U.S. Department of Education  
Home FAQ About This Website Glossary Help
U.S. Department of Education Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs Banner
FAQs about Accreditation
Return to Home Page

What is accreditation?
Accreditation is the recognition that an institution maintains standards requisite for its graduates to gain admission to other reputable institutions of higher learning or to achieve credentials for professional practice. The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.

What are accrediting agencies?
Accrediting agencies are organizations (or bodies) that establish operating standards for educational or professional institutions and programs, determine the extent to which the standards are met, and publicly announce their findings.

Are there different types of accreditation?
There are two basic types of educational accreditation, one identified as “institutional” and one referred to as “specialized” or “programmatic.” Institutional accreditation normally applies to an entire institution, indicating that each of an institution’s parts is contributing to the achievement of the institution’s objectives, although not necessarily all at the same level of quality.
Specialized accreditation normally applies to the evaluation of programs , departments, or schools which usually are parts of a total collegiate or other postsecondary institution. The unit accredited may be as large as a college or school within a university or as small as a curriculum within a discipline. Most of the specialized accrediting agencies review units within a postsecondary institution which is accredited by one of the regional accrediting commissions. However, certain of the specialized accrediting agencies accredit professional schools and other specialized or vocational or other postsecondary institutions which are free-standing in their operations. Thus, a "specialized" or "programmatic" accrediting agency may also function in the capacity of an "institutional" accrediting agency. In addition, a number of specialized accrediting agencies accredit educational programs within non-educational settings, such as hospitals.

Can the institutional accreditation system be used to determine whether my credit hours will transfer or what courses will satisfy my professional license renewal?
Accreditation does not provide automatic acceptance by an institution of credit earned at another institution, nor does it give assurance of acceptance of graduates by employers. Acceptance of students or graduates is always the prerogative of the receiving institution or employer. For these reasons, besides ascertaining the accredited status of a school or program, students should take additional measures to determine, prior to enrollment, whether or not their educational goals will be met through attendance at a particular institution. These measures should include inquiries to institutions to which transfer might be desired or to prospective employers and, if possible, personal inspection of the institution at which enrollment is contemplated.

Is every accrediting agency included in the database?
Only agencies that are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education are included in this database.