Accreditation and Online Schools: What Does it Mean to be Accredited?
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Accreditation and Online Schools: What Does it Mean to be Accredited?

Accreditation and Online Schools: What Does it Mean to be Accredited?

by Shannon Lee
February 9, 2011

When you begin your search for online schools, you will probably hear a great deal about accreditation. Understanding what it means to be accredited can help you make the best informed choice about the online degree programs you want to take.

What is Accreditation?

Accreditation is an assurance that a school or degree program meets the high-quality standards of the accrediting body. In order for a school to earn accreditation, the independent accrediting body will review the school's courses, curriculum, recruiting practices and admissions procedures, faculty, course content and more. If the school meets the rigorous standards of quality, it will be accredited.

Why Accreditation Matters

There are a few reasons why accreditation matters:

  • Financial aid. Federal grants--and sometimes state grants--are awarded only for enrollment in an accredited college or program. This means that if you choose to go with a school that has not earned accreditation, you might be paying much more out of pocket.
  • Transfer of credits. If you choose to change schools halfway through your degree program, only courses from an accredited school will transfer to another accredited school. If your initial educational choice was not accredited, you might lose all the time and money you put into that education when you choose to transfer.
  • Employment. Finally, many employers look to accreditation as a stamp of approval for your degree. Without a degree from an accredited school, you might not get that new job or big promotion.

Accredited Online Schools: How to Tell

If an online school is accredited, it should clearly state that on its website or hard copy literature. It should also state where the accreditation was awarded. Keep in mind that an online school might offer several online degree programs, but not all of them must be accredited. You might need to check into each degree program that interests you to determine whether the program itself is eligible for accreditation.