Why Accreditation is Important
So, you've decided to begin or return to school. You've chosen a course of study but how do you figure out which school is the right fit when you have so many choices? It's extremely important to do a bit of research to learn if your institution of choice is accredited and what kind of accreditations it holds; national, regional or both. Accreditation is an acknowledgement of quality; it is also how a school is judged against their peers.
A degree earned from an accredited school helps to increase your earning potential and lowers the chances of unemployment. Your degree assures an employer that you have received a quality education and the knowledge and skills you've obtained will add value as a member of their team. Furthermore, earning your degree at an accredited institution places you in a better position to transfer your credits if you decide to continue on to a graduate or doctoral program down the road.
Where to start...
If you've gotten any sort of literature about your school, its accreditation should be presented front and center. The same is true for the school website. Proof of accreditation should appear in the forms of official logos, full text explanations as well as cross links to each association's official website providing additional information. Most reputable schools will make it easy for you to learn and understand the accreditation standards they work vigorously to uphold.
Lack of accreditation or accreditations that aren't recognized by the United States Department of Education should be red flags to you. Beware of “Degree” mills that might not be the best source for a quality education, career placement or future advancement.
What does it mean to be accredited?
Accredited institutions work diligently to ensure the curriculum and student services they offer are well-developed and evolve with the changing needs of their students. By maintaining national or regional accreditation, a school ensures they consistently meet the high standards set by the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, accredited schools are qualified for various funding programs including military tuition assistance and government reimbursement.
Who accredits a college or university?
There are several national and six regional associations that accredit traditional and online colleges and universities throughout the U.S. Depending on your potential career path; you'll have to decide what type of accreditation is right for your needs. Click the links below to learn more about each association.
Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
New England Association of Schools and Colleges
North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
Northwest Commission of Schools and Colleges
Western Association of Schools and Colleges
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools