If you are shopping for the right nursing school, then there are many things you want to consider. Put accreditation at the top of your list, though. School accreditation is necessary on many levels. And if you currently hold a valid registered nurse (RN) license and are shopping for the right nursing school to continue your education to the next level, completing an accredited nursing program will be necessary
There are many nursing programs right now, and more are popping on a regular basis. It is important to check the accreditation of the school you’ve selected. Consider why accreditation, or lack thereof, could impact your nursing career.
What Is Accreditation?
School accreditation is the recognition of an institution’s level of educational standards by an accrediting agency. Basically, it is not enough to call yourself a school or offer an educational program. Quality education requires the school to meet specific criteria, and accreditation is how they prove they meet that level of quality.
Accreditation is a voluntary but critical process because it helps define quality education. It also requires regular reevaluations to maintain that accreditation, meaning students know the school maintains those standards, even if the requirements change.
There are two kinds of accreditation: institutional and programmatic. As a student looking for the right nursing program, you want to consider the institutional accreditation first to ensure the school itself meets the educational standards employers expect.
Why Is It Important to Choose a Nursing School That Is Accredited?
Peace of Mind. Institutional accreditation sets the standard for the school, not just the program. Ensuring the accreditation status of the school you seek to attend will give you peace of mind. By attending an accredited school, you should be getting an education that meets the standards set by those accrediting bodies.
Credit Transfers. Some schools consider the accreditation status of another school when evaluating potential credits for students who wish to transfer between schools. The requirements vary by institute, and it is at the discretion of the receiving institute whether they accept credits from other institutions.
That is important if you want to continue your education as a nurse. For instance, you might take a Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing bridge program to go from like the one offered at American Sentinel College of Nursing & Health Sciences at Post University. This program allows nurses with a two-year degree from an accredited school to continue their studies online and work towards their Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
Better Employment Options. School accreditation is something employers might look for, as well. Even if an employer does not recognize the school’s name, they can check its accreditation status to understand the education they provide. There are employers who may check the accreditation of the school from which a potential employee graduated as validation that their credential meets certain quality standards.
What Accreditations Should a Nursing School Have?
First, it is important to draw a distinction between accreditation and licensure.
Licensure is state-specific validation that the school is authorized to operate in the state and can confer specific degrees. It validates the school complies with quality standards required by the state; the state first licenses, then accredits programs within the school. For example, Post University is licensed by the Connecticut Office of Higher Education (CTOHE) to provide coursework and award specified degrees.
Institutional accreditation falls into two categories: national accreditation and regional accreditation.
Regional accrediting bodies offer institutional accreditations within specific regions, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), Post University’s regional accreditor. This means that NECHE ensures Post meets or exceeds certain quality standards as an institution providing educational programs. In the United States, there are six accreditation regions: New England, Middle States, North Central, Southern, Western, and Northwest. In the Western region, California has two commissions making seven in total. These accrediting bodies monitor institutions, mostly degree-granting and non-profit.
National accrediting bodies, on the other hand, offer institutional or, depending upon the need, specialized accreditations for degree-granting and non-degree-granting schools across the nation. Programmatic accreditations are often offered by industry-specific national accrediting bodies.
Which is better, regional or national? The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) —the entity that accredits the accreditors—says both provide students with a level of security regarding quality. The DOE makes no distinction between regional or national associations when recognizing the value of different accrediting agencies.
Programmatic accreditations focus on education within or for a specific industry or career path. Once you verify the institutional licensure, you can look at what programmatic accreditations the institution offers. For nursing programs, you want to see accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission of Education in Nursing (ACEN).
ACEN offers accreditation for nursing programs across all levels of study. This includes associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, and is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the DOE.
CCNE is a part of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). CCNE limits accreditation to nursing programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and postgraduate levels. This body does not provide accreditations for associate degrees in nursing.
Selected programs at American Sentinel College of Nursing & Health Sciences at Post University hold programmatic accreditation from either the American Association of Colleges of Nursing or the Accreditation Commission of Education in Nursing.
The Bottom Line on Nursing Accreditation
Anyone considering higher education wants to start by finding out if the school itself meets quality standards. They can prove that with the proper institutional accreditation. That should be first and foremost on any nursing student’s mind, even if they do not think they will want to advance their education. You do not know where your career path might lead five or ten years after graduating. Checking for the proper school accreditation is a smart way to be prepared for the future.
Then, look for a nursing program with programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. (ACEN). These accreditations can be extremely valuable regardless of where you are in your nursing education. They matter for one-year programs, two-year associate of nursing degrees, and BSNs or higher levels of study.
If you are looking for a CCNE-accredited RN-to-BSN nursing program that is 100% online, American Sentinel College of Nursing & Health Sciences at Post University has you covered. This program provides you with the opportunity to earn your degree on your terms—with no mandatory login times and flexible scheduling to suit your busy lifestyle.
Learn more about our RN-to-BSN program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), or reach out for help choosing the learning path that is best for you.
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