Values, Objectives, and Purposes of Accreditation
in Journalism and Mass Communications


To accredit is to assure
basic standards of excellence

Accreditation is a system of voluntary self-assessment and external review of educational institutions and of professional programs offered by those institutions.
Accreditation provides an assurance of quality to students, parents, and the public.
In the accrediting process, the performance of educational units is measured against national standards.

The organization that oversees external review and grants accreditation of journalism and mass communications programs is the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC).


Objectives and Purposes of Accreditation

From the beginnings of our democratic society, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has provided guarantees of free press and free speech. These freedoms have enabled journalism and mass communications to become important, powerful components of American democracy.

Ideas, information, and images find expression in a variety of forms: newspapers, magazines, radio, television, advertising, public relations, business communications, databases, and other digital formats.

Practitioners in the media are held to high standards. Most practitioners by far learn skills, ethics, history, and theories of journalism and mass communications in professional programs at colleges and universities. Professors in these programs play a special role in preparing students for careers in journalism and mass communications.

ACEJMC supports the ideals of professional education through the accrediting process. Accredited programs must satisfy nine standards setting forth the objectives of professional education in journalism and mass communications. The standards encourage improvement and innovation and recognize the special or unique missions of individual institutions.


Values and Benefits of Accreditation

The process of accreditation requires a rigorous self-examination. Each unit measures its performance against its own mission and goals and against the nine accrediting standards. Once the self-study is completed, the unit undergoes external evaluation, first by a site-visit team composed of peers and practitioners, then by the Accrediting Committee. The full Accrediting Council makes final decisions on accreditation status.

Each unit that applies for accreditation is measured on its own performance. It is not compared with other units, nor are units ranked. ACEJMC encourages research and innovation. The thorough and detailed process of accreditation typically results in progress and improvement by each program. Seen from various perspectives, the value of accreditation becomes even more clear.

  • Students and prospective students
    Accreditation is an assurance of quality in professional education in journalism and mass communications. Students in an accredited program can expect to find a challenging curriculum, appropriate resources and facilities, and a competent faculty. Accredited programs may offer scholarships, internships, competitive prizes, and other activities unavailable in non-accredited programs.
  • Parents
    Parents want to know their children will have an educational experience of high quality that will help prepare them for a career. Accredited programs in journalism and mass communications offer the assurance that they have been evaluated by academic peers and leading practitioners and have met the tests of the nine standards.
  • Secondary teachers and guidance counselors
    High-school teachers and guidance counselors can influence students' choices of college or career. To these advisers, accreditation provides a sound basis for recommendation.
  • College and university administrators
    Accreditation provides external validation to university administrators that a program on their campus is recognized by national academic and professional organizations. Many administrators believe that accreditation confers prestige, which aids in fund-raising.
  • Accredited programs
    Measuring the educational merit and relevance of the program typically brings improvements, both through the internal examination by the staff and administrators and through the insights of external evaluators. More-over, accreditation enhances the stature and reputation of a program.
  • Media and mass communications professionals
    Practitioners seeking to hire entry-level or more experienced candidates know that accredited programs prepare students with a solid professional education and a firm grounding in the liberal arts and sciences.
  • Governmental and public agencies
    Accredited status is an important criterion in the evaluation by government agencies of proposals to fund scholarships and research.
  • The public
    To a public concerned about the performance of the media, accreditation offers an assurance that those entering journalism and mass communications are appropriately educated.

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.


The Process of Accreditation

The ACEJMC has developed a process of accreditation that follows four steps.
  • The unit undertakes a self-study, a rigorous and detailed examination of the program by faculty, administrators, and students.
  • A team consisting of educators and professionals visits the campus to assess curriculum, faculty, administration, students, facilities, and resources.
  • The national Accrediting Committee, composed of educators and professionals, each year reviews and discusses the reports of all the site teams and votes whether to recommend each unit to the Accrediting Council for accreditation.
  • The national Accrediting Council reviews the work of the site teams and the recommendations of the Accrediting Committee and takes final action.

Meetings of the Accrediting Committee and Accrediting Council are open. The accrediting process offers opportunities for units to respond to the findings of the site teams and the Committee and to appeal actions of the Council.


The History of ACEJMC

Accreditation in journalism and mass communications was established in 1945. The organization formed to administer accreditation was called the American Council on Education in Journalism. The name was changed in 1980 to the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.

ACEJMC is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the agency that accredits programs for professional education in journalism and mass communications at colleges and universities in the United States.

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