When searching for an online school there are many different components to keep in mind. There are a lot of online schools to go through before deciding which one is the right fit for you. But before considering the programs they offer, the cost of the schooling, and the friendliness of the staff, there is one key factor you need to look for: accreditation.
What is Accreditation?
Websters Dictionary defines accreditation as:
" to recognize (an educational institution) as maintaining standards that qualify the graduates for admission to higher or more specialized institutions or for professional practice."
In essence, accreditation is the way the United States determines the validity of the online school. Accreditation also assures the student that the school meets standards and is a legitimate asset when you go to apply for jobs or enroll in further schooling.
Types of Accreditation
When accrediting online colleges there are three types of accreditation. Within those categories, there are several varying accrediting agencies.
National accrediting agencies are approved to accredit any online education program in the United States. There are six accrediting bodies that fall under the national accrediting umbrella. They are:
- Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools
- Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology
- Accrediting Council of Continuing Education and Training
- Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools
- Council of Occupational Education
- Distance Education and Training Council Accrediting Commission
The United States is divided up into six entities which make up the areas where schools can be regionally accredited. These sub-sections work independently and make up their own validation standards. The country is divided up by the Middle, New England, North Central, Northwestern, Southern, and Western states.
The third and final accreditation type is specialized accreditation. Within this type, schools are accredited based on specific programs. These programs can be anything from nursing to technology, and are recognized as being a legitimate program in their field.
Beware of Diploma Mills
Diploma mills are what make people second guess the valid accredited schools. Diploma mills disguise themselves as legitimate online schools but in reality, the diplomas they hand out do not hold any educational or respected value. They rarely look at a student's academic history and apply your life experiences to your credits earned. They encourage their students to pay more for high honors with their diploma. Beware of any online school that promises you a degree in an impossibly short amount of time or lists no or made up accrediting agencies.
Benefits of Online Schooling
When deciding whether to attend a traditional brick-and-mortar school or complete your education online, there are several factors to consider. Although going to class online means no sitting in a classroom, there are other advantages. Online schools are typically less expensive than going to traditional colleges. In fact, online schools can have down payments as low as $100. Also, because you are in charge of your own education, you have the ability to set your own pace. You can also decide where and when you want to complete your lessons. Structure your education around work and family obligations.
Get the most out of your education by doing your homework. Making sure your online school is accredited ensures you have peace of mind that your schooling can take you where you want to go. By checking the accreditation before enrolling you can be proud to tell people where you went to school and know that your degree and your hard work count.
Allison Brenner is a copywriter for Ashworth College, and focuses her writing on online degrees and certificates. Ashworth College is a nationally accredited online college.