The Importance of Distance Learning Accreditation

If you are considering pursuing your education through distance learning rather than through traditional brick and mortar establishment, one of the most significant questions that you must consider is accreditation. Have you even heard about accreditation and understand how it can impact your future earning capabilities?

Accreditation in a nutshell means that the school meets certain standards or criteria. There are currently six institutions that are widely recognized as being legitimately capable of granting accreditation to a learning institution. If a learning institution has indeed been granted accreditation then a degree from there will get the nod of approval from employers. If not, your certificate or diploma will be worth about what the paper it is printed on is. Following are the six granting institutions:

  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges - WACS
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges - NEASC
  • Southern Association of Schools and Colleges - SACS
  • Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges - NWCCU
  • Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges - MSASC
  • North Central Association of Schools and Colleges - NCASC

Is accreditation important? You bet it is! What accreditation guarantees is that no matter which school you are "attending," the curriculum will cover the same material. When you begin your job search with your certificate or degree listed on your resume, your employer will be considering your school’s status along with your skill set and relevant professional experience. It may just be the deciding factor on who gets the position.

Is There More Than One Type of Accreditation?

As a matter of fact, there is. So far we have been talking about what is referred to as institutional accreditation. This is a blanket accreditation in the sense that it covers the entire school. But at times it is more appropriate to drill down deeper and look at just part of the school. This is referred to as specialized accreditation. For example, the university may have an education department for certifying teachers. This one department may seek accreditation. Or perhaps the college has a computer science department and that is the only part of the college where accreditation is relevant. In the majority of cases, a university or trade school that holds specialized accreditation in one area will also hold institutional accreditation.

Some other examples where you might find specialized accreditation used are engineering, accounting, culinary arts, theology, commercial art, law, and especially a wide variety of medical programs. Is one of these fields the one you are interested in? By all means investigate before you spend any money. Once again, accreditation may be the thing that tips the scale in your direction when it comes time for that highly compensated position you are seeking following graduation.

How Do You Go About Determining If the Distance Learning is Accredited?

Believe it or not, as redundant as it may sound, the six accreditation organizations mentioned above have to be accredited to levy accreditation on distance learning institutions. And yes, there is one higher level accreditation body that does just that. This is the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). This way the educational community can be self-policing and insure no shadowy accreditation institutions rise up to justify education scams. There are many bogus "schools" out there!

To find out if the school you are considering applying to is accredited or if the accrediting institution they say they deal with is legitimate, check out CHEA’s web site: www.chea.org. If all is legitimate, this is the place to find out; they host a list that they keep up to date.

So do your homework now in the planning stage. It might save you a lot of grief after graduation.

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