What is an Accredited College?
Nationally accredited colleges are institutions that are recognized as providing legitimate programs and courses of study by an official accrediting organization.
In the United States, institutions are not accredited by the federal government but rather by government-recognized organizations such as the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration, Commission on Peer Review and Accreditation, Middle States Commission on Secondary Education, New York Board of Regents, and numerous others.
When students are considering enrolling at a college or university, verifying that the institution is accredited is a critical step in ensuring that the earned degree or certificate will be valid for practice within a desired field. This also ensures that credits earned possess a high level of transferability among similarly accredited institutions.
Accreditation is essential to consider when choosing a degree or certification in education as a result of the requirements necessary to practice teaching in both public and private schools.
Accreditation applies to both an accredited online college and in-person.
Students who complete programs in non-accredited institutions risk, at worst, potentially being unable to obtain state licensure and may be unprepared for the relevant certifications such as the PRAXIS exams if their selected program does not adhere to standards established by an organization that oversees their particular field of study.
How Does a School or Program Become Accredited?
The accreditation process for colleges and universities is rigorous and optional, as higher education institutions are not required to be accredited. The first step in acquiring accredited status is for the institution desiring accreditation to nominate a committee to establish which accrediting organization best aligns with the overall goals of the institution.
Once an accrediting organization or agency has been identified, the committee should review the specific standards required for accreditation by the selected organization. Following a review of the standards, the committee must review all aspects of its course offerings to determine whether the standards already are met or whether changes must be implemented at the institutional level to align with the accrediting organization’s expectations.
Following the standards review and alignment process, schools must apply for accreditation to the selected organization. The application process is highly rigorous and detailed, so the accreditation committee must expend considerable amounts of time and attention to detail to ensure that the application has been completed appropriately. Once the application has been submitted to the accrediting organization, it will be approved or denied.
Assuming an institution’s application is approved, the school must then submit to an on-site audit of all programmatic and curricular components to confirm that they meet the organization’s standards. Following the audit, the applying institution will receive either accreditation or a list of changes that must be implemented for the school to become accredited.
What Kind of Accreditations are Available?
Numerous types of accreditation are available for most fields of study, from law to education.
Accrediting organizations that provide accreditation to institutions offering degree and certification programs in education include the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration, Commission on Peer Review and Accreditation (NASPAA-COPRA), and The Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
When selecting a graduate program within the field of education, ensuring that a college or university has been accredited by NCATE, NASPAA-COPRA, HLC (or another similar accrediting body) is an excellent way to verify that an institution has taken the steps necessary to be recognized as a legitimate degree and certification provider.
What are the Benefits of Choosing an Accredited College?
The primary benefit of choosing accredited colleges or universities is the peace of mind with knowing that the degree or certification earned will be valid and recognized by current and future employers.
For those working in K-12 education whose school districts or boards offer reimbursement or compensation for advanced degrees, choosing an accredited institution reduces the potential for reimbursement to be denied if someone were to question the validity of the degree concerning whether or not it qualifies for reimbursement.
An additional benefit of selecting an accredited institution is the marketability factor if the individual chooses to pursue a position as a school administrator or as a professor at a postsecondary institution. Essentially, non-accredited degrees and certificates only qualify the holder for employment in non-accredited institutions, vastly reducing the individual’s potential career options and, ultimately, long-term financial earning potential.
While most educators certainly do not enter into the field in order to become wealthy, ensuring that their earned degrees carry the backing of an accrediting body enables them not only to maximize their earning potential but also ensures that they will receive high-quality training that a nationally recognized organization has verified.
Finally, accreditation serves as a type of insurance for prospective students by holding accredited institutions accountable to the standards set forth by their accrediting boards.
The pursuit of higher education and advanced degrees is expensive, so accreditation guarantees prospective students that the program they complete will be worth the investment of their time and financial resources through quality instruction and the possibility of future career advancement.
Looking to pursue an advanced degree in education? Check out our available graduate degree programs from accredited universities and get started today!