A Masters Degree generally means pursuing a level of expertise in a field that will qualify you for a higher salary and provide you with more extensive knowledge in the field you've chosen. For many of the best paying and most popular masters programs, there are two types of accreditation. There is the accreditation of the school itself, and then accreditation for the particular academic and professional discipline that you've chosen. Finally, there is the issue of state licensure to consider. The checkpoints for completing a successful Masters Degree program:
- University accreditation
- Masters Program Accreditation
- State Licensure Requirements for your Profession.
A good example is one of the most highly trained (and best paying) nursing fields, the nurse anesthetist. While you can still obtain Registered Nurse (RN) licensure on the strength of an Associates Degree, you need to complete a Masters Degree program with the appropriate training for a nurse anesthetist position. There are several hundred accredited RN-to MSN programs for nurses who want to obtain high level training. However according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists there are only 108 accredited programs for their profession. Overall accreditation for nursing programs comes from one of two bodies: the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission which accredits nursing programs at any level and the Commisssion on Collegiate Nursing Education, which accredits baccalaureate and graduate programs. The accreditation for specialization comes from the smaller organization representing the profession.
That's just one example. The overall authentication for college accrediting bodies is extended by the U.S. Department of Education. For many years the primary accrediting bodies for both traditional and online colleges have been six regional agencies that have divided up the states among them. There are also subdivisions of these agencies that accredit such specialties as vocational institutions. The approved list of accrediting agencies recognized by the Department of Education is the key to overall school accreditation, and the regional bodies are the most important. The other recognized authentication organization, which works in concert with the Department of Education, is the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Both bodies maintain databases of accredited colleges and universities.
For the specialized training that comes with a Masters Degree, accreditation may come from one body or an umbrella group. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology(ABET) is a federation of thirty organizations that together accredit the engineering and technology programs at over 600 colleges in the U.S. Member organizations include such groups as the Institute of Industrial Engineers, the Biomedical Engineering Society and the IEEE, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers which is the world's largest technical professional society, with branches for every profession in IT and electrical engineering. But as another example, while ABET may accredit 2,900 programs at 600 universities, there are only 21 Nuclear Engineering programs in their database.
There are a number of specialized accrediting bodies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and CHEA. You can consult a list of Specialized Accrediting Agencies that is posted by the U.S. Department of Education in order to check the accreditation cited by the program you're considering. There are many universities and colleges that enjoy overall accreditation but that haven't achieved accreditation for specialized programs such as Occupational Therapy or Audiology. The final piece of all of this is, in many professions, state licensure. States must consider your Masters Degree valid education for your chosen specialty.