The Importance of Accreditation for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Undergraduate Programs

This is a guest post from our colleagues at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a fundamental need for well-prepared scientists with accurate knowledge and rigorous experimental and critical thinking skills, as well as the ability to collaborate across disciplines and communicate effectively with the public. To meet this demand, academic programs must ensure that their students receive high-quality and specialized training based on best practices in education and established professional standards.  

By providing external and independent evaluation mechanisms, accreditation bodies ensure that degree programs fulfill the requirements for educational excellence and innovation that are necessary to meet the challenges of scientific career paths. In the field of biochemistry and molecular biology (BMB) and related molecular life sciences, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) accreditation program recognizes Bachelor’s degree programs that promote quality in undergraduate education.

ASBMB Accreditation and Certification Program

The ASBMB accreditation program has two components: 1. Accreditation of a BMB program of study (Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Art degrees in a department or institution; or major, track or concentration within a Bachelor’s program) and 2. A certification exam for students completing accredited programs who can earn certification of their degrees through sufficiently high exam scores.

Since its inception in 2013, the ASBMB accreditation program has accredited 90 programs at research institutions and liberal arts colleges (Fig. 1), including 48 public and 42 private institutions. 

Characteristics of an ASBMB-Accredited Program.

To earn ASBMB accreditation, programs must meet the society’s requirements on three broad components: curriculum, faculty and institution/infrastructure.

The curriculum must cover the four core competencies in BMB  at the basic/intermediate and advanced levels; it must include a minimum number of 400 laboratory hours*; and address skills as well as scientific knowledge through oral and written communication, teamwork, safety and research ethics.

The faculty must consist of a minimum of three individuals with sufficient breadth, degrees and/or research experience in BMB; the majority must have postdoctoral training and regular opportunities for professional development.

The institution must have appropriate teaching and research facilities and safety protocols, meet a specific number of majors enrolled, be committed to faculty and student diversity and inclusion, offer platforms for academic and career advising, and facilitate research opportunities for students.

Benefits of ASBMB Accreditation for Students, Programs and Employers.

For Students

  • Curriculum that covers the fundamental concepts and critical thinking skills needed in BMB careers.
  • Training in communication, teamwork, safety and research ethics.
  • Independent, mentored research or experiential learning and internships.
  • Optional exam to demonstrate competitiveness against peers from across the nation independent of institutional rank or prestige.
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

For Programs

  • Recognition for upholding standards of excellence and innovation in BMB education.
  • Leverage for acquiring resources from institutions and other funders.
  • Access to an independently constructed and scored instrument for assessing student achievement and program effectiveness.
  • Competitive advantage when recruiting talented students and star faculty members.

For Employers

  • Confidence in an accredited program’s curriculum, faculty expertise and instrumentation.
  • Confirmation that job candidates have 400 or more hours of hands-on laboratory experience.
  • Assurance that job seekers have training in communication skills and experience working in diverse teams.
  • A way to identify high-caliber graduates who have completed accredited programs and, in some cases, earned degree certification.

*Please note that due to the ongoing pandemic the ASBMB has temporarily suspended this in-person laboratory requirement. A guide for implementing online and virtual laboratory experiences is available here

If you are interested in learning more or applying, please visit https://www.asbmb.org/education/accreditation or contact education@asbmb.org

Applications for ASBMB accreditation are accepted once a year on Oct. 1. A team of expert faculty from across the U.S. review complete application packages in a study section, and announce decisions within three months of application.