Education is probably one of the best investments one can make in life. However, the quality of education determines future career prospects. In other words, graduating from an accredited University or College is likely to improve your chances of getting a good job. In the US, learning institutions voluntarily apply for accreditation from different bodies and agencies. As such, some universities or colleges receive their accreditation from national bodies, while others receive their accreditation from regional bodies. This guide will take you through accreditation classifications in the US.

Accrediting Associations
Most of the accrediting agencies and bodies are education associations that set standards that learning institutions must meet before receiving accreditation. As a result, standards vary and this makes certain accrediting associations more prestigious that others. Some of the agencies and bodies only accredit programs in specific fields of study such as medicine and engineering. If a learning institution passes the accreditation review, it shows that the quality of education meets the set standards.

Types of Accreditation
A university or College can receive regional, national, or programmatic accreditation.

National Accreditation
At the national level, accrediting agencies do not have geographic boundaries. Although the standards are not usually as stringent as those for accreditation at the regional level, schools must meet career-oriented guidelines. This makes it easy for vocational colleges, online schools, trade schools, and religious schools to receive accreditation. Agencies that award national accreditation include the ACCSCT and the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC).

Regional Accreditation
Learning institutions can seek accreditation from six regional agencies. These agencies only cover certain parts of the country. The agencies are:

Northwest Commission On Colleges and Universities

Western Association of Schools and Colleges (Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities and Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges)

New England Association of Schools and Colleges (Commission on Institutions of Higher Education and Commission on Technical and Career Institutions)

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (Commission on Colleges)

Middle State Association of Colleges and Schools (Commission on Higher Education)

North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (The Higher Learning Commission)

According to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the US Department of Education, these agencies can award regional accreditation. For online degree programs, the regional body that covers its home state gives accreditation.

Programmatic/Specialized Accreditation

This type of accreditation only covers a specific department or program within a learning institution. This means that the accrediting agency represents a particular field of study. Specialized accreditation is necessary if your future career involves licensing. This includes fields of study such as law, engineering, and medicine. Accrediting organizations include:

• American Chemical Society (ACS)

• American Psychological Association (APA)

• Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND)

• Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology (ABET)

• Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)

• Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)

• National Association of Schools of Music (NASM)

• American Medical Association (AMA)

• American Dental Association (ADA)

• American Bar Association (ABA)

Importance of Accreditation

Accreditation plays a big role in determining your future education and career prospects. For example, enrolling for an undergraduate degree at a non-accredited institution means you may not gain admission into an accredited graduate school. The same is true if you plan to transfer from a non-accredited institution to an accredited one. According to the Council for Higher Education, a degree from an accredited institution improves your chances of finding work.

Accreditation is the gold standard for measuring the quality of education in the US. However, the organizations that award accreditation vary in scope as well as geographic footprint. At the regional level, there are six agencies with the power to award accreditation. Schools that have received accreditation may offer federally approved financial aid to students. Employers value qualifications from accredited institutions.