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Accreditation 101

What is accreditation? According to the U.S. Department of Education, accreditation is the recognition that an institution maintains standards requisite for its graduates to gain admission to other reputable institutions of higher learning or to achieve credentials for professional practice. This includes professional accreditation, which recognizes that your institution adheres to the acceptable guidelines wherein a graduate would be able to competently practice within the field upon graduation. Easier for institutions to obtain is regional accreditation which is dependent on where the school is located. To ensure that your degree will be respected by potential employers, you’ll need to earn it from an accredited institution.

Two additional criteria when looking into your school’s accreditation is whether the accreditor is approved by the U.S. Department of Education, and how long the school has had full accreditation from the accreditor. For a comprehensive list of accredited institutions, visit the Department of Education’s database.

Different disciplines may require accreditation from more than one organization. For example, the best nursing schools are accredited by both the CCNE (Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education) and NLNAC (National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission).

In some instances, there can be more prestige associated with some accreditors than others. For MBA programs, accreditation from AACSB – International (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) is internationally recognized and considered to be the highest standard of business school accreditation. When looking for MBA graduates, employers and recruiters will look for degrees earned by programs accredited by AACSB – International.

If earning your online degree in counseling, you’ll want to enroll in a program that is accredited by CACREP, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Education Programs. For a degree in education, your program should be accredited by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC).

For specifically online institutions, your school should be accredited by the Distance Education Training Council (DETC), which has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education since 1955.

Individual states will also have accrediting bodies. You’ll also want to be sure that your institution is accredited by one of these six regional accreditors of higher education:

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA)
  • Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges (NWCCU)
  • Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (MSA)
  • Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SACS)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

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