Online education offers amazing opportunities to adults looking to take the next step in their careers. The flexibility and affordability of many online programs allow professionals to go back to school without quitting their jobs or sacrificing their personal lives.
However, not all online college programs truly offer the same educational value as a traditional on-campus program. When you’re researching an online education program, it’s important to verify that your school of choice is accredited.
What does college accreditation actually mean? An accredited college is one that has met the quality standards of a certain government agency or organization. An accrediting organization will check the quality of a school, its courses, faculty, and overall programs. If a school meets the standards set by the accrediting organization, the school will be granted accreditation.
Another thing to consider here is the quality of the accrediting organization itself. You want to check that the accrediting organization is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. By researching both the college and the accrediting body, you’ll get a strong sense of the education quality you’ll be receiving.
You should also understand the difference between national and regional accreditation. Generally, regional accreditation is the superior credential. There are only six regional accreditation agencies, and all are certified by the U.S. Department of Education. Credits earned from regionally accredited schools are the easiest to transfer, and regionally accredited schools will be the most respected by employers. Choosing a regionally accredited online college is the best way to ensure you’re getting a quality education.
How to Research Accreditation Status
In order to research the accrediting organizations, you should be aware that in the United States, there are six regional accreditation boards that evaluate traditional on-campus colleges as well as online colleges. If the college you’re researching has been accredited by one of the organizations below, you can be confident that it has legitimate accreditation status.
However, if your college of choice isn’t accredited by one of the above organizations, that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad choice. For example, the Department of Education recognizes the Distance Education and Training Council as reputable accreditation body. You can do more research on accrediting organizations by visiting the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Why is Accreditation Important?
Choosing an accredited online college offers major advantages to prospective students. The most central value of an accredited online education is simply a guarantee of quality. These days, anyone can put up a website claiming to offer online education. A fully accredited online college has met the same educational standards as a traditional college, and therefore is very likely to offer a meaningful, quality education.