Initial Publication Date: April 13, 2015

Accreditation of Geoscience Programs

Community Discussion

Accreditation is a complicated issue with many pros and cons. We invite you to participate in a community discussion of this topic by joining the Building Strong Geoscience Departments email list ( You may also browse the email list archives. As an introduction to the conversation, read Tim Bralower's, Eric Barron's, and Mike Phillips' thoughts, posted to the email list in March, 2008. Contact Carol Ormand if you would like to post a statement here as well.

Accreditation Through ABET and AMS

In Comparison of Existing Approaches to Accreditation and Assessment (Acrobat (PDF) 1.4MB Mar23 09), his presentation from the fall 2008 meeting of the American Geophysical Union, Wayne Pennington (Dept. of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, Michigan Technological University) presents the details of accreditation through ABET and AMS. In the process, he outlines their requirements and addresses a number of prevalent misconceptions about accreditation.

2008 Survey of Geoscience Professionals

A consortium of professional societies, including the Geological Society of America, conducted a survey addressing accreditation for geoscience programs. The purposes of the survey were to

  1. determine the level of interest in establishing some form of academic accreditation for undergraduate programs in the U.S., and
  2. determine the characteristics of such a program that are most desirable.
Read the raw results of the survey, or see the published report in GSA Today (see references).

Meteorology and Accreditation

Meteorology programs around the US considered accreditation some years ago and, after some quite thorough research on the topic, decided to back away. The AMS instead has developed a recommended undergraduate curriculum. ( This site may be offline. ) One of the largest employers of meteorology graduates, the National Weather Service, has its own criteria for employment, which universities respect to ensure their graduates qualify. This analog may not apply directly to the geoscience departments, which have broader curricular scope (Takle, personal communication, 2008).

National Geography Standards

Geographers, in an effort to provide a clear statement of what it geography contributes to society, wrote a document entitled Geography for Life. The document was produced by the Geography Education Standards Project on behalf of American Geographical Society, the Association of American Geographers, the National Council for Geographic Education, and the National Geographic Society. The National Geography Standards address what everyone should know about the subject, what constitutes geographic skills, and how they can be developed.

References and Additional Readings

  • Bralower, T. et al., 2008. Accreditation: Wrong Path for the Geosciences: GSA Today, v. 18, n. 10, p. 52-53.
  • Corbett, R. and Corbett, E., 2001. Geology Programs and Disciplinary Accreditation (more info) : Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 49, n. 2, p. 130-134.
    This report raises the question of whether accreditation may be coming to the geology discipline, and attempts to quantify the positions on accreditation of academic department heads/chairs. The study makes a distinction between institutional and specialized (or disciplinary) accreditation and explores attitudes toward both types. Results of the analysis are presented with a discussion of two methods of data interpretation, a multivariate analysis technique and the Chi square test for heterogeneity or independence. The report concludes that there is currently insufficient support for establishing disciplinary accreditation in geology.
  • Corbett, R. G., 2000. Academic Departments' Views of Accreditation: The Professional Geologist, v. 37, n. 4, p. 126-127.
  • Drummond and Markin, 2008. An Analysis of the Bachelor of Science in Geology Degree as Offered in the United States: Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 56, n. 2, p. 113-119.
    This analysis of degree programs in the U.S. provides departments undergoing program review a basis for comparison with other institutions and national norms.
  • GSA Ad Hoc Committee on Accreditation, 2008. Report: GSA Ad Hoc Committee on Accreditation: GSA Today, v. 18, n. 9, p. 64-67.