In the United States, programmatic accreditation is a non-governmental, peer-review process that assures the quality of the post-secondary education students receive and is voluntary. Academic programs volunteer to undergo this comprehensive review periodically to determine if certain criteria are being met. Accreditation is not a ranking system, it is simply assurance that a degree program meets quality standards established by the profession. Society of American Forester (SAF) accreditation applies to degree programs only, not departments, colleges, institutions, or individuals. Institutions like the SFWS choose SAF accreditation because it offers several benefits, such as peer-review, recognition of the program’s commitment to quality, and practical insights from the working professionals who review the programs. SAF is responsible for the accreditation of post-secondary degree-granting programs in forestry, urban forestry, natural resources and ecosystem management, and forest technology. When a degree program becomes SAF-accredited, it demonstrates to students, parents, and employers that the program:
- Participates in a structured process to assess, evaluate, and improve quality.
- Involves faculty, staff, and students in the self-assessment and continuous improvement process.
- Focuses on learning outcomes.
- Produces graduates who are well prepared for the profession.
- Meets education standards for registration, licensing, and certification boards.
With the self-study initiated in the fall of 2015, a site visit in spring 2016 and final review in November at the annual SAF Convention, the SAF Committee on Accreditation approved the SFWS forestry-based degrees for accreditation in early 2017, which will be valid through December 31, 2026.