If you are researching graduate schools you have probably seen accreditation information on schoolsí websites and brochures. Itís important to know that not all accreditation is the same and understanding the differences can help you make an informed decision when choosing a school.
Regional Accreditation is the accreditation that most traditional schools receive. This type of accreditation has the most stringent requirements and is generally the most difficult for a school to qualify for and receive. There are six accreditation boards that are split up by regions of the United States and they are the: New England Association of Schools and Colleges, North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement, Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges, Southern Association of Schools and Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges. Regional Accreditation is not limited to only brick-and-mortar schools. Online schools can receive regional accreditation based on the location of their physical offices. There is also accreditation for specific and specialized programs, such as the American Medical Association for medical programs and the American Bar Association for law programs. You will likely find that many schools will have regional accreditation and then the specific program at a school will have specialized accreditation.
National Accreditation can be earned by any school in the United States and does not distinguish by which region the school is located in. The different national accreditation boards are generally organized on the basis of schools with a similar theme rather than geographic location. If you are considering an online school for your graduate degree, you may see that some schools are accredited by the Distance Education Training Council. This is a National Accreditation. You may also see reference to the International Accreditation Organization, which provides accreditation to schools all over the world.
The important thing to keep in mind is that if you think that there might be a possibility that you will change schools at some point, your credits may not be transferable. While nationally accredited schools will generally accept transfer credits earned at regionally accredited schools, regionally accredited schools usually do not accept transfer credits earned at nationally accredited schools. If there is a particular school you think you might want to transfer to down the road, you might want to talk with their admissions department to find out what their policy is on accepting transfer credits. Also, while most employers do not check which school you attended or which type of accreditation the school has, some employers will only consider applicants with degrees from regionally accredited schools because it is the traditional form of accreditation.