Understanding the Difference: Regionally Accredited vs. Nationally Accredited Programs

Understanding the Difference: Regionally Accredited vs. Nationally Accredited Programs

When it comes to choosing an educational institution or program, accreditation is an essential factor to consider. Accreditation ensures that an institution or program meets certain quality standards and that the education received is recognized and respected by employers and other educational institutions. However, there are different types of accreditation, and it is crucial to understand the difference between regionally accredited and nationally accredited programs.

What is Regional Accreditation?

Regionally accredited programs are evaluated and accredited by one of the seven regional accrediting bodies in the United States. These accrediting bodies are responsible for evaluating institutions and programs within specific geographic regions of the country. The seven regional accrediting bodies are:

  • Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

Regional accreditation is generally considered the most prestigious and widely recognized form of accreditation. It focuses on ensuring that institutions and programs meet high academic standards and provide quality education to their students. Regionally accredited programs are usually more transferable to other regionally accredited institutions and are often preferred by employers.

What is National Accreditation?

Nationally accredited programs, on the other hand, are evaluated and accredited by national accrediting bodies that operate at a national level. These accrediting bodies are generally focused on specific types of institutions or programs, such as vocational schools, religious institutions, or online schools. Some examples of national accrediting bodies include:

  • Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)
  • Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)
  • Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS)
  • Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)

Nationally accredited programs often have a more specialized focus and may not be as widely recognized as regionally accredited programs. While national accreditation can still be valid and beneficial for specific career paths or industries, it may not carry the same level of prestige or acceptance as regional accreditation.

Which Accreditation Should You Choose?

The choice between regionally accredited and nationally accredited programs depends on your educational and career goals. If you plan to transfer credits or pursue further education in the future, regionally accredited programs are generally a safer choice. Regionally accredited institutions usually have transfer agreements with other regionally accredited institutions, making credit transfer easier.

However, if you are pursuing a specialized career path or are interested in a specific field of study, nationally accredited programs may be a suitable option. For example, if you are interested in a career in cosmetology or culinary arts, a nationally accredited vocational school may provide you with the necessary skills and credentials.


Accreditation plays a significant role in ensuring the quality and recognition of educational institutions and programs. While both regionally accredited and nationally accredited programs can offer valuable education, it is important to consider your specific goals and needs when choosing an accredited program. Researching and understanding the difference between regionally accredited and nationally accredited programs will help you make an informed decision and ensure that your education is respected and recognized in your chosen field.

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