Some people may wonder whether or not it is necessary to attend a nursing school that is accredited. Before we answer that question, we have to look at what accreditation is all about. This type of accreditation applies to the entire university or college, not just the nursing program. Accreditation in the United States is done by peer reviewed commissions that are recognized by the federal government. All schools that are eligible for federally funded financial aid and the G.I. Bill have to be accredited by one of the six regional accrediting agencies or the Regents of NY. Those regional accrediting agencies are:
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA)
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
- Higher Learning Commission (North Central Association of Colleges and Schools)
- Northwest commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
- Board of Regents of the State of New York
If the school you’re considering is not represented in this list, you may have good reason to suspect that you are dealing with a diploma mill or a substandard institution.
The other type of accreditation is one that belongs to the nursing profession. First of all, make sure your school is eligible by your state’s nursing board to have students take the NCLEX-RN. If you’re allowed to take the exam, you can get a RN license which will allow you to get a job as a registered nurse.
Next, there are two professional accrediting agencies for nursing. One is the NLN/NLNAC (National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission) which accredits associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s nursing programs. The other is the CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education) which only accredits baccalaureate and master’s programs. Students who are going to a community college, junior college, or other associate’s degree program can only gain nursing accreditation from the NLN.
So the real question is: How would my employment prospects be affected if I come from a school without NLN or CCNE accreditation even though I’ve got my RN license? The answer is that some employers might look down on a RN that came from a school without NLN or CCNE accreditation. On the one hand, accreditation is voluntary. It is not required by the state board of nursing to get permission to get an RN license. The exam proves that you have what it takes to become a nurse. On the other hand, an professionally accredited nursing school proves that it meets certain minimum quality standards beyond those required by the board of nursing.
Government agencies such as the Department of Defense, the Veteran’s Aministration, or the federal prision will not hire a nurse that did not come from a school with NLN or CCNE accreditation. There are other employers like that as well. Pre-nursing students with multiple acceptances should seriously consider going with the school that is accredited by NLN or CCNE instead.
Another reason to go with a NLN school is to avoid losing transfer credits if you’re planning to get a BSN or MSN after earning the associate’s in nursing. If you don’t go to a NLN accredited school for your associate’s degree, you could lose a lot of transfer credits when you upgrade your degree later on. You will lose a lot of time and money in the process. Many trade, tech, and vocational nursing programs fall into this category.
Depending on your goals, the effect of accreditation of nursing schools may be minimally important or very important. Be very careful if you are going to enroll in a nursing school without both regional and professional accreditation.