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How Accreditation Affects Online Students

When selecting the right distance learning program, several aspects of an online program can jump out at you, including courses offerings, tuition rates, financial aid packages and degree requirements. However, many potential online students overlook the item that should be at the top of your list: accreditation.

Before you pay any money or fill out any financial aid paperwork, you MUST be certain that the school you are attracted to is legitimate and well respected. You must know enough to spot those schools from the scams. Accreditation is the process of reviewing a school’s policies and programs to ensure that they meet the necessary requirements that have been set forth by an accrediting agency. If those requirements are met, then a school can be granted its proper accreditation.

Ultimately, accreditation is largely done on the behalf of students. In one respect, accreditation ensures that schools are doing all that they can to provide a quality education for its students. Students need to be confident that the education they receive online will adequately and properly prepare them for their corresponding profession.   When entering the job market, prospective employers are looking for the most qualified candidate, which includes a degree from an accredited institution.  An accredited online degree can also send a positive message to a potential employer, announcing your advanced skills, professional background, and up-to-date knowledge of the most recent trends in your field. 

Furthermore, accreditation makes another valuable distinction for students. An accredited online degree assures companies that candidates have not purchased their diploma through a “diploma mill” or online money scheme. Several online sites have been discovered to sell degrees to people who do very little, if anything, to get them. These fraudulent programs are not accredited and can land you, the job candidate, in a great deal of trouble if you seek a degree through this route. However, this does not mean that all non-accredited schools are “diploma mills.” There are six regional accreditations that are recognized by both the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. These are the same accreditations that are offered to brick and mortar campuses and universities.

The six, most widely known regional accreditation agencies are New England Association of Schools and Colleges, North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvements, Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges, Southern Association of Schools and Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges. Some distance learning schools are accredited by the Distance Education Training Council.

It is very easy to find out if a school is accredited by simply checking out the website of the U.S. Department of Education. Just remember one thing: if a school claims to be accredited that does not mean it is. You have to check that out for yourself.

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