What is Accreditation & Why is It Important?

So, you're looking into earning your degree online and you've heard that it's important to pick an accredited program. If you still have questions about what it means for an online program to be accredited and how an accreditation could affect your degree, read on.

Accreditation: The Basics - The Different Types of Accreditation - What Does It Mean For You?

Accreditation: The Basics

Accreditation is a way that you, the government, and your future employers can be sure that a certain college or university grants degrees that reflect a valuable education. When a program is accredited by a reputable accreditation agency, you can be sure that the program is respectable; it acts as a sort of quality control service for degrees. (Ed.gov)

In order to become accredited, universities have to show the accreditation agency that they have developed a thorough criteria for awarding degrees and that that criteria is being fulfilled before a degree is granted. (Ed.gov)

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The Different Types of Accreditation

There are two basic types of accreditation, institutional and programmatic. Institutional accreditation applies to an entire school or college. Institutional accreditation is generally granted by regional accrediting bodies. This type of accreditation means that all departments and aspects of a school have been evaluated and are working towards that university's goal of educating students. Six regional accrediting associations accredit institutions across the United States. (CA.gov)

Programmatic accreditation applies not to an entire school, but to specific programs or curriculums inside the school. While the entire school may have institutional accreditation, certain programs may have additional accreditation. Oftentimes, professional agencies grant programmatic certification to specific types of vocational or technical degrees. (CA.gov)

For certain types of degree programs, it is useful to have a programmatic accreditation as well as institutional. For some jobs, like nursing, a professional group accreditation can be extremely helpful in finding a job. You can check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics website to see if programmatic accreditation is required for your desired career. (CA.gov)

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What Does It Mean For You?

Accreditation is an easy way for future employers to tell if your degree reflects a solid education. If your program isn't accredited, it's liable to be less regarded during the job hunt. Even if you personally feel that you had a thorough education without accreditation, there is no simple way to prove that to your employer. Especially with online degrees where there is the potential for a college to be a diploma mill, you want to ensure that you choose a program that is accredited by a respectable accreditation association. (Ed.gov)

Furthermore, it can be impossible to get federal financial aid if the school you're attending isn't accredited. The Department of Education does not want to fund degree programs of questionable educational worth and thus requires accreditation before granting financial assistance. (Ed.gov)

It's easy to check if a particular program you are interested in is accredited or not. You can search the Department of Education's database to see if it is recognized as an accredited institution. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau to see if a school has had any issues with dubious business practices. (Ed.gov)

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