There are various accrediting bodies. The type of accrediting body that evaluates your school depends on the type of educational institution and its geographical location. Accrediting agencies confer either:

  • institutional accreditation, comprised of regional accreditation and national accreditation, or
  • specialized accreditation, comprised of specialized or specific program accreditation

Regional and national are two different types of institutional accreditation meant for two different types or prospective students. Regional accreditation is the main accreditation of colleges and universities, while national accreditation applies primarily at trade schools. Regional and national accrediting agencies evaluate the entire institution, while specialized accreditation can be earned in addition to institutional accreditation for complex professional programs. For example, a nursing or law program at an accredited university usually also seeks specialized accreditation in each field.

Let's take a look at how an educational institution becomes accredited. Through the CHEA (Council for Higher Education Accreditation) and the USDE (United States Department of Education), private nonprofit accrediting organizations are formed to assess educational institutions that seek accreditation. Accreditation is decided based on the strength of various academic standards; CHEA and the USDE collaborate to ensure that federal aids funds are used to purchase quality courses and programs at legitimate schools. Although these larger bodies (CHEA and the USDE) appoint smaller ones to evaluate and accredit, those agencies are under the oversight of CHEA and the USDE.

The difference between regional and national accreditation associations depends largely on whether the institution is a college or university or a trade school (trade school programs vary and include vocational educators, religious programs, etc). There are six regional accrediting associations that work independently within their sanctioned regions. These are the:

Because online programs can be accessed from anywhere in the nation and the world, the accrediting organization depends on the location of the school, NOT the student. If you're in California and pursue an online degree from a school based in New York, the school should be accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (where the school is), NOT the Western Association (where you are).

Now, let's take a look at some national accrediting organizations. A nationally accredited institution usually focuses on vocational training like information technology or business, or religious studies and training. First, we'll look at the recognized faith-based accrediting institutions:

NATIONAL FAITH-BASED ACCREDITING ORGANIZATIONS

If you're interested in pursuing your online education through an online trade school, here is a list of the recognized national accrediting authorities for career-related studies:

NATIONAL CAREER-RELATED ACCREDITING ORGANIZATIONS

Remember, these are national accrediting bodies, not regional. They aren't state-specific like the regional accreditors. Instead, they will cover applicable trade schools and faith-based institutions on a national level.