Advancing your education by enrolling in an online degree program can greatly impact your future – and so can the program you choose. Earning your degree can lead to improved job stability, better career opportunities and a higher potential salary. While the flexibility and convenience of online programs appeal to busy professionals, additional factors – such as accreditation – are also important to consider when deciding which program is right for you. Whether you’re seeking an undergraduate degreee or graduate degree or certificate, it pays to study your options before you choose an online program.
You may select from hundreds of online degree or for-credit certificate programs; however, all degrees are not viewed equally by potential employers or your peers. When it’s time to compete for the job that can advance your career possibilities, you’ll want every advantage to distinguish yourself in a crowded marketplace. A degree awarded by a traditional, nonprofit, well-known and respected university will never be questioned by employers and will give you the confidence you need when pursuing a sought-after position.
Taking classes while attending to personal and work responsibilities requires focus, commitment and a great deal of hard work. Make your investment count by choosing an online degree program from a traditional, regionally accredited institution. That way, you can be assured that your online degree program meets the same quality standards as traditional university degree programs offered on campus.
Regional accreditation refers to educational accreditation by one of six accrediting bodies recognized by the United States Department of Education (U.S. DOE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation:
Educational institutions voluntarily apply to receive their regional accreditation from the agency covering their region. The accrediting agency then conducts a thorough evaluation, through a peer-review process, of the school’s standards, practices, faculty and curricula to determine whether they meet basic, foundational expectations and federally-required mandates and follow “good practice” methods that are common with other higher education institutions.
Students are advised to conduct their own research to verify a school’s accreditation status and its ability to provide a quality education. The institution should clearly state in its materials the agency through which it holds accreditation. Review the qualifications of the accrediting agency and be sure it is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Watch out for terms like “recognized,” “authorized,” “approved,” “chartered,” or “pursuing accreditation” that give the appearance of accreditation when none exists.
A school might apply to a national accrediting agency when its coursework or model of instruction is different from a traditional, nonprofit university’s degree programs. National accrediting agencies measure different standards and categories than regional accrediting agencies and typically accredit specific trade schools, such as massage therapy schools or other technical centers. Rarely will you see a traditional, nonprofit college or university with national accreditation.
Regional and national accreditation are both voluntary and involve a detailed review process; however, there are distinct differences between regional and national accreditation:
One of the best investments you can make in yourself is pursuing your education. With a respected undergraduate or graduate degree from an accredited university, you can expand your career opportunities and take charge of your future. In addition, if you decide to change schools or pursue a graduate degree, you should know that the majority of regionally accredited colleges do not accept credits for transfer from nationally accredited colleges.
The importance and advantages of regional accreditation cannot be overstated. Regional accreditation represents the highest standard available among U.S. accrediting bodies. It affirms the quality of the education you’ll receive, and that your institution of choice will be continuously monitored to ensure quality standards are maintained.
Choosing an online degree program is a decision that deserves your careful scrutiny. So, make sure your degree will be respected by potential employers, recognized by your peers and accepted by other regionally accredited institutions. Before you enroll in any online degree program, check the institution’s regional accreditation status first – so you can move forward with complete confidence.