For prospective students interested in a hospitality management degree, ACPHA is an organization you should be able to recognize. The acronym stands for the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration. The purpose of the ACPHA is to identify educational programs in hospitality management that meet the organization’s own high standards of educational quality. Colleges and universities that are awarded accreditation status by ACPHA have proven the quality of their hospitality management programs, so students can feel confident that enrolling in these programs will give them a solid education in the field. ACPHA, which was founded in 1989, currently accredits more than 60 hospitality programs across the United States and 7 international programs.

Understanding College Accreditation


IMAGE SOURCE: Pixabay, public domain

If you’re not yet familiar with accreditation in general, this is a topic that it is important to get a handle on before you choose a college. Accreditation means that an outside organization not associated with the school has determined that the school meets a set of relevant standards that speak to the quality of the education it provides. Generally, there are two types of accreditation prospective students should be familiar with: programmatic and institutional.

ACPHA is an example of programmatic accreditation. Instead of being awarded to the college or university as a whole for meeting broader, more general quality standards, it is given specifically to the hospitality program and meets standards relevant to the field of hospitality management. Institutional accreditation tells you that the college or university as a whole offers a solid education, but it does not speak to the quality of the different degree programs offered by the institution.

Institutional accreditation may be conferred by either regional or national organizations, but students should be aware that national and regional accreditation are not the same. In fact, regional accreditation is usually considered better than national accreditation, because regional accreditation programs are considered more prestigious and their credits can be transferred more widely if you decide to change schools. Although ACPHA accreditation is a different type of accreditation than institutional accreditation, the organization only accredits institutions that are either regionally or nationally accredited.

The vast majority – 85 percent – of accredited schools have regional, rather than national, accreditation.

How Much Does ACPHA Accreditation Matter?

In some career fields, choosing an unaccredited degree program can be disastrous, preventing you from acquiring a mandatory professional credential that you need for your intended career. That’s usually not the case in the hospitality industry, since you aren’t required to attain a state license to work in the field as you are in occupations like doctor, nurse, lawyer, teacher and many others.

However, ACPHA accreditation has value, even if it isn’t required to work in the hospitality management professions. When you choose an accredited hospitality degree program, you can trust that the school has done a great deal of work not only to establish a high-quality educational program but also to prove the caliber of that program to an independent party, the ACPHA. The school must have already proven that its program was developed with clear objectives and has created the conditions that make those objectives attainable, as evidenced by the fact that these objectives are already being achieved and there is reason to expect continued achievement. In its pursuit of accreditation, the school must have completed an intensive self-study of its program that requires a great deal of analysis, insightful interpretation and soul-searching to better understand its strengths and weaknesses.

The Commission aims to improve the field of hospitality administration as a whole through its work in crafting high standards for educational programs to meet and serving as a guide to help schools achieve these goals. The objective isn’t to make all hospitality programs the same, but instead, to make sure all programs meet minimum requirements while allowing them to retain the diverse areas of focus and qualities that make their experience and education unique. Even if you determine that you only want to consider ACPHA-accredited hospitality management programs, you still need to do research in the exact curricula, concentration options, teaching facilities, professional development programs and hands-on experience opportunities these different schools offer to figure out which program is right for you.

The Commission bases accreditation decisions on a number of criteria, from the program’s curriculum to its administration and governments, from the teaching faculty to the student services and activities it offers. An ACPHA-accredited program excels in many areas.

Additional Resources

What Is Hospitality Management?

Is It More Worthwhile to Get a Job in the Hospitality Industry or Get a Degree?

What Are Some Courses I Might Take in a Bachelor’s Program of Hospitality Management?