When selecting a distance learning college, your best bet is to choose an online school accredited by one of the six regional accreditors. These regional agencies are recognized by both the United States Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). They are the same regional accreditors that grant most brick-and-mortar public and private universities their accreditation.
To determine whether or not an online school is regionally accredited, find out which state the online program is operating from. Then look to see what regional agency grants accreditation to schools in that state. The following six regional accreditation agencies are recognized as legitimate accreditors:
If you earn a degree from an online school that is accredited by one of these associations, you can be assured that it will be as valid as a degree from any regular university. Most employers and other universities will automatically accept your degree.
National Accreditation vs. Regional AccreditationAlternatively, some online schools are accredited by the Distance Education Training Council. The DETC is also recognized by the United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. DETC accreditation is considered valid by many employers. However, many regionally accredited schools will not accept course credits from DETC accredited schools and some employers may be leery of these degrees. Learn more: DETC Accreditation.
Find Out if Your Online College is AccreditedYou can find out instantly if an online school is accredited by a regional accreditor, the DETC, or another legitimate accreditor recognized by the United States Department of Education by searching the United States Department of Education database. You may use the CHEA website to search for both CHEA and USDE recognized accreditors (off-site link) or to view a chart comparing CHEA and USDE recognition (off-site PDF chart).
Note that "recognition" of an accrediting agency does not guarantee a particular degree will be accepted by schools and employers. Ultimately, regional accreditation remains the most widely accepted form of accreditation for degrees earned both online and at brick-and-mortar universities.