A school that holds accreditation has met certain academic standards set by an accrediting body. Some accrediting agencies specialize in programmatic accreditation, while others gauge a school’s overall academic quality. For aspiring nurses, accreditation is very important when selecting a nursing program. The clear majority of employers only hire nurses who graduate from an accredited nursing program. A college or university that fails to hold accreditation may not adequately prepare graduates for their chosen careers.
If a college or university holds regional accreditation, that accreditation also applies to any of the school’s online programs. Other forms of accreditation, such as national or programmatic accreditation, may also apply to online programming.
National vs. Regional Accreditation
Regional accreditation refers to accreditation bestowed by one of seven regional accreditation agencies. The Department of Education oversees these agencies and tasks them with reviewing academic programs in different regions of the U.S. The most reputable institutions of higher education hold regional accreditation, and you should avoid considering nursing schools that do not hold this type of accreditation. Alternatively, national accreditation may be awarded by private accreditation agencies that oversee specialized programs, such as distance learning and online programs. Accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission represents the gold standard for online education programming.
If you decide to switch schools partway through your nursing education program, your credits should transfer if you originally attended a regionally accredited college or university. However, if you attended a school with only national accreditation, your credits might not transfer successfully. Before you begin your college education, consider contacting different schools to learn about their accreditation and credit transfer policies.
Programmatic accreditation refers to accreditation given by private agencies that focus on a particular academic subject. Colleges and universities ask these agencies to review their academic programs, and programmatic accreditation can raise a school’s reputation, enrollment, and funding. Two programmatic accreditation agencies oversee the nursing field: the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).
CCNE and ACEN accreditation indicate that a nursing program follows a rigorous academic schedule that includes up-to-date information and best nursing practices, helping prepare graduates to succeed in the rapidly evolving healthcare field. CCNE and ACEN create accreditation guidelines by performing extensive research, ensuring the validity of curricula. As you make your shortlist of programs, consider including only those with regional, national, and programmatic accreditation.
The final variable to consider when selecting a nursing program concerns its reputation. Although a program’s reputation may not directly affect your classroom experience, it can play an important role in helping your job search after graduation. Employers tend to prefer applicants who graduated from schools with sterling reputations. To find a school with a good reputation, look for accredited programs that have a high NCLEX-RN® exam pass rate and award-winning, credentialed faculty.
- Accreditation Status: Schools and nursing programs with multiple forms of accreditation typically hold good reputations among employers.
- NCLEX Exam Pass Rates: All registered nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN® exam before receiving state licensure. Programs where more than 75% of graduates pass the NCLEX-RN® on their first try represent some of the best in the nation. Programs with high success rates typically publish this information online.
- Teacher Credentials: Experienced nurses with advanced degrees make for the best professors. When researching a program, go to the program’s faculty page to learn more about each professor’s educational background and experiences.
- The NCLEX is an examination that is taken prior to a RN or LPN license being issued which will enable you to practice as a nurse. Receiving a nursing license is not a right it is a privileges’.
- Pay close attention to the schools that have a high pass rate as with those who have a low pass rate because some nursing programs will approve one student to sit the boards, and if that student pass it will be calculated at 100% pass rate.