Accreditation is a voluntary, nongovernmental process involving a rigorous external review of a program conducted by peers to ensure that the program meets a standard of excellence that provides a high quality of education for students graduating from the program.

Benefits of Accreditation

Accreditation is beneficial to:

Aspiring public administration students – helps them choose a high-quality program

An aspiring student might not be familiar with intricacies like competencies, quality of instruction, adequacy of library, and so forth. The fact that a program can advertise that it has been accredited by the specialized national body will provide assurance to aspiring students about the quality of your program.

Current students – provides them credibility with prospective employers

From their first day in a professional program, students are thinking about how to get their first job in their chosen field. They know that there will be many young, eager candidates in the job market. They will recognize the importance of any advantage that they can obtain to attract the attention of prospective employers.

Faculty members – gives them pride in the quality of their program

Accreditation will be an aid in recruiting and retaining the best faculty members. The fact that they are teaching in a program that has passed the highest test for programs in their discipline will give faculty members pride in their work.

Your program – provides an independent external validation of the quality of your program

Your program is already subject to an internal quality review just like all the other programs at your university. Accreditation provides external validation by an independent body that your program meets the standard of excellence established for comparable programs across the country. This also provides a benchmark to determine the level of resources that you need in order to maintain that position.

Your university – enhances the reputation of your university

All universities have an internal quality review mechanism. Accreditation enhances the reputation of a university by subjecting its programs to review by an external national body that views your program in comparison to others across the country.

Discipline of public administration – improves the quality of education for the discipline

Accreditation ensures the continuing quality and improvement of the discipline by establishing a standard of excellence for teaching programs.

Comments on CAPPA's Accreditation

Kathy Brock, Professor and Senior Fellow, Queen's University, and current chair of the Accreditation Board

David Siegel, former Dean, Brock University, and current member of the Accreditation Board

Accreditation Process

The Four Phases of Accreditation: Process & Department Responsibilities

CAB = CAPPA Accreditation Board

Phase 1 >>>
Phase 2 >>>
Phase 3 >>>
Phase 4
Preparation & Intent Self-Study Preparing for Site Visit Site Visit


  • Department Agreement
  • Present CAPPA videos on the value of accreditation to department
  • Consultation with CAB Chair/Advisor
  • File Intent to proceed with CAB or decide to postpone
  • Identify any potential reviewers with a conflict of interest


  • Review CAPPA information with department
  • Candidly assess readiness for accreditation noting strengths and weaknesses
  • Make any possible and necessary changes
  • Collect information and complete self-study template
  • Submit final self-study and signal readiness for site visit


  • Review Self-Study with CAPPA advisor
  • Review Self-Study with department
  • Identify key messages for reviewers


  • Schedule Site visit of 2 reviewers
  • Divide visit responsibilities among department members
  • Host visit and ensure strengths of program are known
  • Be frank about weaknesses and possible fixes
  • Provide any further documentation
Spring/Early Summer Autumn December/Early January January/February

Phase 1: Pre-Accreditation Preparation & Intent to Proceed (Spring/early Summer)

In this phase of accreditation, the department reviews the importance of accreditation for their program(s). The CAPPA website documentation and video will be helpful in explaining accreditation and its value to the departments. The Head or Director or designated lead on accreditation should outline the stages of accreditation. Ideally, the CAPPA Accreditation process should be conducted at the same time as another review to minimize workload to the department and to avoid “review fatigue.”

The department member in charge of the process, should consult the CAPPA Accreditation Board Chair and/or a CAPPA accreditation advisor to discuss the eligibility of the program for accreditation. At this stage, it may be useful to provide a short (5-10) page document outlining the key characteristics of the program(s) being considered for accreditation and the program mission statement if available. If the Board Chair and department representative decide that the program is not ready for accreditation, then they should identify what the department needs to do to begin the process and the appropriate timing for accreditation. If the program appears ready for accreditation and department chooses to go ahead, then it will send a formal request to the CAPPA Board Chair identifying which program(s) it would like accredited.

NOTE: In this stage, it is critical for departments to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the program(s) being considered for accreditation and the objectives of the program. The designated lead on the process should to discuss them candidly with the CAPPA Accreditation Board Chair or advisor. CAPPA recognizes that programs may have weaknesses or areas requiring improvement that may be due to factors beyond the department’s ability to address in the short term but will be interested in understanding how the department plans to address any such weaknesses or areas for improvement.

Phase 2: Conducting the Self-Study (September – November)

In this phase, the department should discuss the self-study template and prepare the relevant documentation. It will be helpful if the designated department member in charge of the process has reviewed the template and filled in any easily accessible information in advance of the department review. The department may wish to have a meeting dedicated to accreditation during which they identify the core strengths of the program and areas for improvement, keeping in mind the department mission statement since it will be critical to the program review. If the department does not have a mission statement, then developing one should be the first step in the self-study. The mission statement will state the goals of the department and thus provide the rationale for the programs it offers. Learning objectives then flow from the mission statement.

