What is an accredited university? How does accreditation work?
How important, or not important, is it for you to know whether the program you are about to start is accredited? Are all accreditation created equal?
According to the US Department of Education, accreditation is the recognition that an institution maintains standards requisite for its graduates to gain admission to other reputable institutions of higher learning or to achieve credentials for professional practice. The goal of accreditation is to make sure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.
In the US, the regional accreditation boards are:
- Middle States Association of Colleges & Schools
- Northwest Commission on Colleges & Universities
- North Central Association of Colleges & Schools
- New England Association of Schools & Colleges
- Southern Association of Colleges & Schools
- Western Association of Schools & Colleges
On a national level:
- Distance Education & Training Council (DETC)
- Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools (ACICS)
- Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
Once again, it is important to know why you are taking your studies in the first place. Some programs are professionally accredited, such as Project Management. Some are regionally or nationally accredited, depending on where you live. Make sure you check your country’s education authorities before starting. If you are an expat living in a country where accreditation works slightly differently, for instance in Middle East, your employer may or may not accept any online program. If your program is company sponsored, you definitely have to check whether your sponsor is ok with it. This, however, is very region specific.
Other regions are usually not that strict. They are open with accepting an international standard or accreditation. For example, the Netherlands has quite a long list of qualifications that the country accepts. The country makes it quite easy for people wanting to either go into the academic or professional world. It also helps that they have a very clear system in place. In the event that a degree is not recognized , you will have a clear set of instructions what to do to get it accepted.
This differs per country, find out how it works where you live. It is not as complicated as it may sound.
Is it really that important?
To start with, I would not want to study in any unaccredited university. There are many reasons for that, including the fact that it may not even have the power to grant a degree in the first place. There is a big uncertainty of quality and standard there. I just would save my time and energy and look for something that’s more certain. That is through accreditation.
I was one of seven students appointed to sit in the Accreditation Board. We sat across the Dutch Accreditors, answering their questions facing each other. It felt as if the faith of our alma mater was in our hands. No pressure, right? Basically they questioned the lecturing process, faculty team and exams, among others. This alone shows that an accredited university needs to follow a set of standard and up its quality. This is why you should go for an accredited university. Accreditation gives that sense of certainty of quality. Be aware, however, of fake organizations.
During the period I interviewed my team or being interviewed for a job, I was never asked if my degrees were accredited. Accreditation has no direct impact to your career, but top schools will have a recognised accreditations as a guarantee seal on their names. Therefore, it will help to your career growth indirectly.
Are all accreditations created equal?
In general they are, but again, depending on your purpose, you need to find out which accreditations board would you need to seal your university. To be very honest, if you don’t plan an academic career or build a career in a certain profession that needs the professional accreditation, I would say any legit accreditations board would be as good. Unless if you are very specific about your study. You already know, you will only study in a university accredited by a certain board. Then you should go for it. Accreditation alone, just like top ranking alone, does not make your program of choice good or bad. You need to consider different factors as a whole, other than just the accreditation or ranking.
When it comes to credit transfer, it can get slightly complicated. In this case, make sure your future university accepts the accreditation of your current program. This can make or break the smoothness of your completion. In other words, if not done correctly, you might not be able to graduate.
Usually, top ranked universities will have accreditations in place.
You’ve read: What is An Accredited University? How Does Accreditation Work?
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