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Throughout the world, more and more students are obtaining college degrees and reaching their educational goals through distance and e-learning programs. Now it is easier than ever to make education a part of your daily life because the industry of online and distance education is growing so very rapidly.

But students, educators, and all people interested in distance education and e-learning programs should know about the importance of obtaining a college degree from a college, university, or other institution of higher education with accreditation. They should also know about the dangers of obtaining a degree or diploma from an institution without accreditation.

It is easier to understand the importance of accreditation if you know how accreditation works.

World Wide Learn strives to provide you with the information you need to know about the different types of accreditation. Use this section as a resource to find out about the different types of accreditation and how accreditation types affect your education.

Types of Accreditation

There is not just one type of accreditation. In fact, different educational institutions and other kinds of institutions require specific types of accreditation status.

Some kinds of institutions that require accreditation status are:

  • Public institutions
  • Private institutions
  • For-profit institutions
  • Non-profit institutions
  • Single-purpose institutions
  • Private career institutions
  • Faith-based colleges and universities
  • Distance learning colleges and universities
  • Law schools
  • Medical schools
  • Heath profession educational programs

Only one kind of accreditation would not be sufficient to address the accrediting needs of the various institutions that require accreditation status. This is why accreditation organizations provide two major types of accreditation. They are:

  1. Institutional accreditation
  2. Specialized, professional, or programmatic accreditation

These two major kinds of accreditation are used for quality review, assessment, and assurance of institutions all over the world.

1. Institutional Accreditation

Institutional accreditation status is achieved by a college or university that meets the quality standards and fulfills the requirements designated by the accreditation organization.

In order to meet the requirements for institutional accreditation status, all aspects of the college or university, including academic quality, administrative effectiveness, and all other related services of the institution, are reviewed by the accreditation organization.

Institutional accreditation affirms that the college or university operates with a high level of quality in all its aspects. This type of accreditation is comprehensive and indicates that the institution has achieved quality standards in areas such as faculty, administration, curriculum, student services, and overall financial well-being. This type of accreditation is held in high regard in the world of education.

2. Specialized, Professional, or Programmatic Accreditation

Specialized, professional, or programmatic accreditation is a type of accreditation status that is designated for specialized departments, programs, schools, or colleges within a college or university that have already been awarded institutional accreditation.

Specialized, professional, or programmatic accreditation focuses on particular aspects of the department, program, school, or college's specified academic field of study. For instance, this type of accreditation status recognizes particular aspects of quality in the academic fields of engineering, nursing, law, or education, among others.

Some professions that are regulated by and dependent upon a state or national licensing board may require job applicants to have graduated from specific academic programs that have specialized, professional, or programmatic accreditation status. Specialized, professional, or programmatic accreditation organizations operate all over the United States, reviewing programs and single-service institutions.

Students who are considering enrolling in a college degree program should know the requirements of their future career field and what it takes to become a licensed practitioner in that field. Students should look for programs that have achieved specialized, professional, or programmatic accreditation status in order to ensure their eligibility for professional licensure in states that require it.

Regional and National Accreditation

Institutional accreditation organizations can be further categorized into two sections: regional and national accreditation organizations. Regional and national organizations each have particular functions and specific geographical areas that they cover.

Regional Accrediting Organizations
Regional accreditation organizations perform the accreditation process in six regions of the United States. These accreditation organizations review institutions in their entirety. According to CHEA, 98 percent of the institutions reviewed by regional accreditation organizations are nonprofit and degree granting, though these accreditation organizations may also review for-profit, non-degree-granting institutions on some rare occasions. Institutions reviewed by regional accreditation organizations are both public and private and can be two-year or four-year educational institutions.

National Accrediting Organizations
National accreditation organizations perform the accreditation process throughout the United States and review institutions in their entirety. According to CHEA, 34.8 percent of the institutions in the United States that are nationally accredited are degree-granting. 65.1 percent are non-degree-granting. 20.4 percent of the institutions with national accreditation are non-profit, while 79.4 percent are for-profit. Some of these institutions are faith-based or single-purpose institutions, like distance learning colleges and universities. Nationally accredited institutions can be public or private.