What is the Difference Between Regional, National, and Specialized Accreditation?

When you enroll in college, it is important to choose a school that is accredited. Most students are aware of the fact that accreditation ensures that the degree that the student earns will be recognized, but there are more than one type of accreditation that students should know about. All accreditation bodies are non-profit education authorities that will evaluate programs so that students can take advantage of high quality learning opportunities that will prepare them for a career in many fields. What you will find is that there are several different types of accreditation that a university, a college, or a specific college degree program can earn. Here is a explanation of the major differences between regional, national and specialized accreditation:

What is a Regional Accreditation?

Accreditation, while it has been around for more than a decade, is not a one-size-fits-all concept. There are several different agencies and authorities that set standards and evaluate universities and colleges to verify that they meet these standards, and some of these bodies are classified as regional agencies. There are currently six regional accreditation agencies. All of these regional agencies are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as well as the Council of Higher Education Accreditation, which means that schools accredited by a regional body can offer Federal financial aide. The six agencies that preside over different regions of the nation include: the Middle State Association of College and Schools, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

What is a National Accreditation?

The major difference between a National accreditation and a regional accreditation is that one is based on geography and the other is based on the type of school. Once you identify schools that are accredited regionally, you will need to consider if the school has a national accreditation based on the type of programs that are offered. For example, there is a national accreditation body called the Distance Education and Training Council that specifically evaluations all distance education and training programs. This allows non-traditional programs to be compared against similar institutions so that students can make the best choice before applying to a college.

What is a Specialized Accreditation?

A university can earn a regional accreditation or a national accreditation and also have programs that have earned a specialized accreditation at the same time. A specialized accreditation, also known as a programmatic accreditation, will award membership to programs and departments within a specific field of study. Rather than accredited the entire institution, only departments and programs that fall within the scope of the field will be considered.

It is important to take time to find schools that have one or two accreditations. A regional accreditation or national accreditation is important to choose a quality institution, and a programmatic accreditation will help you find a quality program that will teach you the skills you need to know to enter the field. Use the US Department of Education database to locate institutions and programs, and make a good choice for your future.