1. National Accreditation
First and foremost, any reputable school in the United States is accredited by the United States Department of Education. By doing so, the school has been determined by the federal government to meet standardized criteria for educating students in various academic areas. Any school that is not endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education should probably be avoided, for in many instances an employer will not recognize the degree as a valid one.
2. Regional Accreditation
Beyond national accreditation, there are many regional agencies that serve to accredit schools. This accreditation is not automatic, and is done voluntarily by individual schools. Many agencies will only accredit certain types of schools, such as degree-granting colleges and universities. Therefore, if you plan on attending a private or technical school its accreditation may be vastly different from a traditional school. Many of these schools are accredited by their state education departments or various vocational and technical school agencies within individual states, so it’s a good idea to make sure these schools will meet the training requirements for your occupation and potential employers.
A good thing to look for when considering online computer science and IT colleges is specialized accreditation. This refers to a type of national accreditation focusing on specific areas of study and individual programs of study, such as information technology. Also referred to as professional accreditation, it demonstrates a school has met or exceeded standards set forth by various specialized accrediting agencies across the United States. For example, a school may have achieved professional accreditation in computer networking or computer security based on its curriculum, faculty experience and other factors.
4. Memberships and Endorsements
Many schools, especially those offering online degrees, look to obtain memberships in professional associations or endorsements from them. These memberships and endorsements can help show a school is affiliated with others in a certain field, such as computer science. Many online schools offering degrees in information technology look to obtain an endorsement from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Established in 1932, this agency is responsible for providing accreditation to colleges and universities that offer degrees in computer science and information technology within the United States. If you are looking for a reputable online IT school, it should have accreditation from this agency along with other regional and national accreditations.
5. Faculty Experience
When agencies look to accredit schools, faculty are a very important part of the process. When you’re trying to decide on a school, make sure to take a hard look at your potential professors. Most quality schools have faculty that have Master’s or Doctoral degrees in their fields, along with significant amounts of real-world experience. This is especially important in computer science, where technology changes almost daily. Professors who have won individual awards and regularly participate in research are among those providing the best educational opportunities, and are looked upon very favorably by accreditation agencies. Before you begin classes at any school, make sure you know your professors and their qualifications.
6. Student Performance
Many schools are denied accreditation based on results from their students. Some schools will state they have high graduation rates and high employment of students who graduate, but often exaggerate their statistics. Schools that have gained full accreditation also have full disclosure, meaning they are more than willing to share information regarding student graduation rates, employment rates and other factors involved in deciding which school to attend. Government agencies, as well as private accreditation agencies, look very closely at student graduation rates and other statistics before granting accreditation. If you’re interested in a school, ask to look at the latest statistics. If the school declines or is hesitant, perhaps you’d be better off attending another institution.
So while it can sometimes seem like you have to wade through mountains of information when choosing a school, in the end it always pays off. Since this school will be responsible for equipping you with the skills needed to pursue a career, you have every right to know all the facts before paying your tuition and trusting them with your future career plans. So when you are deciding on a school and are examining its accreditation, closely examine these factors to make sure the choice you make is the best choice.