum, teaching, facilities, resources, research, and diversity.

Each unit is asked to identify its own goals and challenges. In the accrediting process, a unit is measured on how effectively it has met its own goals in the context of the standards.