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The Importance of Accreditation

The Importance of Accreditation: Online Courses

Online courses can be great-they save time, money, and the hassle of getting to and from class on time, every day. However, not every online institution is worthwhile. There are essentially three different types of institutions on the Internet: those with recognized accreditation, those with unrecognized or no accreditation, and diploma mills. The latter is worthless and no employer will take this type of degree seriously because you are basically buying a diploma. These are easy to distinguish (i.e. they may offer a degree in under 10 days) and are not worth discussing. The other two types of institutions, however, deserve a more thorough consideration.

Most states require a learning institution to be certified, authorized, and/or accredited before they can issue degrees to students. However, there are schools that do not meet these requirements. Some states (i.e. Wyoming, Montana, and Hawaii) allow unaccredited universities to do business as long as they are physically in the state. This makes it easy for schools to remain open simply be changing addresses when the state does pass legislation (a simple endeavor since there's no actual campus). These school may advertise things like work history and life experience counting for a "learning period;" they may claim to be "licensed by the state" (not an accreditation); and they may create fictional accreditation agencies or use legitimate agencies that never actually certified them. Unaccredited institutions are nearly as undesirable as the "diploma mills" because employers have no standard with which to test the programs.

Students enrolled in these institutions have wasted a lot of time, money, and effort on a degree that may be rejected by potential employers. Similarly, credits from non-accredited schools cannot be transferred to other universities. Thus, it is extremely important to ensure that your online institution is accredited. Luckily, it's not hard to do. All of the programs affiliated with this site are accredited, but if you want to double-check, or are looking into a school that is not affiliated with this site, there's a simple way to find out. The U.S. Department of Education (www.ed.gov) maintains a list of accreditation agencies that it considers acceptable. First, check with the institution that you're considering and determine which agency accredited it, and then look at the DOE list to ensure that that agency is suitable. It's as easy as that.

Schools to consider: