Schools in the USA

Career College Accreditation

Accreditation is a form of independent, professional certification that focuses on schools and programs in a particular field. Accreditation of career colleges therefore assures you and your parents that the school adheres to high quality standards. Which means the programs are delivered by qualified faculty and are constantly updated to follow the changes and meet the needs of the relevant industry or working world. Attending an accredited school or program is often thought to make you more competitive on the job market.

Accreditation in the US takes place at different levels. Governmental and other agencies must first recognize the accrediting bodies. For instance, the US Department of Education, the Council for Higher Education Association (CHEA) and the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA) grant power to associations that oversee accreditation at the regional, institutional or program level. Additionally, career colleges require approval to operate at the state level.

  • Regional: The US Department of Education recognizes 6 distinct higher educational regions, each of which is overseen by a different accrediting body. This is the type of accreditation most commonly referred to and is for a university or college as a whole, not for individual programs. Accreditation by these regional agencies isn't automatic: this is voluntary accreditation, and some of the six regions have separate accrediting bodies specifically for career colleges.

  • State: Most states require career colleges and technical schools to be licensed or certified. If a school has a license or certificate to operate, it means it has gone through a process to make sure it meets certain standards. Some states do not require certain schools to be licensed or certified to operate legally in the state, so it's important to contact the state licensing agency where the school is located to find out if it's operating legally in the state.

    As well, some state agencies have been recognized by the US Secretary of Education as authorities on the quality of vocational education in their respective states. For example: the New York State Board of Regents, State Education Department, Office of the Professions; Oklahoma Board of Career and Technology Education; and Pennsylvania State Board of Vocational Education, Bureau of Career and Technical Education.

  • Institutional: Depending on the kind of university or college it is (e.g., private, technical, etc.) it may also be accredited by institute-type specific agencies. Career colleges can be quite different in character, size, location and in the programs they offer. Therefore there are several organizations which represent and accredit career colleges in the US.

  • Specialized: Specialized accreditation is a type of accreditation that focuses on specific areas of study and individual programs. This is sometimes called professional accreditation, because it means specific programs meet the national standards for that field of study. Career colleges cover a fairly wide range of programs, so check the accreditation not only of the institution but of the specific career-program you intend to pursue.

  • When assessing quality, you can also look at whether a school or program has any memberships in, or endorsements by, professional associations (such as the Association for Career and Technical Education, or ACTE) which reflect certain standards of quality, but this is not the same as official accreditation.

    Private Career College Accrediting Agencies
    Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)
    Established: 1956
    Location: Washington, DC
    Web: www.acics.org
    Scope: Accreditation of US private postsecondary institutions offering certificates, diplomas, associate's, bachelor's, or master's degrees in professional, technical, or occupational programs.

    Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT)
    Established: 1967
    Location: Arlington, Virginia
    Web: www.accsct.org
    Scope: Accreditation of private, postsecondary, institutions in the US, including those granting associate, baccalaureate and master's degrees, that are focused on occupational, trade and technical career education.

    Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training
    Established: 1974
    Location: Washington, DC
    Web: www.accet.org
    Scope: Accreditation of US institutions of higher education offering vocational and continuing education leading to certificates or occupational associate's degrees.

    Council on Occupational Education
    Established: 1969
    Location: Atlanta, Georgia
    Web address: www.council.org
    Scope: Accreditation and pre-accreditation ("Candidacy Status") of occupational education postsecondary institutions offering non-degree and applied associate's degree programs in specific career and technical fields.

    Some Regional Career College Accrediting Agencies
    Middle States Commission on Secondary Schools: Accredits institutions with postsecondary, non-degree granting career and technology programs in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Technical and Career Institutions: Provides accreditation and pre-accreditation ("Candidate status") of postsecondary institutions offering primarily vocational/technical education at the certificate, associate, and baccalaureate degree levels in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

    Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges: Provides accreditation and pre-accreditation ("Candidate for Accreditation") of two-year, associate's degree-granting institutions in California, Hawaii, and the United States territories of Guam and others.

    Why Accreditation?
    The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality. Accrediting agencies have no legal control over institutions or programs; they promote certain standards and approve or renew membership of institutions that apply and meet the accreditation standards or criteria. Certain licensing programs may require that you've been through a course of study with specialized accreditation, because it ensures that you have been taught by faculty qualified to teach in that field. The US Secretary of Education and CHEA each maintain and publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies, and most institutions attain eligibility for Federal funds by holding accredited or pre-accredited status with one of the recognized accrediting agencies.

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