This article will examine the differences in Institutional and Programmatic accreditation as they relate to childhood development and childhood education degrees in the United States.
There are several accreditation organizations for colleges and universities, as well as the programs each offer. The most common is regional accreditation for public, private, and non-profit degree-granting two and four-year learning institutions. There are eight regional accreditors divided as follows: West, Northwest, North, South, Middle or North Central, and New England. The independent accrediting agencies oversee nearly 3,000 institutions and assure quality education through designated standards to over 17 million students.
Regional vs. National Accreditation
National agencies typically accredit vocational, technical, or career-based, for-profit schools, for example, the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. One of the differences between regional and national accrediting agencies is the transfer of credits earned. Most regionally accredited institutes will not accept credits from nationally accredited institutes and vice versa. However, most nationally accredited schools will accept degrees and courses taken at regionally or nationally accredited schools.
Specialized and non-traditional institutions such as vocational colleges, technical colleges, religious colleges, and online universities are under the purview of national accreditation agencies.
Programmatic Accreditation, as the name implies, accredits individual programs, departments, and schools within institutions that have already received accreditation. In the U.S., there are sixty-one accrediting agencies and professional associations. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accredits schools offering degrees from associate to doctoral in child education and child development.
The NAEYC Commission on the Accreditation of Early Childhood Higher Education Programs announced in the summer of 2019 that it granted first-time accreditation to early childhood degree programs at six institutions of higher education. As of this date, there are 206 institutions with accredited programs in 40 states.
NAEYC Accredited vs. NAEYC Recognized
There is a clear distinction between the above two. The former is the highest level of educational quality assurance. The courses and study plan comply with the Professional Preparation Standards of NAEYC.
Recognition means the program aligns with the same professional standards. Undergraduate and graduate early childhood degree programs submit an electronic report as part of a review by the Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation (CAEP).
A team of reviewers from the NAEYC conducts an onsite three-day visit to the school before granting accreditation. There is no site visit for recognition status.
The reviewers submit their report to the Commission on the Accreditation of Early Childhood Higher Education Programs, an arm of the NAEYC. The Commission renders accreditation decisions regarding early childhood degree programs at institutions of higher education.
What about Childhood Development Accreditation?
There does not appear to be an agency devoted to accrediting programs for child development. A review of the 206 institutions with NAEYC program accreditation reveals degrees such as Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Child Development, AAS in Early Childhood Education, AAS in Early Care Education, Bachelor of Arts in Child Development, B.S. Ed. Early Childhood Development and Learning, B.S. Child Study, B.S. in Early Childhood Education, Master of Education (M.Ed.) Child and Family Studies, and Master of Arts in Teaching-Middle Grades (MAT). You can find all of these examples listed at the NAEYC Directory.
Childhood Education vs. Childhood Development
There are differences between these two disciplines. The first term refers to a child’s education from pre-kinder through high school. Within those years, there are areas of specialization, particularly in the childhood years, as they pertain to this topic.
Child development assumes an approach that involves a child’s abilities, both physically and mentally. The professional in this role will address the child’s behavior, social interactions, and cognitive skills.
Therefore, education can vary with the area of focus, i.e., education or development. However, there is an overlap in childhood education and development. Concordia University/St. Paul, for example, offers a Bachelor of Arts in Child Development online (NAEYC accredited program). Their curriculum covers education, social, and emotional developmental issues. A sampling of the classes is Human Diversity, Child Social and Emotional Growth, Children’s Play, Early Childhood Education Practices, and Writing for Educators.
Another example is the undergraduate program at Central Michigan University’s College of Education and Human Services. Within this college, the Department of Human Development and Family Studies offers a major in Early Childhood Development and Learning. This program has NAEYC accreditation.
Is Accreditation Important?
One way to answer the question is to glance at online job sites with postings in the child development and education field. Most jobs we looked at do not stipulate that your degree must have programmatic accreditation. Careers in education will require the respective state’s teaching license or certification. California, as an example, requires early childhood educators to have a child development permit issued by the state’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC).
Do different states have different versions of certification for jobs in Child Development?
How long does it take to get a Masters in Child Development?
What are the differences between an online and campus Master’s for Child Development?
What are some of the best schools for an Online Masters in Child Development?
What are the professional organizations for people in Child Development?
Are there Master’s programs in Curriculum and Instruction?