With the amount of time and money you put into your degree program, it’s pretty important to ensure that your educational investment will give you what you set out to get. Yet, not everyone is aware of how a college’s accreditation can impact your future goals.
Vicki Phillips, founder of GetEducated.com, says, “If you want to use your degree to gain employment or to attend grad school later, pay close attention to accreditation.” Whether or not a school is accredited, and sometimes its type of accreditation, may impact whether another institution will let you transfer credits, or accept your application for a higher-level degree. It could also impact whether some potential employers will even recognize your degree.
So, what does this all mean for you? Should college accreditation affect your school choice? To truly understand, it’s first important to define accreditation.
What is Accreditation?
Because there is no centralized authority that regulates post-secondary institutions in the United States, the U.S. Department of Education says that colleges and universities can vary greatly in the quality of their programs. Thus, school accreditation exists as an external review process to ensure that institutions meet and maintain acceptable levels of quality. Accreditation is a voluntary process in which schools agree to be evaluated according to a set of rigorous criteria on a regular basis.
Who Commissions Accreditation?
There are two types of institutional accreditation in the U.S.: regional and national. The U.S. department of education recognizes six regional accreditation commissions, and numerous national accreditation commissions.
What is the Difference Between Regional and National Accreditation?
Regional accreditation is granted to institutions by the overseeing commission in the region where a school resides. It is the most widely recognized form of accreditation in the U.S., and credits from such institutions are the most widely accepted when it comes to transfer. According to Phillips, regionally accredited institutions often have more competitive admission standards and require more liberal arts coursework requirements. These qualities are highly valued by most employers, and many employers will not accept degrees from institutions that are not regionally accredited.
National accreditation is based not on geographic location, but instead by the type of institution. It is most often granted to trade and vocational schools, whose programs are highly specialized, and thus are difficult to compare to traditional degree programs. Phillips says such schools can be less expensive, and have more relaxed admission standards. However, their credits are not as widely accepted in transfer to regionally accredited schools and not all employers will recognize degrees from nationally accredited schools. Some technical professions, on the other hand, may see high value in these more specialized degrees; so just be sure to do some homework on what type of accreditation is valued most in your industry before deciding on a school.