Understanding the Various Accreditation Types

When it comes to accreditation, there isn’t just one type. Many types can be pursued including national accreditation, regional accreditation, specialized accreditation, belief-oriented accreditation, and more. Some types apply to the entire institution, while others apply to individual programs, and some are less prestigious as others.

Here’s an overview of the different accreditation types and how they relate to different distance learning schools:

Institutional Accreditation is a type of accreditation that applies to the entire institution and not just a particular program at that institution. Institutional accreditation consists of two types: regional and national. Both are further defined below.

Regional Accreditation is the most prestigious in the U.S. As mentioned above, this widely accepted accreditation applies to the entire institution. Institutions offering a well-rounded, more liberal arts type of curriculum instead of specialized career training are typically targeted for Regional Accreditation. Eight regional accrediting bodies exist in the U.S. Using a broad scope, they govern six regions.

Although not quite the same caliber as Regional Accreditation, National Accreditation also requires colleges and institutions to meet very strict guidelines before accreditation is granted. While the focus is on the institution as a whole, National Accreditation targets institutions offering specialized career paths, such as those offered through vocational schools. National Accreditation is further subdivided into 3 categories, each of which is described below.

As the name suggests, Specialized Accreditation focuses on ensuring the quality and scope of specialized education as well as adherence to national standards. Known also by other names including Professional Accreditation or Programmatic Accreditation, these specialized accreditation bodies oversee numerous programs that focus on providing specialized career training rather than a broader education. Interior design, radiology, and theater are just a few examples of specialized education programs that Specialized Accreditation bodies target. Regardless of whether a certificate or licensing program requires Specialized Accreditation, accreditation is a student’s guarantee that the staff has the experience and training required to teach in a particular field.

Faith-Based Accreditation bodies focus their efforts on distance learning institutions that have a religious affiliation. But rather than focus on a particular program, these National accrediting bodies focus on the institution as a whole.

Accrediting associations that focus their efforts on privately-run vocational education programs grant Private Career Accreditation.