What are the Different Types of Accreditation Agencies?

K'Lee Banks

Choosing an accredited college or university degree program is essential to maximizing a student’s financial investment. The main types of accreditation are granted by regional, national, and international accreditation agencies. Other types of accreditation cover specific fields of study, such as business, education, law, and medical accreditation.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

The three main types of accreditation agencies are regional, national, and international. Areas covered by accrediting agencies may differ based on the stipulations of each country’s department or ministry of education. For instance, regional accreditation agencies are exclusive to the US. As the name indicates, regional agencies cover different geographic regions, with a varying number of states under each. Regional accreditation is the most important type of accreditation for US colleges and universities to maintain.

National accreditation agencies are achieving greater recognition as valid and acceptable accrediting boards in many countries. Criteria to qualify for national accreditation may be determined in each country by the department or ministry of education, or by another governmental or non-governmental entity. Either traditional schools or distance education programs may receive national accreditation. These agencies may also focus on specific types of programs and schools; for example, business and technology schools, career programs, and nontraditional schools — such as religious schools, trade schools, and online programs.

Ensuring that mandatory global standards are met in specific fields is the focus of international accreditation agencies. Business accreditation and medical accreditation are two fields with numerous international accrediting boards that address the wide range of specialties. International agencies also oversee distance education and online education programs.

Accreditation agencies also exist for specific studies to ensure that students receive thorough and relevant education that will prepare them to enter professions in such fields as business, education, healthcare, law, and technology. These agencies may also be known as private or professional accrediting agencies, as well as specialized or program-based accreditation. Rather than accrediting entire schools, they accredit specific programs in different schools. Specialized accreditation is an important consideration for various careers, and students should verify that their programs have retained the appropriate accreditation.

The purpose of accreditation is to assure the quality of college and university courses and degree programs. Quality courses, programs and institutions will provide credible content and competent instructors, as well as grant credits that can be transferred to other institutions. Once a school has succeeded in getting accreditation, it must maintain its accreditation during designated review periods.

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