There are two types of accreditation that are essential for choosing a dependable, quality online degree program. One is the the regional accreditation for the school itself. There are several recognized accrediting bodies such as Higher Learning Commission (HLC),which is a Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges (NCA), Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the North Central Association for Colleges and Schools just to name a few. Regional accreditation is very important in selecting an online degree program because accrediting agencies oversee the schools to insure that they meet rigorous educational standards so that you know all of your hard work and educational dollars are worth the investment.
In addition to regional accreditation, the second thing to look for is professional or program accreditation. While this may not be applicable to all programs, some specialties and certain professional fields will require programs to meet their standards in order for students who graduate from these programs to continue to uphold the high standards of conduct and skill set forth by many professional organizations. A few examples of industry specific professional accrediting organizations are the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), The College of Pharmacy is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).
Check with any of the licensing boards or other professional organizations related to your chosen career path to find out if there are specific guidelines or accrediting agencies related to your field. If so, they should also be able to provide you with a list of academic institutions that have been approved and accredited by them. Just keep in mind that, if the program that you are looking at does not list a professional accreditation for the individual program, it may simply be because your field does not require such an accreditation. So, while you should be aware of these guidelines do not assume that a program lacking an additional certification is not a quality one. In many cases, as long as the school itself has a good standing with the relevant accrediting agencies you can be fairly confident in the programs that they offer.
Most degree programs will generally list their accreditation standing on the course materials but if you have any questions about the school or program you are considering, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the United States Department of Education (USDE) are both good resources to check out for information on accreditation standings.
By: Bailey Smith
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