CACREP and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)

This article addresses five frequently asked questions concerning CACREP and CAEP accreditation.

  • What is the difference between CACREP accreditation and CAEP accreditation?
  • What are the implications of the shared commonality between CACREP and CAEP for programs with CACREP-accredited counseling specializations?
  • Are all CACREP-accredited counseling specializations exempt from the CAEP review process?
  • What happens when a program accredited by another accreditor is included in the CAEP accreditation review process?
  • If my state requires our counseling specialization(s) to be included in the CAEP accreditation review process, should we continue to be CACREP-accredited?

What is the difference between CACREP accreditation and CAEP accreditation?

CACREP and CAEP are both specialized accreditors nationally recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). A primary difference between the two organizations has to do with the respective units of focus. CAEP accredits educator preparation providers, which may include, departments, schools, or colleges within an institution of higher education (IHE), or stand-alone/alternative providers which prepare teachers or other educators, regardless of the specific specialized programs within these units. CACREP solely accredits counseling specializations at the masters and doctoral levels. While their respective units of focus are different, the commonality that CACREP and CAEP share is that many counseling programs are housed in schools or colleges of education.

What are the implications of the shared commonality between CACREP and CAEP for programs with CACREP-accredited counseling specializations?

CACREP’s focus is solely on counseling programs. The CACREP accreditation standards are written by counselors for counselors. CACREP-accredited counseling programs have met the highest level national standards for counselor preparation in the United States. CAEP is an accreditor for a much broader unit of focus, schools or colleges of education. So, while both the CACREP and CAEP accreditation standards address common program elements such as knowledge, clinical practice, and continuous improvement, the CAEP standards address these components in a broader manner, non-specific to individual programs, while the CACREP standards address these components as they directly relate to counselor preparation. For example, while the CAEP standards speak broadly to clinical partnerships and practice across different types of educator preparation programs, the CACREP standards speak directly to required counseling practicum and internship experiences, including requisite direct and indirect contact hours, individual and group supervision hours, and faculty and site supervisor qualifications. CAEP, in recognition that there are specialized accreditors involved with different types of education-related preparation programs, with standards and processes more specific to these disciplines, allows programs accredited by specific accreditors, including CACREP, to exempt from the CAEP review process.

Are all CACREP-accredited counseling specializations exempt from the CAEP review process?

The answer to this question depends on individual state and IHE policies. Some states require that all schools or colleges of education in the state hold CAEP accreditation. Some others go a step further and require that all programs housed in a school or college of education, similarly be included in the CAEP review process. In the latter instance, even though CAEP policy permits the counseling program to exempt out of the CAEP review process, a CACREP-accredited counseling program would need to be included in the CAEP review. Even in the absence of a state requirement, some IHEs require all programs housed in a school or college of education to be included in the CAEP review. Each CACREP-accredited counseling program will need to determine the applicable requirements, if any, of the state and/or IHE in which it is located.

What happens when a program accredited by another accreditor is included in the CAEP accreditation review process?

For some disciplines, CAEP has approved a Specialized Professional Association (SPA) to define curricular content area standards. These are different than the specialized discipline-specific accreditation standards developed by an accreditor. The CAEP review would include a content review of these SPA standards by the SPA. In the absence of any SPA content standards, the program review would be conducted in relation to state standards, reviewed through the state approval process.

If my state requires our counseling specialization(s) to be included in the CAEP accreditation review process, should we continue to be CACREP-accredited?

While CACREP and CAEP are both nationally recognized accrediting organizations, accreditation by one of these organizations means very different things for a counselor preparation program. CAEP accreditation indicates that the school or college of education has met the CAEP educator preparation standards, and that, in some instances at the program level, there has been a discipline-specific content review against curricular standards developed by a professional membership association. In contrast, CACREP represents the gold standard of accreditation for counselor preparation programs. CACREP-accredited counseling programs evidence commitment to meeting the highest level national standards for counselor preparation in the United States, and to engaging in a discipline-specific peer review quality assurance process.

In addition, similar to state and IHE requirements that pertain to CAEP accreditation, there are requirements pertaining to CACREP accreditation. Some states require graduation from a CACREP-accredited specialty area as an eligibility criterion for counselor licensure or certification. Some others have an expedited pathway for licensure or certification tied to accreditation. The federal government requires graduation from a CACREP-accredited program for employment or independent practice privileges in certain federal programs, such as the US Department of Veterans Affairs. An additional benefit associated with CACREP accreditation is that CACREP has extensive public name recognition, associated with program quality, among current and prospective counseling students, counseling professionals, and policy makers.

Conclusion

An informed understanding of the similarities, differences, and relationship between CACREP and CAEP is important. CAEP and CACREP are not competitors. Each is a specialized professional accreditor with its own distinct, but sometimes overlapping, units of focus. Ultimately, the decision on securing CACREP accreditation and CAEP accreditation emerges not as an either/or question, but rather as a both/and consideration. Each accreditation serves a unique purpose within the quality assurance in higher education landscape, and they are not mutually exclusive. From a reporting perspective, the good news is that due to the level of specificity of the CACREP standards, CACREP-accredited specializations should be well poised to effectively and readily address the majority of CAEP’s broader review requirements.