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Accredited Ph.D. Degree Online: How to Verify Accreditations

Accreditation is a crucial component in selecting an online Ph.D. program, since it ensures that a program will meet curriculum standards and other benchmarks of a quality education.

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Before enrolling in an online Ph.D. program, it is important to ensure that it has been accredited by a valid accrediting agency. Find out how you can check on accreditation.

Verifying Accreditation of Online Ph.D. Programs

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education maintains an online database of postsecondary institutions that are, or were, accredited by an agency that has been recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education. As of 2015, the database listed over 7,000 institutions and programs, as well as their accreditation status.

The database is organized so that students who want to verify the accreditation status of an online Ph.D. program, for example, can search by either the name of an institution or accrediting agency. The search can also be refined to include results from specific states or cities. Selecting a school in the database will display the school's contact information and its primary accrediting agency. Specialized and programmatic accreditation statuses are also listed. This information often specifies which program levels have received approval in a certain field of study. The website can be used to search for internships and residencies as well.

Prospective students may also find information about accreditation on the school's website itself, or on the website of a particular accrediting agency. From there, prospective students can make sure that the accrediting body is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

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Information About Accreditation

Accreditation provides external verification of the quality of a school or program. Some of the criteria upon which an institution may be evaluated include:

  • Student learning
  • Peer review
  • Self regulation
  • Continuous quality improvement
  • Accountability
  • Transparency
  • Integrity

Accreditation is voluntary. Some schools may choose not to seek accreditation, though enrolling in an accredited program will help ensure the quality of education a student receives. Additionally, prospective employers and licensing agencies look for candidates who've completed a degree from an institution that has met an accrediting agency's approval standards.

The U.S. Department of Education reports that there are two kinds of accreditation, institutional and specialized. Institutional accreditation means that the entire institution meets accreditation standards. Specialized accreditation applies to departments or internal schools in an institution.

These accrediting agencies are regional and national. National accreditation is administered by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). Regional accreditation is administered by six agencies that divide up the nation into districts based on location.

Prospective Ph.D. candidates can utilize the database provided by the U.S. Department of Education to make sure that they are enrolling in a high-quality online program.

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