Online College Accreditation: What to Look for and Why it Matters
Online degree programs are just as valuable as on-campus degrees. They require just as much work, use the same course material, and are often taught by the same faculty members as their on-campus equivalents. If you earn an online degree, your diploma shouldn’t look any different from a diploma awarded for on-campus work. Employers know that online degrees are valid, too.
Still, it’s important to look for online college accreditation. Accreditation is a stamp of approval from an overseeing organization. The US Department of Education oversees certain organizations, and those organizations make sure that colleges and universities meet specific standards.
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Why Online College Accreditation Matters?
Accreditation matters whether you learn online or on campus. For one thing, you’ll want to make sure that you’re getting a good education with high standards. After all, a college education can cost a lot of time, money, and effort. You should get a worthwhile degree for that investment. Accreditation status gives you a quick and simple way to find out if a school meets the right standards.
Accreditation will also matter if you ever want to transfer schools. If you start at a non-accredited school and then transfer to an accredited one, the new school may not accept your previous courses. In that case, you’d need to take those courses a second time, spending more money in the process.
Employers also prefer job candidates with the right education, and that means having a degree from an accredited school. When a candidate has an accredited education, the employer will have more confidence that the candidate is qualified for the job.
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For distance learners, online college accreditation especially matters. In today’s tech-driven world, a lot of the biggest scams happen online. There are plenty of non-accredited online schools, but those schools can’t always prove their legitimacy. Accredited schools, on the other hand, make it clear that they’re just as legitimate as on-campus programs.
Types of Accreditation
Colleges and universities use two main types of accreditation: national and regional. National accrediting agencies approve colleges across the nation. Regional agencies focus on more specific areas.
For example, a school in the southeastern US might be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, while a school in the northwestern region might be accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Both types of accreditation prove that a school meets minimum standards. However, regional accrediting agencies tend to have higher standards than national agencies.
In addition to college accreditation, you might also look for program accreditation. Some degree programs have accrediting bodies as well. Those programs include:
Those aren’t the only programs that might have accreditation. Several other fields have accrediting agencies. If you want to know whether your field has one, you can always search for it online.
How to Find an Accredited Online College?
You know why accreditation matters, but how do you look for an accredited college?
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You can start by looking into recognized and respected colleges. When exploring online college options, pay attention to each school’s website. Accredited colleges usually display their status on their sites. You can usually find an accreditation page under the “about” section.
You can also verify this information on the accrediting body’s website. Occasionally, accreditation pages are hard to find, but that doesn’t always mean they aren’t there. If you can’t find it, do a web search for “[school name] accreditation.”
Your College Education Matters
Whether you learn in person or online, your education can make a big difference in your life. You’ll put a lot into your education, from researching your options to taking your last exams. You deserve an education that matters. Online college accreditation can help you make sure that it does.