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Guide to Starting an Academic Program in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD)

Section 4 – Seeking Accreditation: What You Need to Know

Understanding the Core Values and Benefits

The purpose of accreditation is to promote excellence and ongoing quality improvement in educational preparation while ensuring the public that graduates of accredited programs are educated in a core set of knowledge and skills for independent professional practice.

CAA-accredited academic programs have long been recognized as the standard for quality and consistency, not only by the students and the academic community but also by employers, state licensure boards, federal regulatory agencies, and related professional associations, as well as by consumers served by speech, language, and hearing practitioners.

The core values of CAA's accreditation program represent the essential and enduring guiding principles that have a profound impact on the quality of education provided by programs.

  • National recognition: Formally recognized as an accrediting agency by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and by the Council for Higher Education (CHEA) since the mid-1960s, the CAA is the only nationally recognized accrediting body for the discipline of communication sciences and disorders. CAA's scope of recognition is for the accreditation and preaccreditation ("accreditation candidate") throughout the United States of education programs in audiology and speech-language pathology leading to the first professional or clinical degree at the master's or doctoral level and the accreditation of these programs offered via distance education. Recognition as an accrediting agency by USDE affords CAA-accredited and candidate graduate education programs and their students' opportunities to apply for federal funding through programs such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Rehabilitation Act, as eligibility is granted only to programs accredited by a USDE-recognized agency. Recognition by both USDE and CHEA ensures continuing standards of excellence within the higher education community.
  • Quality: CAA-accredited programs provide a curriculum that covers the knowledge and skills required for independent professional practice in a variety of settings with a diverse client population. The criteria in place to seek and to maintain accreditation are designed to ensure students are provided education and training reflective of preferred practice patterns and emerging scopes of practice.
  • Voluntary: CAA-accredited programs are open to external review specific to their educational goals. Programs that participate in the self-study and review processes grow in quality and are better aligned with the professions as a result. CAA-accredited programs typically surpass the requirements of regional and other accrediting agencies and are recognized by the higher education community for their commitment to excellence.
  • Standards-based: Accreditation standards are developed by academic and practitioner members of the professions of audiology and speech-language pathology as a means of providing graduates with appropriate knowledge and skills for independent practice. Mechanisms to review and validate the Standards for Accreditation [PDF] include formal practice analyses and curriculum reviews, which are routinely conducted to validate standards for both professions and to further define the practice of audiology and speech-language pathology. These standards, developed for audiology and speech-language pathology, integrate the scientific principles of the CSD discipline.
  • Peer review: Peer review in CAA's accreditation process is practiced on more than one level. Development and review of the standards is conducted by members of the professional community. This broad participation results in curricula being updated in accordance with changing scopes of practice and also increases consistency from one program to another in terms of student learning outcomes. The CAA members and site visitors serve as peer reviewers for programs when reviewing accreditation applications and reports and providing critical feedback.

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