student at graduation

What does it mean to be an accredited school?

If you’re planning big things for the new year, it’s important to choose the right school. Whether you’re looking for a high school diploma, a professional certificate, or a college degree, you’ve probably heard the word accredited thrown around a lot.

Schools brag that they’re accredited like that’s really important. So now you’re wondering:

  • What does accredited even mean?
  • Is accreditation important?
  • Does an accredited school cost more?
  • How do I know if a school is accredited?
  • Are there different kinds of accreditation?
  • Who decides if a school is accredited?

The short answer is: yes, accreditation is important. Going to an accredited school can make advancing your education, and your career, easier. Plus, it gives you peace of mind that your education is valuable. For more detail, and answers to all of your questions, read on.

What does accredited even mean?

You might read on a school’s website or be told by a career counselor that the school of your choice is accredited. They might also use phrases like, “have earned accreditation” or “is accredited by.” You might not have heard this word very much before, but when you start looking for a college, career certificate program, or online high school, the word accredited pops up everywhere.

The dictionary definition of accredited is: officially authorized or approved. In other words, if your school is accredited it meets a minimum standard of quality. 

Is accreditation important?

Overall, accreditation shows that your education meets certain quality standards. It signals to other schools, employers, and even the government that your education is valuable. Here are a few reasons why accreditation is important:

  1. It helps to prove to other schools that you’re well prepared. After you earn a high school diploma from an accredited school, you can apply to colleges and universities. They’ll see that you got a degree from a reputable school and recognize that your degree meets their requirements for entrance. The same is true if you earn an associate's or bachelor’s degree. Getting these degrees from accredited schools makes the next step in your education easier.
  2. If you need to transfer, other schools may only accept credits from an accredited school. While accreditation can’t guarantee your new school will accept transfer credits, it does increase your chances.
  3. If your career path includes a certification exam, you may need to attend an accredited school or certificate program before you can sit for the exam. For example, if you want to be an ASE Certified Automotive Repair Technician or maintain your National Association of Home Inspectors license you’ll need to attend an accredited school.

If you want to get quality education, you need to go to an accredited school. Make sure that your school and your program of study within the school is accredited before you enroll.

Does an accredited school cost more?

High quality doesn’t have to mean high cost. Accredited schools may cost the same as, or even less than, a non-accredited school. For example, at Penn Foster, you can enroll in many programs for an average cost of $2 a day. We also offer monthly automatic payment plans that can help you get an accredited high school diploma, college degree, or career certificate.

How do I know if a school is accredited?

There are a couple of ways to find out if the school you’re considering is accredited. Most accredited schools will mention it on their website. Accreditation is something to be proud of and they’ll probably brag about it. If you can’t find mention of accreditation on their website, you can speak to an enrollment counselor. They should be able to give you specific information about accreditation status. If you prefer an online tool, the Department of Education has a search button you can use to find the accreditation status of any school operating in the United States.

Are there different kinds of accreditation?

Accreditation may be either institutional or program-based. Institutional accreditation applies to the whole school, while program-based applies to a specific program. If a program is accredited, it means that an organization with expertise in the industry agrees that the program meets industry standards. Make sure you know whether your specific program is accredited. You can ask your enrollment counselor or check the school’s website for details.

Schools may also earn national or regional accreditation. Some schools earn both.

  • Regional accreditation is the older form of accreditation. Each region of the country has its own regional accrediting organizations.
  • National accrediting organizations can accredit schools anywhere in the country. They usually focus on for-profit or online schools, like Penn Foster. Vocational, career and technical schools may also be nationally accredited.

Who gets to decide if a school is accredited?

An accrediting body is an organization with expertise in the field. They are required to register with the Department of Education, so if you're wondering who accreditors are, you can check on their published list of regional and national agencies. Make sure that your school has earned accreditation from at least one of these agencies.

Some specialized organizations can grant accreditations in areas such as arts and humanities, education training, law and healthcare. Find a full list on the Department of Education website.

Is Penn Foster accredited?

Penn Foster High School is:

  • Regionally accredited for grades 9 through adult by the Commission on Secondary Schools of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (CSS-MSA).
  • Nationally accredited by the AdvancEd Accreditation Commission and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).

Penn Foster Career School is:

  • Regionally accredited for non-degree granting postsecondary programs by the Commission on Secondary Schools of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
  • Nationally accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)
  • Accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).

Penn Foster College is:

  • Nationally accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).

Learn more about Penn Foster’s accreditation status by visiting our accreditation page or contact an enrollment counselor who can answer all of your questions.