Alternative Accrediting Options

We don't mean to make your college hunt even more complicated, but institutional accreditation isn't the only type of accreditation that can be important for a degree program. Several types of alternative accreditation also exist. These types of accreditation are required for certain degree programs; for other programs, they are not required, but may offer perks in the job market.

Programmatic Accreditation

Certain accrediting agencies out there are set up only to evaluate particular types of college degree programs. These agencies exist to evaluate particular curriculum requirements and learning benchmarks at a more in-depth level than is possible in institutional accreditation. These agencies have developed standards that are tailored to the requirements of particular majors or fields. For example, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology looks at science, technology, and engineering degree programs, while the National Association of Schools of Art and Design looks at fine art and creative degrees.

In certain disciplines, programmatic accreditation is so important as to be required for anyone who desires unrestricted career opportunities. For example, engineers who graduate from programs not recognized by ABET are unlikely to find employment, and they are ineligible to apply for Professional Engineer licensure through their state. For other disciplines, programmatic accreditation is not required for career advancement, but it can be helpful for determining if a program is high-quality or not.

State-Board Recognition

While not exactly "accreditation" in the strict sense, recognition by a state licensure board is another type of credential that is important for some careers. Careers that are highly regulated and require state licensure, such as nursing and counseling, often require that applicants graduate from state-board recognized programs, if they hope to apply for a license. Since this license is often required for practicing, students in these careers should be careful to only attend a degree program that has state board recognition.

Professional Accreditation

Professional accreditation is accreditation that is bestowed by a trade group or other professional organization. Professional accreditation may be required or optional for your degree program, depending on your career. Some states use certain professional accreditation in lieu of state board recognition, effectively making professional accreditation required for particular jobs. For other professions, professional accreditation is a prerequisite for earning voluntary professional credentials. For example, health information technicians can apply for the Registered Health Information Technician title, if they have graduated from a program that is recognized by the American Health Information Management Association.

Which Alternative Forms of Accreditation Are Important For Me?

It can be confusing to decide which alternative accreditation to look for in a program. One approach is to check out the career page for your desired profession at the Bureau of Labor Statistics; the education section will have information about any required or optional accreditation that is important for that profession. (