Advantages of Accreditation
One of the first questions you should ask when considering a health care program is “Is it accredited?” Knowing the accreditation status of a college or university will help you assess what the college community thinks of the school, as well as an individual program.
Accrediting boards can be regional or national, and can accredit institutions or specific departments or schools within an institution.
It can get a little confusing so here’s a primer to help you navigate the accreditation terrain.
Understanding School Accreditation
What is accreditation?
Accreditation is used as an evaluation tool. Independent bodies assess the strengths and weaknesses of schools and degree program to ensure that standards of quality are being met. Consider it to be a system of checks and balances.
Who are the accreditation agencies?
Accrediting agencies are neutral, third-parties with specific criteria that must be met by each school, such as the number of professors, quality of instruction, and depth and breadth of courses offered. Often, those on accreditation committees are made up of peers from other schools. Who better to judge Harvard Medical School than Stanford’s doctors?
The process of accreditation is a rubber stamp of sorts, a marker that says others working in the field believe that the program is worthwhile. Accreditation agencies are private—not government run. Schools voluntarily put themselves through the process of accreditation in order to gain insight into the quality of their own programs. It is a way of getting advice and suggestions.
Ask the program advisor about a school’s accreditation, and verify yourself that it’s accredited by referring to these organizations:
What Does Accreditation Do for You?
For the university, accreditation serves to instill public confidence in the institution and assure quality curricula. For the student, accreditation serves several important purposes:
University vs. Department vs. Program Accreditations
Accrediting bodies might accredit a university, a department within the university, or a specific program within a department. Look for accreditation at all of these levels. Let’s use George Washington University (GWU) as an example:
Where to Go From Here
Now that you know the basics, you can do a little digging of your own to find the information you need. Once you have the degree itself picked out, find out exactly what accrediting agency is relevant to that degree. Check your state’s local government site for licensing requirements, then the DOE site. The DOE provides a searchable online database of accrediting agencies. You can search the database to find out exactly what schools and programs are accredited.
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