YOU need to know what accreditation really means!
- 20Jan 22 by GrnTea, BSN, MSN, RNFrom University of San Francisco 2011 web article
Nursing Program Accreditation Resources
Accreditation–it’s a term that you have likely heard in the past, but do you know what it really means? If not, you’re not alone. Many people are unsure about what it means when a program or school is accredited, the different kinds of accreditation that exist, and how this elusive term affects your education and career. Here are some important things that you should understand about accreditation as you prepare to start your nursing education.
What Is Accreditation?
When you enroll in a degree program, you want to be confident that everything you are taught meets professional standards.; You want to know that the curriculum will prepare you to enter the healthcare industry with the most current skills and knowledge in that field.. This is where accreditation comes in. Accreditation is a process by which educational programs are evaluated by an outside body that determines if professional standards are being met. These organizations help ensure that the education you receive conforms to certain requirements,, allowing you to proceed knowing that the time and dedication that you put into your studies are a wise investment.
Accreditation is given at two important levels: institution and program. It is important to understand both, as each is important to your education plan.
University Regional vs. National Accreditation
Colleges and universities can earn 1 of 2 types of accreditation: regional or national. In the United States there are 6 regional accrediting agencies:
- Middle State Association of Colleges and Schools (Commission on Higher Education)
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (Commission on Technical and Career Institutions and Commission on Institutions of Higher Education)
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (The Higher Learning Commission)
- Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (Commission on Colleges)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges and Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities
National accrediting agencies focus not on areas of the country, but rather associations of schools with common themes. These agencies tend to accredit post-secondary technical, career, and vocational programs. There are 52 of national agencies in the United States. Some examples are:
- Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)
- Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT)
- Council on Occupational Education (COE)
What does this difference mean to you as a student? The biggest issue is the ability to transfer credits between different schools. eLearners.com points out that schools that are nationally accredited typically accept credit from both regionally and nationally accredited schools, but the opposite does not hold true; most regionally accredited schools do not accept transferred credits from nationally accredited schools. So if you began your higher education coursework at a nationally accredited school and then want to transfer to a regionally accredited school, your coursework at the nationally accredited school many not transfer.
This issue isn’t just limited to transferring credits; it can also have an effect on your ability to continue your education in advanced programs, which in turn can impact your ability to progress in your career. Many institutions of higher learning require you to have an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution in order to apply to their graduate programs.
Nursing Education Program Accrediting Bodies:
The Department of Education sanctions two national organizations that accredit nursing education programs. The first is the National League of Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) -- reorganized as the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). As detailed on the organization’s website, ACEN is responsible for the specialized accreditation of a wide variety of nursing education programs, including clinical doctorate, master’s, bachelor’s, associate, diploma, and practical programs.
The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) also accredits nursing schools, but only those that solely offer master’s and bachelor’s nursing degrees. Similar to the accreditation process of the ACNE, the CCNE offers a nongovernmental peer review process that operates in accordance with nationally recognized standards, according to the CCNE website. The organization’s mission statement outlines its intention to accomplish several purposes, including:
- Holding nursing programs accountable to the community of interest,
- Evaluating the success of a nursing program in achieving its own goals and meeting its expected outcomes,
- Evaluating the extent to which a nursing program meets the standards for accreditation,
- Implementing changes that can continue to improve nursing programs, and
- Informing the public of the value that accreditation has, so that institutes that have such status are recognized for their merits.
Beyond the ACNE and the CNNE national accrediting bodies, there are also other accrediting bodies for specific, advanced practice nursing fields. For instance, the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME) is responsible for accrediting midwifery education programs.
Why an Accredited Program is Important
If you will be seeking financial aid to pursue your nursing education, choosing an accredited program is vital. In many cases, you cannot qualify for federal and state financial aid, tuition reimbursement programs offered by employers, nor scholarship and grants unless the program is accredited by the ACNE or the CCNE. Similar to the regional vs. national accreditation issue, you may face an admissions issue to a graduate nursing program if you earned your nursing degree in a non-accredited program.
Both the ACNE and the CNNE list accredited nursing programs on their websites.
