What Does IT Mean if Online College Courses Are Accredited?

Accredited colleges have proven that they offer quality education. If you take classes online that are properly accredited, you have gained the same education and training that a student would at a traditional campus-based college.

What Accreditation Means

Reputable colleges often ask an independent organization to verify that the college offers a high quality education to students. If this organization, called an accreditor or an accrediting agency, approves of the school's ability to meet acceptable educational standards, it grants accreditation.

Some of the national and regional accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education include Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, Distance Education and Training Council, Accrediting Commission and Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

It is important to note that each accrediting agency has limitations. These might include being limited to accrediting schools in a specific geographic region or that offer certain types of degrees. Also, accreditation may be offered in two forms - for the institution as a whole and for specific programs or degrees at a school.

Important Facts About Accredited Online Courses

Degree Levels Associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees available
Prerequisites Varies, depending upon intended program of enrollment; a high school diploma, or equivalent, is typically required for enrollment in an associate's or bachelor's degree program
Concentrations Health promotion, information technologies, international business, marketing, political science, psychology, sociology, sports management
Possible Careers Compliance officer, budget analyst, nuclear technician, engineer, construction manager, insurance appraiser, credit counselor

How Colleges Get Accredited

Accreditation is voluntary, beginning when a college applies to the accreditor. The six major regional accrediting agencies use this process:

  • The school performs a 2-year self-study.
  • Peer evaluators from the accrediting agency visit the school to conduct interviews and review evidence.
  • A peer review committee examines the school's self-study documents and the evaluating team's report.
  • The committee recommends for or against accreditation to the decision-making council, a group of experienced peer reviewers and members of the public. This group and the Board of Trustees make the final decision.

Accredited Colleges Meet High Standards

Colleges accredited by a legitimate accrediting agency offer high-quality online courses. The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation oversee accrediting agencies. An accrediting agency looks for the candidate college or university to meet these standards:

  • The school's mission statement, vision, goals and planning reflect an intention to provide high-quality education, most of which leads to formal college degrees.
  • The school is physically, technologically and financially capable of providing that education to its projected enrollment.
  • Library and other resources are sufficient.
  • There are enough well-trained full-time faculty members to deliver the programs.
  • Programs are of appropriate length and rigor and cover the appropriate subjects.

The Importance of Accreditation

Attending an accredited college not only ensures you get a high-quality education, but also that you reap other benefits of earning a degree from an accredited online college. For example, just like campus-based students, you can transfer credits if you choose to change schools. If you attend an online school that is not accredited, you may find that you can't transfer any credits outside of your school.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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