Pre-accreditation is not within the scope of recognition the ACEN has with the United States Department of Education (USDE). Any program/institution granted Candidacy may not use the ACEN Candidacy status to seek or gain Title IV eligibility or eligibility for any other federal funding.

The ACEN accredits nursing programs in the United States and its territories as well as international nursing programs. This includes nursing programs of six program types: clinical doctorate, master’s, baccalaureate, associate, diploma, and practical. In addition, the ACEN accredits stand-alone post-master’s certificate programs as well as stand-alone DNP Specialist certificate programs.

The journey of program improvement and peer review begins with eligibility for Candidacy, continues with the achievement of Candidacy itself, and culminates with the initial accreditation process.  We welcome you to use this webpage and the resources here as you take your first steps along the journey towards initial accreditation.

Illustration of the eligibility and Candidacy process. Click to enlarge.

The Candidacy process also represents an opportunity to work with ACEN’s Directors, who offer valuable mentorship and guidance to programs pursuing Candidacy and initial ACEN accreditation. If you have any questions regarding either eligibility or Candidacy, do not hesitate to contact the ACEN office at +1 (404) 975-5000. Ask to speak to a Director regarding the process.

Candidacy is essentially the same for domestic and international programs and is the first step toward ACEN initial accreditation. Programs can pursue the Candidacy process at any time. A program does not need to have graduates in order to achieve initial accreditation with the ACEN. Nursing education units can also bring multiple programs (e.g., master’s, baccalaureate, and associate; associate and practical) through the Candidacy and initial accreditation process simultaneously. The program leaders determine the timing of the Candidacy process as well as the initial accreditation visit after having achieved Candidate status. Based on programs that were granted initial accreditation, the overall process can be completed in as little as nine months or can take as long as four years.

The first step toward achieving Candidacy is determining if the nursing program and its governing organization are eligible to pursue ACEN accreditation. Once eligibility is determined, the second step towards Candidacy begins.


Eligibility is a process that affirms that a nursing program and its governing organization meet all ACEN requirements to be granted initial accreditation. The eligibility process also provides the ACEN with contact information and an overview of the size, scope, and delivery methods of the program or programs applying, allowing the ACEN to work with programs as they pursue ACEN accreditation. It serves as the all-important first step toward Candidacy and, eventually, initial ACEN accreditation.

To initiate the eligibility process, the program should submit a Candidacy Eligibility Application (CEA). The applications are slightly different for nursing programs in the United States and its territories and international programs. The CEA and the requested supporting documents are submitted electronically at the link provided. Applicant programs must provide evidence of current approval by the appropriate state regulatory agency for nursing as well as the governing organization’s accreditation/approval status (where appropriate). Upon receipt, the application is processed, and the applicant program is then notified regarding its eligibility to begin the Candidacy process. The program will provide the ACEN with a signed Authorization for Candidacy form.  Once an applicant program and its governing organization are deemed eligible, the program will have up to one calendar year to begin the actual Candidacy process, which is described in the Candidacy section of this page.

The Candidacy Eligibility Applications can be accessed here:


Once the program has been deemed eligible in accordance with ACEN Policy #3 Eligibility for Initial and Continuing Accreditation, and has paid the required Candidacy application fee, it will submit a Candidacy Presentation for review by the professional staff. The Candidacy Presentation is a “mini” Self-Study Report covering selected Criteria related to:

  • Standard 1 Administrative Capacity and Resources
  • Standard 2 Faculty
  • Standard 4 Curriculum
  • Standard 5 Outcomes

The program will also provide the ACEN access to the current institutional catalog, either as a PDF or link.

Illustration of the eligibility and Candidacy timelines

Candidate status is granted after a review of the applicant program’s potential to achieve ACEN accreditation by the ACEN Directors.

To submit your Candidacy Presentation, click the link below:

See the following links for additional information about the Candidacy Presentation:

For nursing programs outside the United States and its territories, the Candidacy process also involves an Advisory Review for International Candidacy visit, among other differences. The Presentation will still be submitted using the same link above. For additional information regarding the international Candidacy Process, please see:

All materials submitted are reviewed by the ACEN professional staff. Applicant programs are notified if approved for Candidate status. A program that has achieved Candidate status must schedule an initial accreditation visit within two calendar years from the date of becoming a Candidate program.

Candidate status does not guarantee that a Candidate program will achieve initial accreditation. However, if that Candidate status does result in initial accreditation, the effective date of the program’s accreditation will be the date on which Candidacy was approved. See ACEN Policy #34 Candidacy for a Governing Organization/Nursing Program Seeking Initial Accreditation for more details.

Programs that achieve Candidate status must publicly disclose the following information exactly as illustrated below.

This nursing education program is a Candidate for accreditation by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
3390 Peachtree Rd NE Suite 1400
Atlanta, GA 30326 404-975-5000

Schedule of Fees

Frequently, programs want to know the costs of Candidacy, initial accreditation, and continuing accreditation with the ACEN. Information regarding all costs is available on the website, and the ACEN has developed a breakdown of the cost for initial accreditation.