Accreditation is the process in which a graduate degree program goes through a review process to ensure that the quality of education measures up to established standards and criteria. Accreditation is recognized as both a status and a process. In other words it is a process of validation. This means that an institution or program meets standards of quality that are established by an accrediting agency and that information is made public.
Accreditation also means that the institution or program goes through the process of internal (self-study) and external peer review to ensure that standards are met and the program or institution continuously seek ways in which to enhance the quality of education. Accrediting bodies publish guidelines and procedures on how the process is conducted and what it entails.
The assurance process is important in order to ensure that the standard and the quality of the college and university and the degree programs are maintained and upheld. The review, appraisal and assessment process is done by accreditation bodies. This may be done through professional accreditation bodies or overall college and university accrediting bodies.
There are many issues to consider when choosing a graduate degree program including graduate program accreditation status. But first, why is it important to ensure that the program or university you apply to is accredited? First, you want to ensure that when you graduate with your degree, your credentials will be recognized. Employers want to make sure that the quality of education you received matches their standards both in terms of skills and knowledge. In most cases, graduation from an accredited program is a minimum qualification for consideration.
Second, some professions require licensure or certification, and will investigate to determine if the program you attended is a recognized institution. For licensure and certification boards, graduating from an accredited program denotes that adequate preparation for entry into the profession has been attained.
Third, you want to ensure that you attend a real university and not a diploma mill. You don’t want to spend a lot of time and money and have nothing to show for it in the end. A word of caution – some accrediting bodies are themselves not recognized, so be sure to investigate and see if they have been any complaints about them. If your grogram is accredited by a regional agency, your degree will be considered as legitimate.
Accreditation is assessed on criteria that include:
- Mission of the college or program
- Program goals and objectives
- Requirements for admissions
- Services available to students
- Quality of education
- Reputation of the faculty and staff
The quickest way to determine if a college or university is accredited is to search the Institution Accreditation database of the United States Department of Education (http://www.ope.ed.gov/accreditation/Search.aspx). The database provides a list of all institutions accredited by recognized agencies. If you suspect a school is a diploma mill you can search various resources, for example http://www.geteducated.com/diploma-mill-police to read reports.
What are the different types of graduate school accreditation? There are generally two categories of accreditation:
- Institutional accreditation – This applies to the entire university or college.
- Programmatic or specialized accreditation – This applies to an individual curriculum, degree, program, department, or school within the university or college, or a professional college in a particular discipline. In many cases he accrediting agencies are separate from institutional accrediting agencies.