If the department is undergoing another review, much of the information prepared for that review may just require a summary document that can be inserted into the CAPPA Accreditation Self-Study template. The referenced material may then be included in an appendix using the format of either review. Be sure to include all of the areas identified on the CAPPA template.

The self-study should not exceed 45 pages excluding appendices. During the preparation of the self-study, the department may wish to consult the CAPPA accreditation advisor regarding any questions or uncertainties. If the department identifies critical omissions in its program during the discussion with the CAPPA advisor, it may elect to pause the accreditation process until changes can be made. The department should inform the CAPPA Accreditation Board Chair of this decision. The process will recommence when the department signifies its intention to resume the process to the Chair.

Once the self-study is completed to the satisfaction of the department, then the department head or designate submits it to the CAPPA Accreditation Board Chair and indicates readiness for a site visit.

Download: Self-Study Template (PDF) / Self-Study Template (Word)

Phase 3: Preparing for site visit

In Phase 3, the department head or designate should meet by phone/zoom with the CAPPA Accreditation Board Chair to advise the Chair of any concerns and any special conditions with the self-study. The CAPPA Accreditation Chair will advise the department of the two reviewers for the program(s), taking into account any reviewers with possible conflicts of interest as identified by the department.

The department should review the responsibilities of the department members during the visit. It is important to encourage faculty, staff, students and administrators to be candid and to understand the perspective of the department as expressed in the self-study. The site visit should be scheduled by the department designate with a clear itinerary for the reviewers including a block of time towards the conclusion of the visit for the reviewers to meet to discuss their report and obtain any additional material they require to conclude their review. It is also helpful to reserve time for the reviewers mid-review to consult on what they are hearing and review or request any new documentation.

Phase 4: Site Visit

The department will host the reviewers and supply any additional information that the reviewers deem necessary. The department should ensure the reviewers have time to confer and structure the outline of their report. Prior to their departure, the reviewers will give the department an indication of their assessment. The department may then supply any additional information that they believe is relevant to respond to any concerns expressed by the reviewers.

For additional background, please see: Accreditation Standards and Procedures

Report and Aftermath

Reviewer Report and Process

After the site visit and after any additional information has been received from the department, the reviewers will compose and submit their report to the CAPPA Accreditation Board.

As the reviewers write the report, they will advise the department if an emerging negative assessment is likely and the nature of their concern(s). The department will be given an opportunity to respond and provide any relevant documentation before the report is submitted by the reviewers to the Board.

If the reviewers still believe an emerging negative assessment is forthcoming, then they should advise the CAPPA Accreditation Board Chair of the nature of the concern. After consulting with the Accreditation Board, the Chair will discuss with the department representative how to proceed. The department may elect to pause the process to address the concern or it may choose to file additional information for the review pertaining to the concern raised. While the Accreditation Board cannot alter the report of the reviewers, it will take into account any such information filed by the department when it is making its decision on accreditation.

The Reviewer Report should be submitted to the Accreditation Board as two separate documents.

  • The main document should be prepared as the Report that is posted on the CAPPA website and should include the recommendation of the reviewers and their review of the program noting areas for improvement in a constructive manner.
  • The second document should be a confidential strategic memorandum that outlines the strengths and weaknesses of the program(s) and provides advice to the leadership of the department/school on matters which are especially important to ensure continued success and improvement in the future. The strategic memorandum  will not be a public document but will be confidential to the Board and department to allow for detailed candid comments. However, it is an integral part of the process intended to promote continuous improvement in programs and potentially provide the program leadership with assistance in making necessary changes or to obtain required resources for their programs.

Accreditation Board Decision

The Board will review the reviewers’ report and any additional information supplied by the department in response to concerns raised in the report. Based on the Board deliberations and decision, the Board Chair will inform the department of the accreditation decision. If there is an emerging negative decision, then the department will be advised and will be given the opportunity to reply and provide any additional information to answer concerns before the Accreditation Board takes its final decision.

Once the department has been informed of the Board decision and the department has had an opportunity to respond to that decision in writing, then the CAPPA Accreditation Board will post the Board letter to the department with the accreditation decision, the reviewer report and the department response(s) on the CAPPA website. The Accreditation Board will report its decisions to the CAPPA Board through its annual report.

For additional background, please see: Accreditation Board

Accreditation Resources

Studies and Reports on the Accreditation Process

Selected Pages from the NASPAA Website

Selected Pages from the Atlas of Public Management

Accreditation Logos

Accredited schools and programs can download one of the two logos below to use. To see a list of currently accredited schools please visit our Member Schools page. If you are just looking for the CAPPA/ACPAP logo, you can find on the Contact page.