The Hows and Whys of Accreditation

You’ve probably noticed that some RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing and MS in Nursing programs are accredited and some aren’t. Accreditation can be a useful tool in helping you decide to apply to a program, but first you have to fully understand what accreditation means and entails.

1. What is accreditation?

Accreditation shows that a program and/or school has met and continues to meet a high level of standards set by an accrediting agency. Applying for accreditation is entirely voluntary.

2. What is an accrediting agency?

Accrediting agencies are organizations that assess the effectiveness of a program or school in meeting established educational standards. These are not government agencies, but the U.S. Department of Education does maintain a database of legitimate accrediting agencies.

3. What is the difference between regional and national accreditation?

Regionally accredited schools and nationally accredited schools have very different curricula and standards. Regional accreditation is the most widely recognized type of accreditation. Six organizations are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), each covering different regional areas of the country. Academic credit and degrees from regionally accredited institutions are the most widely accepted and recognized. Most regionally accredited institutions will not accept credits from unaccredited or nationally accredited schools.

National accreditation is for specific types of education institutions — generally “nontraditional” colleges such as trade, religious and distance-education colleges — and is not based on geographical location.

4. The University of Saint Mary is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).  The RN-BSN and MS in Nursing programs are accredited by Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).  Why do the nursing programs have additional or special accreditation?

In many fields, such as nursing, programs are accredited by professionally oriented specialty accrediting bodies. These are generally made up of professionals in the program’s field who have the expertise and knowledge to assess them against a list of agreed-upon criteria and standards. Programmatic accreditation provides an additional guarantee that the program meets those standards and that graduates will be prepared to meet the professional requirements of the field.

5. Are the online RN-BSN and MSN accredited as well?

Yes. All of the accreditations held by the University of Saint Mary also apply to our online programs.

6. How do schools and programs get accredited?

Getting accredited is an entirely voluntary process in the United States. It requires several steps.

  • The first step is preparation of materials that show the institution or program’s accomplishments and an explanation of how they meet the educational standards set by the accrediting organization.
  • The school or program undergoes a review from a group of peers, usually other academics, administrators, and/or professionals in the program’s field.
  • Peers and others from the accrediting organization conduct a visit to further examine and assess the institution or program.
  • The accrediting organization reviews all of the materials and steps to offer or deny accreditation to the school or program.

Accreditation isn’t a permanent status—by pursuing and accepting accreditation, institutions and programs understand they will undergo regular reviews to maintain their status, which can be as often as every few years.

7. If accreditation isn’t mandatory, what are the benefits of choosing an online nursing program with accreditation?

Programmatic accreditation provides security and peace of mind that you will receive an education that meets the professional standards of nursing and will prepare you to be successful in the profession. Many graduate and doctoral programs do not accept credits from an unaccredited nursing program, so you may have trouble receiving credit or recognition for your degree if you choose an unaccredited program.

8. Do employers look for accreditation?

Employers want to be sure that you have received a quality education and that your degree is legitimate. Accreditation provides them with the assurance that your education has provided you with the appropriate level of skills and knowledge.

9. Will accreditation help me if I advance my education after my bachelor’s or master's?

Yes. Many institutions will not recognize degrees or coursework from unaccredited schools or programs, because they can’t be sure your education met the highest standards of quality and preparation. Choosing an accredited program will ensure that your hard work will be recognized when you apply to graduate or doctoral programs.

10. What makes the RN-BSN program at the University of Saint Mary stand out from other online accredited bachelor's programs?

Our RN-BSN is built upon Sister Simone Roach’s 5 C’s of caring: commitment, conscience, competence, compassion, and competence. These are not just buzzwords: coursework incorporates these concepts to show you what they look like in nursing practice. The result is better professional relationships, improved interactions with patients, and improved opportunities for advancement. You’ll also have the support of University of Saint Mary faculty and staff to help you succeed throughout the program.

11. What makes the MSN program at the University of Saint Mary stand out from other online accredited master’s programs?

The online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program from the University of Saint Mary integrates the Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). The program will give you the skills and credentials to open new doors to career opportunities in nursing leadership and nursing education, through the Nurse Educator and Nurse Administrator specializations. The program is offered 100% online and clinical hours may be completed where you work.

Have More Questions?

Find out more about the accredited RN-BSN and MSN degrees from the University of Saint Mary. Request more information or call us at 877-307-4915 to speak to an admissions advisor.