Online master's degree programs may be accredited by regional accrediting agencies based on their location, as long as they have met key quality standards. Several schools in the United States offer such programs.
What is Regional Accreditation?
The United States does not have a centralized agency that regulates institutions of higher education; thus, accreditation was developed in the country as a way to ensure that postsecondary schools meet the basic standards of quality. There are two types of accreditation: 'institutional' accreditation applies to an entire educational institution, and 'programmatic' accreditation applies to specific programs or departments.
Regional accreditation is a type of institutional accreditation. The following regional accrediting agencies are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education:
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission
- Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Higher Learning Commission
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
How Schools Are Accredited
Regional accreditation bodies set forth key standards upon which they evaluate schools, including those that offer online master's degree programs. Here are some of the standards upon which a school may be evaluated:
- Student learning
- Peer review
- Continuous quality improvement
Examples of Regionally Accredited Online Master's Programs
There are many schools offering regionally accredited online master's programs. Below is just a small sampling of programs that are available.
Hawaii Pacific University
Hawaii Pacific University, which is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, offers one online master's program. In the MBA (Master of Business Administration) program, students explore core business topics while taking courses in a specialization of their choice. Specialization options include:
- International business
West Texas A&M University
There are eight master's programs available online at West Texas A&M University, which is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The degrees available are:
- Master of Business Administration
- Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction - Reading
- Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction - Special Education
- Master of Education in Educational Diagnostician
- Master of Education in Instructional Design and Technology
- Master of Arts in Teaching and a Master of Education in Educational Leadership
- Master of Science in Nursing
Prospective online master's degree students can verify program quality by making sure that the school has been accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education. Two such schools are Hawaii Pacific University and West Texas A&M University.