Cosmetology And Esthetics Accreditation

Schools in the USA

Cosmetology And Esthetics Accreditation

Accreditation is a form of independent, professional certification that focuses on schools and programs in a particular field. Accreditation of cosmetology and esthetics schools and programs therefore assures you and your parents that the school adheres to high quality standards--an important fact when it comes to programs dealing with personal services. Accreditation ensures that the programs are delivered by qualified faculty and are constantly updated to follow the changes and meet the needs of the industry. Attending an accredited school or program is often thought to make you more competitive on the job market and may be a factor in your ability to qualify for certain financial aid.

Accreditation in the US takes place at different levels. First you have governmental and other agencies that govern and recognize the accrediting bodies. 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, state, institutional or program 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.

  • State: Most states require private career colleges 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 Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, Oklahoma Board of Career and Technology Education, and Pennsylvania State Board of Vocational Education.

  • Institutional: Depending on the kind of college it is (e.g., private, public, etc.) it may also be accredited by institute-type specific agencies. Beauty schools and colleges offering cosmetology and esthetics programs can be quite different in character 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 national accreditation that focuses on specific areas of study. This is sometimes called professional accreditation, because it means specific programs meet the national standards for that field of study.

    Licensing, Membership, Certification and Affiliations
    When assessing quality, you can also look at whether a school or program has any memberships in, or affiliations with, professional associations. Examples may be the American Association of Cosmetology Schools (AACS), the International Chain Salon Association (ICSA) and the school's local Chamber of Commerce. These association affiliations reflect a school's commitment to certain standards of quality, but this is not the same as official accreditation. Schools may also be certified by professional associations, such as the National Coalition of Estheticians, Manufacturers/Distributors and Associations (NCEA), so you can look for NCEA approved training facilites. As well, cosmetology and esthetics practitioners receive state licensure as individuals, and when checking a school's credentials, don't forget to check whether the instructors are professionally licensed.

    Specialized Accrediting Agencies
    National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences (NACCAS)
    Location: Alexandria, Virginia
    Established: 1969
    Scope: NACCAS accredits postsecondary schools and departments of cosmetology arts and sciences, including specialized schools. It presently accredits approximately 1,300 institutions which serve over 120,000 students.

    Private Career College Accrediting Agencies
    Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)
    Established: 1956
    Location: Washington, DC
    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
    Scope: Accreditation of private, postsecondary, institutions in the US that are focused on occupational, trade and technical career education.

    Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training
    Established: 1974
    Location: Washington, DC
    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:
    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.

    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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