In short, accreditation indicates that a nursing school has been evaluated and shown to meet certain academic and professional criteria. When a school meets these accreditation criteria, they are then able to receive accreditation approval.
There are two national organizations that provide colleges and universities national accreditation. Both are recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as national accreditation agencies.
- Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) – According to their website, “The purpose of the ACEN is to provide specialized accreditation for all types of nursing programs, including clinical doctorate/DNP specialist certificate, master’s/post-master’s certificate, baccalaureate, associate, diploma, and practical nursing programs. The ACEN accredits nursing programs in secondary, postsecondary, and hospital-based governing organizations that offer certificates, diplomas, or degrees.”
The ACEN can offer accreditation to programs in the U.S., it’s territories, and those programs offering distance education. Accreditation by the ACEN may allow institutions to establish eligibility to participate in Title IV programs. The ACEN was formerly known as the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission.
- Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) – The CCNE was created by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and is the only national nursing education accrediting agency that is exclusively dedicated to accrediting at the baccalaureate, masters, and doctoral levels, including distance education programs.
You can check to see if a nursing school or program is accredited by the ACEN or the CCNE by going to the school’s admission office or by visiting the accredited school’s page of the accrediting agency.
A nursing school’s accreditation is granted for a specific period of time. Before attending, you’ll want to determine the length of time for which your school is accredited.
A nursing program will have to be reviewed by several accreditation committees to renew their accreditation as it gets close to expiring to ensure that education standards are consistent and maintained.
National Specialty Accreditation Agencies
- DOE’s accreditation webpage, the ACME is able to recognize institutions for “the accreditation and pre-accreditation of basic certificate, basic graduate nurse-midwifery, direct entry midwifery, and pre-certification nurse-midwifery education programs, including those programs that offer distance education.”
- Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (AANA) – The DOE’s website states that the AANA has the ability to offer, “The accreditation of institutions and programs of nurse anesthesia at the post master`s certificate, master`s, or doctoral degree levels in the United States, and its territories, including programs offering distance education.
While there are a number of good nursing programs that are not accredited by these organizations, the benefits of earning your degree from an accredited institution are the following:
- You will be qualified to attend another accredited school of nursing if you decided to transfer programs, or should you be interested in pursuing an advanced degree, for example, an RN-to-BSN or Master’s degree in nursing. If you earn your degree from a non-accredited school you may not be able to earn an advanced degree at the school of your choice down the road.
- There are several academic and merit-based scholarships for nursing students that are only available if you’re attending an accredited nursing program.
- If you earn your degree from an accredited nursing school allows you to apply for financial aid from the federal government. Because a school’s qualifications have met certain quality standards, the government is more confident that you’ll be successful.
- Many employers feel more comfortable hiring nurses that have earned their degree at an accredited program. Nurses from accredited programs are trained under nationally recognized standards and thus employers know what education and skills they can expect from you upon graduation. Earning a degree from an accredited school can make the job hunt a bit easier.
It’s important to recognize that just because a nursing school is approved by a state board of nursing does not mean they are accredited. When a nursing program is accredited, it means that the school’s programs and courses have been evaluated for their relevance by the accrediting committee.
Being approved by the state simply indicates that the schools are licensed to train nurses to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Licensed Practice Nurses (NCLEX-PN), National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), and National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) for that particular state.
The NCLEX is an examination that has been developed to test a candidate’s competence in the profession of nursing before practicing. It is required before receiving licensure as a Registered Nurse.
The truth is, you may still receive a quality nursing education from a non-accredited nursing school, but there are going to be several benefits from earning your degree at an accredited school.
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