In 1962, when the college was known as the Tacoma Vocational-Technical Institute, the Dental Assisting program made history as the first in the nation to earn American Dental Association accreditation.
Just one of two such programs in the northwest at the time (the other was at the University of Washington), a Sept. 26, 1962 article in the Tacoma News Tribune stated, “Since 1956, L.H. Bates, administrative director of the Institute, pointed out that the school’s program has been accredited by the Dental Assistant’s Association since shortly after the organization of the department in 1956.”
Mr. Bates was quoted, “We are proud of the high standards that have been maintained.”
Those words have remained true since then, as many other Bates career education programs have earned and maintained industry-specific accreditation.
Why is industry-specific accreditation important?
In addition to the college’s accreditation from the NWCCU*, many Bates programs hold industry-specific accreditation. These specialized accreditations mean that the programs meet or exceed professional standards. For example, an accredited Occupational Therapy Assistant program means that it meets the quality standards set by the occupational therapy assistant profession.
Graduating from an industry-accredited program ensures that students have successfully completed career-specific requirements set by the dental profession, said Dental Assisting program instructor Teri Amundsen.
The Dental Lab Technician program, which holds accreditation from the American Dental Association, is unique. The program is one of just two in the Pacific Northwest, and one of 17 nationwide.
Dental Lab Technician instructor Kris Merriman added that when graduates begin the job-search process, “it puts our student at a greater advantage over others who have been trained on the job…it gives them credibility and starts them on their way to become certified—and the potential for higher income,” she said.
Amundsen notes, “Employers in the dental field look for dental assistants who have completed ADA-accredited programs, because they know the demanding requirements for accredited programs, and they are confident that they will be hiring a highly-trained, well-prepared dental assistant.”
This year, three programs underwent an accreditation or re-accreditation process to further ensure graduates are work-ready when they leave college. Graduates of the Culinary Arts program, which received initial accreditation from the American Culinary Federation, can now refer to themselves as a Certified Culinarian®. The Dental Assisting and Dental Lab Tech programs are currently in the process of renewing their accreditation.
In 2011, the Occupational Therapy Assistant program began a self-study process to earn accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education—a requirement for all OTA and occupational therapy-related education programs across the nation.
“In May 2011, the program hosted three on-site evaluators who reviewed the curriculum and self-study report, and visited the classroom,” said Denise Tremblay, director of the OTA program at the college.
The first OTA program class graduated in 2011 while the program had conditional accreditation, and in 2012, the program was awarded five-year full accreditation, noted Tremblay. “Accreditation means that our program graduates meet standards in industry, and that our alumni can practice anywhere, nationwide,” said Tremblay.
“There are hundreds of standards a program has to meet,” said Tremblay of the accreditation process. “In this state, there are five OTA programs, and we were the fourth to earn accreditation.”
Tremblay said accreditation is important to hold and maintain. “When programs meet the rigorous industry standards and earn accreditation, they are well-placed to be one of the best programs the United States.”
*The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) is an independent, non-profit membership organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the regional authority on educational quality and institutional effectiveness of higher education institutions the Northwest.