Some nursing schools have received accreditation from a type of professional organization that makes them more competitive in the market when you are deciding where to attend. Accreditation provides a set of standards for education that will give nursing students a well-rounded education and prepare them to take nurse licensing examinations. When a nursing school has received accreditation, it means it has been found to meet these standards.
Among nursing schools, there are two main organizations that provide certificates of accreditation among undergraduate programs. The National League of Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) sets forth criteria through a publication manual that nursing schools strive to meet. The commission then schedules visits to schools to check their programs, their work with students, and their overall standards to see if particular schools meet their criteria. The decision is made after a meeting to consider approval. The NLNAC provides accreditation for programs for licensed practical nurses, associate’s degree and diploma levels, bachelor’s degree programs, and master’s and doctorate level programs.
The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) also provides accreditation to schools that offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing. This organization has criteria that support excellence in the study of nursing and preparation of students for a nursing career. The CCNE visits nursing schools for evaluation of criteria expectations after a school has applied for accreditation, and a decision of acceptance or rejection is made by a board of directors.
Some graduate programs, such as those educating nurse practitioners or nurse midwives, have their own accreditation bodies that provide this status in addition to that of the NLNAC or the CCNE. Schools that train students to be nurse anesthetists are often accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs, and the American College of Nurse Midwives Division of Accreditation sets standards for nurse midwifery programs.
School accreditation is important when considering where to attend. Although you may receive an excellent education at a nonaccredited school and feel fully prepared for your licensing exams, you will not be eligible to attend an accredited school if you decide to pursue a higher degree in nursing. Accredited graduate and residency programs do not accept educational transcripts from undergraduate schools that are not accredited, so carefully consider if you decide you would like to further your education someday.
Most schools that train students to take the nurse licensing examination follow standards that provide adequate preparation for the test. Each state has an accrediting program that says whether or not a nursing school meets these standards through the state board of nursing. Although a school may be approved by its state to prepare students for licensure, this status is not the same as national accreditation seen in other programs.
Students that graduate from an accredited school or university are more competitive when searching for jobs. Some employers, when faced with two applicants, will choose the nurse who attended an accredited school over the one who did not. Although this is not true in every situation, and work experience as well as extracurricular activities do count for something, attending an accredited school shows potential employers that your education met high standards and you were trained well.
You can find out if the school you are considering is accredited by researching some background information. Many schools are proud to be accredited and know that potential students look for that status and this information will show up on the school’s website or in their promotional materials. If you are still unsure, you can contact the CCNE or the NLNAC and ask if a specific school has received their accreditation.