Finding Accredited Online Degree Programs - What's The Difference?
If you are thinking about investing the time, effort and money it takes to get your degree online, you probably already understand the importance of higher education when it comes to landing a well paying job or advancing within your chosen career track. Employers with the most coveted job spots are most often only willing to take a chance on a newer recruit if they have the education track record to back up solid interview skills - you need to either have plenty of experience in the field you're trying to get hired into, or an impressive educational background that shows you have the smarts and determination to be an effective asset to your prospective employers.
Many white collar job seekers are already privy to the indispensibility of accredited online degree programs, but those just starting out often have some questions regarding the validity or potential benefit of programs that offer you a college degree via your computer or an online masters degree. It's a sad truth, there are some distance learning companies or private schools out there that are simply unaccredited, but will be just as happy to take big wheelbarrows full of your hard earned cash all the same. You need to protect yourself before you wade out into the uncertain waters of the internet to look for online degree programs and get straight with the facts about why you only want to bother with accredited online degree programs.
So, What Does Accreditation Mean for an Online Masters Degree?
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the group tasked with reviewing educational policies and providing guidelines on the proper conduct of educational facilities (including distance education facilities), the purpose of the accreditation process is to make sure that all educational bodies live up to a certain standard of quality and / or rigor. You wouldn't want to allow hundreds of privately owned technical vocational welding schools to spring up all over the country if they weren't properly funded, weren't led or organized by anyone who had ever picked-up a welder before, and weren't properly equipped with safety gear. The same thinking led to the accreditation process itself, in hopes of reducing the amount of sham schools that pop up and making it harder for just anyone to start an educational facility and start charging students tuition for substandard programs.
To this end, the U.S. Dept. of Education strongly recommends avoiding "diploma mills" a colloquial term which refers to the rapid, impersonal and highly commercialized nature of some substandard online schools which basically collect tuition and then all but hand out online masters degree diplomas in return.
The Good News About Finding Accredited Online Degree Programs
Although there are plenty of shady dealers out there in the markets of the online masters degree and accredited online degree programs, the good news is that you can demand proof of accreditation from any only degree program you may be considering, before you go ahead and pay your first tuition. If your institution is, in fact, accredited, it will have received a review and proof of its being at or above pertinent educational standards by one of six national regional accreditation boards. This is because there are six greater geographic regions within the United States. Each of these geographic regions has its agency, which is independent of the government, whose task is to determine whether or not a given educational institution meets the necessary standards of education and to furnish proof of acceptability for these institutions to retain.
In the case of accredited online degree programs, the Dept. of Education recognize a specific council, known as the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), as being the proper accrediting body for accredited online degree programs and institutions offering an online masters degree. Anyone you might be speaking with regarding your prospective enrollment in one of the country's many accredited online degree programs had better be pretty snappy in their answers regarding their credibility in the eyes of the Distance Education and Training Council.
If you can't get a timely response from your institution regarding their furnishing proof of their accreditation as a distance learning facility, you can take that as a serious black mark and begin shopping around for other online schools. If you ask a counselor or advisor at your institution whether or not they are accredited when you are going through your initial interview process or checking out the website of a given online masters degree program, and all you get back is a blank stare or absolutely no FAQ entry regarding their accreditation, you can feel pretty confident that it's time to move on down the line to the next prospective school.
Even More Good News About Finding Accredited Online Degree Programs
If you have been dragging your feet on starting up the process for getting an online masters degree because you are worried about the total cost of such a venture, you can take solace in the knowledge that a recent law which took effect in 2006 now allows students to receive federal student aid for enrollment in an accredited online masters degree program so long as that program is hosted by an accredited Title IV-eligible school. In the past, a 1992 law known as the 50-percent rule actually distance learning students from being able to receive federal student financial aid unless half of their time was spent on a physical campus!
Meanwhile, surveys have been finding that public perceptions regarding the overall validity of an online masters degree have been changing in favor of the students of accredited online degree programs. Whereas it used to be the case that the majority of employers considered online educational credentials to be less weighty or valid than degrees earned as a physical resident of an actual campus based school, it now seems that more and more employers are warming up to the idea of distance education and its value, with 100% of employers surveyed by the Distance Education and Training Council reporting that they considered an online masters degree program to be a valuable and effective means of improving their employees work performance.