School accreditation is a big issue in both the public and private sector. Learn more about what accredited schools are and how to find them. Also, see how school accreditation can affect your education and employment goals.

With over 124,000 private and public elementary and secondary schools in the United states and over 4,000 higher education institutions granting degrees, there's an enormous amount of choice, and having information about quality programs is essential. Some of the quality assurance for education consumers is provided by state approval and licensing of institutions and faculty. But some quality assurance is also provided by school accreditation.

School accreditation is a voluntary review process undertaken by different entities depending on the nature of the school in some cases and the location in others. The process is designed to ensure that minimum standards are met and maintained by education providers including schools, post-secondary institutions, and other educational providers. Having an accreditation is supposed to be a sign of quality. To find out more about how school accreditation works, keep reading.

School Accreditation Organizations

School accreditation is conducted by associations that have as their members institutions and academic specialists. There is a large number of recognized accreditation agencies and a list of some that are “unrecognized.”  In this context, “unrecognized” means that they lack legal authority, government recognition, or both. This means that when reviewing schools, it is important to check not only for school accreditation but to make sure that the accrediting agency is recognized. A school must be accredited by a recognized accreditation association in order for students to be eligible for Federal student aid and any other Federal benefits.

Accreditation comes in two types: institutional and programmatic. An institutional accreditation includes an institution and all its programs overall. Programmatic accreditation may be done by different accreditors from those who do the institutional accreditation. For example, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) is the agency that accredits many Colleges of Education.

Why Wouldn't a School be Accredited?

There are a variety of reasons that schools might not receive accreditation. One reason is if the school is what is called a “diploma mill.” A diploma mill is a school that grants diplomas that are either fraudulent or worthless on account of a lack of appropriate standards. One thing a diploma mill may do is offer credit for time spent other than that spent in a course, such as life experience. It may also have unqualified faculty, not have appropriate opportunities for students to interact with faculty, or otherwise not meet minimum standards.

Fake Accreditation Organizations

Diploma mills often work hand-in-hand with fake accreditors as part of their plan to defraud their customers, because some students may assume that the accreditation is real without checking. In order to check accreditors, you can use a list provided by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) at

Why It's Important to Attend an Accredited School

A degree from a school that is not accredited can cause you problems in a number of ways. First, the education you receive may be inadequate to meet the goals you have for either further education or employment. If you intend to pursue a further degree that follows up your first or apply for a job or a license to work in a particular field based on that degree, it is essential that the institution, organization, or licensing agency accept your degree - something you cannot be sure of if you attend an unaccredited institution.

Finding Accredited Schools

The United States Department of Education provides database searches for schools that are approved by the state and accredited.

• Public school database search is at

• Private school database search is at

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) provides a database search for institutions of higher education and other post-secondary opportunities that have been accredited by organizations that are approved either by CHEA itself or the United States Department of Education.

• Institutions of Higher Education database search is at

The US Department of Education also provides a database at:


United States Department of Education: United States Network for Education Information (USNEI): Accreditation and Quality Assurance -

Council for Higher Education Accreditation -