There are many resources that you can utilize when trying to learn more about schools and where their accreditation positions them in relation to your career path. All universities and colleges have their accreditation information listed on their websites, and there are also countless resources available online to learn more about accreditation and how it affects your education. In the end, the more information and knowledge you possess as you make the decision about where you want to pursue your nursing education, the more confidently you can make a decision that will in turn help you to shape your career.
National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, Inc., “About NLNAC,”¯ About NLNAC (accessed November 3, 2011)
Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACE) accessed 1/22/14
American Association of Colleges of Nursing, “Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education,” Mission, Values, & History. American Association of Colleges of Nursing | Mission, Values, & History (accessed November 2, 2011).
American College of Nurse-Midwives, “Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME).”¯Accreditation (accessed November 3, 2011).
eLearners.com, “Regional Accreditation vs. National Accreditation,”¯ Issues to Consider. Regional Accreditation vs. National Accreditation (accessed November 3, 2011).Last edit by NRSKarenRN on Jan 23 : Reason: Updated to include ACEN info/weblink
- 7Jan 22 by AOx1 GuideAnother issue I commonly see is students who are shocked to find that their state's Board of Nursing approval is not the same thing as accreditation. We turn away many applicants that did not graduate from an ACEN (formerly NLNAC) or CCNE accredited school, but insist that their program is "accredited by State X Board of Nursing."
Thanks for reminding students of the importance of being informed consumers of education.
- 1Jan 23 by HeathermaizeyThis is great because a lot of people don't understand this and they end up paying for an education that is worth pretty much nothing. And many of these schools have great "salesman" to get you in but it's a waste of time and money if you can't do anything with it.
- 4Jan 23 by nekozukiQuote from pookypYou wouldn't even get that far. An accredited BSN program will not accept unaccredited ADN courses. At best, they will accept your active nursing license but make you re-take ALL pre-reqs not attained from a regionally accredited school. One of my classmates is going through this right now. She's been an RN for 20 years, went back for her BSN only to find that the courses she completed in her hospital degree program (nationally accredited) were not accepted by state or community colleges. While she will be able to do the RN to BSN bridge, she must re-take ALL her non-nursing courses.Say a student gets their ADN from a non accredited school, but gets their BSN from an accredited school. Does the BSN override the ADN? Will an employer care?
- 2Jan 23 by AOx1 GuideQuote from pookypMuch of this depends on where you live. In my area, there are no ADN to BSN programs or MSN program that accept grads from unaccredited schools, so the ADN grad from an unaccredited school would have to move or find an online program that would accept them. This can be extremely difficult to find.Say a student gets their ADN from a non accredited school, but gets their BSN from an accredited school. Does the BSN override the ADN? Will an employer care?
Some markets are also much more competitive and are picky. Ex- some specify only BSN nurses, no new grads, etc. It will also depend on the reputation of the program as to whether employers care. There are some proprietary programs in our area that are a joke.
If you plan to continue your education, I would definitely contact prospective grad schools to see if you would be qualified to apply. This would give you a more accurate local picture.Last edit by AOx1 on Jan 23
- 2Jan 23 by pookypQuote from nekozukiI have all of my pre reqs from an accredited community college. Anatomy, micro, psych, eng comp, speech, etc. just was thinking about going to an unaccredited school for the simple fact that there's no waiting list and less time.You wouldn't even get that far. An accredited BSN program will not accept unaccredited ADN courses. At best, they will accept your active nursing license but make you re-take ALL pre-reqs not attained from a regionally accredited school. One of my classmates is going through this right now. She's been an RN for 20 years, went back for her BSN only to find that the courses she completed in her hospital degree program (nationally accredited) were not accepted by state or community colleges. While she will be able to do the RN to BSN bridge, she must re-take ALL her non-nursing courses.
- 3Jan 23 by AOx1 GuideQuote from pookypBe very careful with this decision. Also, check the costs of the ADN to BSN programs as well as the ADN program. Your choice should meet your needs in terms of future work and education prospects as well as cost. At least weekly, I hear from applicants who are frustrated that they can't apply to our grad programs due to their prior school's lack of accreditation. Also look at pass rates, retention rates, average graduate debt, and post-graduation placement/employment rates.I have all of my pre reqs from an accredited community college. Anatomy, micro, psych, eng comp, speech, etc. just was thinking about going to an unaccredited school for the simple fact that there's no waiting list and less time.