Online Graduate School Accreditation
- Regional Accreditation
- Program Accreditation
- Member Organizations
- Foreign Accreditation
Accreditation is one of those terms that college students hear without understanding what it means, but those who enroll in accredited online master’s degrees have a greater chance of finding opportunities that will benefit them in these programs and in the real world. The term applies to organizations and agencies that evaluate these programs and determine that each one offers some benefits for incoming students. According to the U.S. Department of Education, only schools that meet some specific requirements obtain accreditation. Accreditation generally falls into one of several categories.
Out of all the different types of accreditation, regional accreditation is usually the most important. Having regional accreditation is one of the requirements that the government has in place for students hoping to obtain financial aid, which they can get after completing the FAFSA. The Higher Learning Commission is one of the primary organizations responsible for this type of accreditation. It has different divisions operating in regions across the country.
Online graduate programs may also have something called program accreditation, which comes from an organization that focuses on a specific subject or different areas of study within a subject. One example is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Also called the AACSB, this organization accredits master’s programs in business, management and accounting. The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing is a group that accredits graduate programs in nursing like BSN to MSN programs. Master’s programs that take place online can have accreditation from similar groups.
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Some of these programs seek out approval rather than ask for accreditation. Many online programs do not have accreditation because the schools do not meet the minimum requirements for getting it or because the schools are too new and do not yet have a history of offering opportunities for its students. Those schools can get approval from different organizations and departments before the colleges get accreditation. Other programs have approval from professional organizations that offer resources for students. Those enrolled in a graduate education program may find that it has approval from the Department of Education in that state.
Accredited online master’s degrees can also be members of different organizations and offer students various opportunities through those organizations. The American Association of Nursing, American Academy of Nursing and Emergency Nursing Association are some of the professional organizations associated with the nursing field. Students enrolling in online programs that have membership in one of these groups have access to discounted membership packages, can attend the conferences that those organizations put on each year and use the job resources that the groups have. Those resources can include job postings that students will not find anywhere else.
Though students typically choose to enroll in online programs in the same country in which they live, students today also have the option of taking classes from a foreign college or university. These schools must have some type of foreign accreditation that is on par with the accreditation available to American colleges. The Department of Education can help students find out which foreign schools have accreditation and what type of accreditation matches those used in the United States.
Master’s programs give students with a bachelor’s degree the chance to earn a graduate degree in around two years or less. These programs may have a residency requirement, but many allow students to complete all their requirements through an online system. There are many accredited online master’s degrees out there that have both regional and program accreditation.