accreditationWhether you’re training to work in aviation, you’re enrolled in an online nursing program or you’ve just started taking classes to become a certified teacher, you probably want to know if a degree program is accredited. Accreditation matters in today’s competitive job market. What is accreditation, and how does it impact your future job prospects? Employers look for candidates who hold degrees from accredited schools, and specific program accreditation can separate candidates who get a call back and those who end up in the discard stack. Before you sign up for classes, know whether your program holds appropriate accreditation.

Setting Standards

Think of accreditation as proof that a program or university has met a series of standards set out by an objective board of knowledgeable people. Program accreditation indicates that a specific degree program adheres to rigorous academic standards and educational requirements. In essence, a student who enrolls in an accredited program at one school could transfer to another accredited program without worrying about the quality. The two programs might not share the same curriculum or requirements, but they will both adhere to reliable standards.

In addition, every school that takes advantage of federal funding must be accredited, and a school has to be accredited in order to offer federal financial aid to its students. Not only is there an academic advantage to maintaining accreditation, but there’s a financial one as well. Accrediting boards review universities and programs periodically to make sure that they’re still adhering to the standards. Any program or school that needs work will be placed on review and may lose accreditation if they don’t meet the guidelines.

Accrediting Agencies in the U.S.

According to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or CHEA, there are 60 accrediting boards for individual programs and 19 institutional accrediting organizations in the United States. Institutional accrediting bodies are organized into the following categories: regional, national faith-related and national career-related. Regional accreditation includes organizations such as the Higher Learning Commission as well as the New England Association of Colleges and Schools. Faith-based universities might hold accreditation from the Association for Biblical Higher Education Commission on Accreditation while a career-based institution might receive accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. Many programs also maintain accreditation, including those in audiology, construction education, teaching, massage therapy, and computer science. Not all accrediting bodies are recognized by both the CHEA and the Department of Education. The CHEA offers a complete list of recognized accrediting boards.

How to Check Accreditation

Universities typically provide a statement regarding their accreditation status on their websites because this is an important fact to know when choosing a college. Some schools list all of their accreditations on one convenient page, but some universities list accreditation by degree on individual program sites. If you can’t find information about accreditation on your program’s website, then contact that program’s coordinator to check if your school maintains accreditation.

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You can also find out information about accreditation through the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. Keep in mind that the federal government does not accredit schools personally, but it does maintain a list for interested students. If you want to know if a degree program is accredited, then all you need to do is enter your program into the database to see if it maintains active accreditation status.