Which is Preferred, Regional or National Accreditation?

When they discover that there is more than one type of accreditation, many prospective students wonder if there is a preferred accreditation between employers and licensing bodies. If you are asking this very question, it is important to understand the difference between a national and a regional accreditation. While each credential is a distinguishing mark for colleges and universities, these accreditation types are not created equal. Once you understand how the classifications of accreditation can vary, you can better understand which learning opportunities are right for you on a higher level. 

What is a Regional Accreditation and Why Is It Important?

Regional accreditation is granted by a third-party regional agency that presides over a specified list of home states. There are currently 6 different regional agencies that are recognized by both the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. This means that any regionally accredited school, either traditional or online, can extend their students the opportunity to apply for Federal financial aide and other Federal programs. Schools that do not have a regional accreditation cannot offer FAFSA applications and most forms of state aide to their student body. 

What is a National Accreditation and Why Is It Important?

Now that you have a basic understanding of the regional accreditation, it is time to understand what separates a national accreditation from a regional one. Instead of being based on its region like a regional credential, a national accreditation is designed to evaluate the quality of education that is being delivered by a specific type of college that does not fit the traditional degree program classification. If you were to attend a vocational school, a career college or a technology program, you would more than likely look for a school that is accredited by a national body in that specific field. Bodies like the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges is very popular in establishing quality educational standards and peer review processes that improve institutions. If you choose this type of program, be sure that the licensing bureau or professional organization overseeing licensing recognizes degrees from the institution. 

Is One Better Than The Other?

There is not one right answer to this question. The real question is, are you looking for a traditional office type of job or a job where specialized licensing is required? If you need to earn a licensed in a vocation and formal training is required, you may find that the national accreditation is preferred. If, however, you plan on earning a Master’s in an area of study that is classified as traditional, earning your degree from a regionally accredited institution may be preferred. 

It is important to know that most regionally accredited schools will only transfer credits to other regionally accredited schools. If you want to further your degree or switch schools, this is something all students should be aware of in advance. If you are sure of the path you want to take, always remember that plans can change. By doing this, you can avoid making a hasty decision that affects your life later because you did not earn the preferred accreditation to accomplish your goals.