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Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Advice Column) Writer Innovator Expert Nurse Verified

Should I Attend a Non-Accredited School?

Nurse Beth   (1,570 Views 11 Comments)
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Dear Nurse Beth,

 

I have been accepted into a school that is not listed as ACEN certified. What exactly does that mean for me if I were to go through the program? I have asked a few of the contacts at the school but cannot get a reply.


Dear Not ACEN Certified,

For starters, make sure the school is approved by your State Board of Nursing. All nursing programs must be approved by the State Board of Nursing (BON) or Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) by meeting certain specific criteria. Each state defines its own criteria and standards for nursing schools. BON/BRN school approval is required for the student to later be eligible to sit for the NCLEX exam.

However, BON/BRN approval does not mean the school is accredited by either of the two main organizations that approve nursing schools. Nursing school program accreditation is voluntary. Accreditation is a standard above the BON/BRN approval. The two organizations are:

  • The Accreditation Commissions for Education in Nursing (ACEN): Accredits diploma, associates, bachelor's, and master's nursing education programs.
  • The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE): Accredits only bachelor's and master's level nursing education programs*

Your question is whether or not you should attend a non-accredited school. Accreditation assures that certain quality standards have been met and some employers prefer to hire graduates from an accredited school (check your area). Accreditation means you will be able to easily transfer to another school as credits and curricula are recognized.

But this doesn't necessarily mean that a non-accredited school provides a poor quality nursing program. For example, a community college with an excellent nursing program on a limited budget may opt not to become accredited because of the expense or faculty requirements. They may even have an articulation agreement with universities should the graduate want to pursue a higher degree. Employers in the area may welcome graduates from the program.

It comes down to reputation and due diligence. Research your program as much as possible. Find out their NCLEX pass rate and student retention rate. Try to talk to current or past students for insight into the program.

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth

Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

 

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*note: The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA) accredits nurse anesthesia programs and the American College of Nurse-Midwives Division of Accreditation (ACNM) accredits midwifery education programs.

Edited by tnbutterfly

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As Beth said, do some research into the quality of the school before you give them any money. While accreditation by one of the 2 main organizations (ACEN or CCNE) doesn't guarantee that the school is great, it does show that certain basic standards have been met. Also, the lack of accreditation doesn't guarantee that those standards are not met. However ... choose a school that is accredited by one of those 2 organizations gives you a greater chance of attending a good, respectable program.

A couple of other things to check as you do your research:

1. Do the major colleges in your state accept the graduates of that program into their BSN and/or graduate programs? If not, that is a strong sign that the school is not respected by the education experts in your state.

2. Where do most of the new grads from that school get jobs? Is it in the big, high-acuity hospitals in your town? Again, if not, that suggests that those hospitals don't feel that those new grads are well-prepared.

3. Where do the students of that school do their clinical training? Once more, if the school offers few opportunities at the facilities you want to work out, that tells you either that those facilities don't respect the school ... or at least, suggests that you won't be well-prepared to work at the facilities when you graduate.

Good luck with your investigations!

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Should the school you pick be accredited by both? I know some that are only ACEN or only CCNE accredited. As long as it's accredited by one is that okay?

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Should the school you pick be accredited by both? I know some that are only ACEN or only CCNE accredited. As long as it's accredited by one is that okay?

Yes. Few schools bother to be accredited by both. Either one is adequate.

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Should the school you pick be accredited by both? I know some that are only ACEN or only CCNE accredited. As long as it's accredited by one is that okay?

Yes, either one :)

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Lack of accreditation may not necessarily be a deal breaker but I still think you should be cautious. You do really need to do your homework before you consider it. First and probably most obvious is ensuring you are eligible to sit the NCLEX after graduation. Second is the financial aid programs available for schooling. Unless you plan to pay out of pocket as you go make sure funding options are varied and legitimate. Then consider what will happen if you decide to continue your education after that degree. Even if the lack of accreditation doesn't seem to cause any issues in your area with transferring to a local university should you decide to pursue a higher degree that doesn't mean those credits will transfer elsewhere if you want to continue your education in another state or online. Plus you need to consider how employable a degree from that program makes you. Do grads from that school easily find jobs? It's a lot of groundwork doing all the research into a school but you really need to do it to prevent potential trouble down the road.

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Personally, I would NEVER go with an unaccredited school. After all, you are paying them a lot of money for a degree that may stymy you, if and when you decide to move up and on. You may have to move to another state or to some entity that requires proof of graduating from an accredited school. S:ince you are actually paying them for an education it seems the least they could do before taking your money is become accredited. If it's free, well you have lost nothing but time:)

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Look at job openings where you plan to work. What do they say? Ask the HR departments of your potential employers. For example, the Federal system, Veteran's Administration, is very specific.

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Look at job openings where you plan to work. What do they say? Ask the HR departments of your potential employers. For example, the Federal system, Veteran's Administration, is very specific.

I've seen many, many job ads that state in their qualifications list: "Graduate of an accredited school of nursing". The lack of school accreditation may trip you up in all kinds of ways throughout your career. Even if the BON recognizes them and other schools in the state accept their credits, moving to work out of state can present problems. I'd be cautious.

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