Education is typically one of the largest investments one makes over the course of their life. Because of this you want to make sure that you get the most for your money. Transferability of credits is founded on whether an institution is accredited or not. Not all credits transfer because an online institution has been accredited, but the chances are much more likely.
Accreditation happens on two levels. The first level is at the institution level. This happens on a national level and on a regional level. There are six regional accreditation institutions that give their stamp of approval to institutions that have met a predetermined standard of quality for their overall mission and programs. These accreditors hold a lot weight. They have been approved by the U.S. Department of Education. You can find out more about these agencies by going to www.ed.gov/admins/finaid/addred/accreditation_pg7.html
The second level of accreditation is at the individual program level. An online college may be accredited by one of the six regional bodies, but make sure to look at your specific program. Some specialized accreditors also give program level accreditation to institutions that aren’t regionally accredited. So be sure to look at both institutional & program accreditation.
Online institutions have to meet standards on a continual basis to maintain their accreditation. The process to update their accreditation occurs on a cycle about every ten years or so.
There are several benefits that come from attending an accredited online school that can help you in the long run.
- The quality of the educational experience has been reviewed and has met standards.
- Potential employers will more easily trust your degree.
- Going on for further degrees? Graduate degrees will more readily accept your degree if you obtained it at an accredited university, though they may not accept all the credits. Your chances are much better however with an undergrad degree from an accredited university.
- Financial aid also typically follows the accreditation. You can see why this would occur, right? When an institution has worked hard to make sure they provide a quality education they aren’t a fly by night operation that is looking to make a quick buck on pumping students through.
It’s not too difficult to find out if a school is accredited or not. Typically is a big enough deal for them to mention on their website so that prospective students will be enticed to attend. If you can’t find it in their FAQs or pages for prospective students, just give them a call. If they don’t have a phone number, run! Other tale tell signs that a group may be running stealthy operations are that they promise degrees that you can earn in a month, try to mimic the name of a well known university, have no requirements for enrollment and admission or the cost is much lower than other apparently comparable institutions.
Keep your eyes open when you’re looking through potential online schools. While accreditation isn’t required for you to learn, it often is required for future credibility of your degree and education. And even if you DID learn something from an unaccredited online university, you may not get as many chances of showing off your skills because employers are sifting through many applicants that have been to a school that’s accredited. Good luck in your search for a good accredited online school.