Cost and Timing: Key Considerations in Choosing an Accrediting Body

Earning and maintaining accreditation is one of the most significant decisions an organization will make.  Accreditation can affect your organization’s policies, procedures, scope of services, and personnel levels, among others, for the foreseeable future.  Which accreditation is most appropriate for your agency?  While there are many factors that must be considered when choosing an accrediting body, two that are consistently at the top of the list are cost and timing.


  • The three main accrediting bodies, CARF, Council on Accreditation (COA), and The Joint Commission, generally are comparable in cost when considering length of accreditation, although The Joint Commission charges the highest fees.
  • COA offers discounts, sometimes considerable, for maintaining current memberships with any of its national association partners. Holding such memberships can provide substantial cost benefits to agencies that hold COA accreditation. Additionally, COA’s accreditation is for a period of four years, which makes a difference in the cost per year.
  • CARF uniquely offers the option of accrediting one or more specific programs or services, unlike COA and The Joint Commission, that only accredit entire organizations. Depending upon the needs of your agency, this can provide significant financial savings.
  • Note, each of the accrediting bodies will be happy to give you an accurate cost quote for your organization, which should be done as part of your due diligence.


  • How quickly does your organization need accreditation? While The Joint Commission typically requires the least amount of calendar time (a survey is generally completed within three to four months), depending upon your programs and scope of services, there may be numerous requirements that must be completed in a condensed timeframe.
  • Of the three main accrediting bodies, COA generally requires the greatest lead time of between 12 and 18 months to complete its self-review process, including six months of accreditation standards implementation.
  • The CARF accreditation process generally takes 12 months or more and, like COA, requires organizations to demonstrate a minimum of six months of compliance with all accreditation standards.
  • Completing Accreditation Guru’s free Accreditation Readiness Self-assessment can provide a better idea of how long it will take your organization to prepare for accreditation.

While cost and timing are key considerations when choosing an accrediting body, there are additional components that should be evaluated before an agency makes its determination. Be sure to watch for our upcoming post, Key Considerations in Choosing an Accrediting Body (Part II), that will address factors including the accrediting body’s reputation, the ability of your agency to meet an accreditor’s requirements, and how best to weigh desired benefits against what an accrediting body offers. To determine whether your agency is ready to seek accredited status, we invite you to take our free Accreditation Readiness Assessment at

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