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What is Accreditation
Types of Accreditation
What is Accreditation
How to check Accreditation
What is Accreditation
Reasons why Accreditation matters

Accreditation: Everything Grad Students Need to Know

Types of Accreditation

What is Accreditation? – When an aspiring grad student begins to research potential colleges for their master’s degree pursuit, one of the most important points to consider is accreditation. When a school earns accreditation, it means that institution has been evaluated by an independent accrediting body and found to meet the high standards of a rigorous education. Put another way, accreditation helps ensure master’s students’ hard work will not be in vain; their degree will be recognized as the high-quality education they deserve.

A college or university must go through a lengthy, in-depth process in order to earn accreditation. This can often take years to complete. Once accreditation is earned, the school must follow the proper steps to keep their standards high and maintain their accreditation status, with regular follow-up checks by the accrediting body to ensure the college is meeting all their obligations.

The following guide deep dives into what accreditation means, the different types a school or program can earn, how to determine whether an online master’s program or school is accredited, and more.

Different Types of Accreditation

There are three types of accreditation available for schools across the nation: Regional, national and programmatic.

Regional Accreditation

When a student looks for accreditation status of a school, regional accreditation is often what they will find. As the most common type of accreditation, regional accreditation is awarded by one of several independent bodies responsible for colleges and universities within a certain region. Over 85 percent of all colleges in the U.S. hold regional accreditation through one of the following agencies:

  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA)
  • New England Association of Colleges and Schools (NEASC)
  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA)
  • Northwest Accreditation Commission (NAC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

Programmatic Accreditation

For some master’s students, programmatic accreditation will matter just as much as regional accreditation. Programmatic accreditation focuses on a particular program offered through the school. The process of accreditation is much the same, as the department that hosts that particular program will have to meet certain guidelines, provide a variety of metrics on their students and their educational success, and more. In some cases, attending a program with programmatic accreditation is absolutely essential for the graduate to later receive a certification or other work-related credential. A few examples of programmatic accrediting bodies include:

  • Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • American Physical Therapy Association, Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (APTA-CAPTE)
  • American Psychological Association, Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA)
  • National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)
  • Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC)
  • Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET)

National Accreditation

National accreditation covers higher education institutions across the U.S. However, national accreditation is more for schools that focus on career education, such as vocational or technical schools, as well as schools that focus on faith-based programs. Schools that obtain national accreditation are often seen as providing a less rigorous education than those that receive regional accreditation; therefore, it is quite common that credits earned at nationally-accredited institutions will not readily transfer to regionally-accredited institutions.

That doesn’t mean that nationally accredited schools should be dismissed, however. Depending upon what a master’s student is seeking in their educational experience, one of these schools might be what they need. For instance, in many cases a nationally accredited school doesn’t require the usual general education courses that you will find in a more traditional school; that means that if the grad student’s career goals are very focused, they might be able to get to the finish line faster.

The following are national accrediting bodies:

  • Association for Biblical Higher Education Commission (ABHE)
  • Association of Institutions of Jewish Studies (AIJS)
  • Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
  • Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)
  • Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)
  • National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences (NACCAS)

How to Check for Accreditation

There are a few ways to find out if a school is accredited. Many colleges are proud of their accreditation status and will have a page on their website that points it out. Other schools will include it on their “About Us” page.

Even if a school or program touts their accreditation, master’s students should double-check the accreditation before applying. This can be accomplished by reviewing the college through the following places:

Prospective master’s students can also call the school directly and ask for the information.

Top 4 Reasons Accreditation is Important to Master’s Degrees

Why does accreditation matter so much? Besides the points about it being vitally important to ensure a top-notch education, accreditation status means a great deal for the following reasons:

Financial aid

In the vast majority of cases, financial aid is only awarded to those who choose to attend an accredited institution. This gets a little trickier when it comes to nationally accredited schools, as some states might offer financial aid for those schools, but the federal government might not. Master’s students who do not attend an accredited institution will have to pay out of pocket or take out student loans.

Read more about Financial aid here.

School transfers

If you intend to transfer from one college to another anytime in the future, it is important to ensure your undergraduate or graduate school is accredited. That’s because colleges will only accept credits from accredited colleges and universities; if the school is not accredited, the credits do not transfer. If a master’s student attends an unaccredited school (and in most cases, a nationally accredited school) for their online master’s program and later, wants to move to a Ph.D. program at a different school, they might not have enough credits to do so.


The above point is very important when it comes to earning certifications to teach, treat patients as a psychologist or nurse, or work in any other profession that requires proof of graduation from an accredited school. In this case, master’s students could pursue an online master’s degree only to discover that they can’t sit for the examination that will allow them to practice in your chosen field.

Employment opportunities

Even in a field where certification or licensing is not required, an employer might require that an applicant graduated from an accredited school before they will hire them. They want to ensure that the diploma the applicant earned prepared them well for the job, and no employer can be certain of that unless the degree came from an accredited school.

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