How Are Online Nurse Practitioner Schools Accredited?

Online nursing practitioner schools are accredited in the same way as traditional schools are—through nongovernmental peer review by independent accrediting bodies. These accrediting organizations either accredit the school itself (institutional accreditation) or accredit the specific nursing programs offered (programmic accreditation). The best online nursing practitioner schools will hold both institutional and programmic accreditation.

Accreditation is a way of ensuring that students attending an online nursing practitioner school are receiving a quality education that will prepare them for their future careers. Accrediting agencies are responsible for setting the bar high for these schools and declining accreditation to any school that does not meet those standards. A team of representatives from the accrediting body personally visits each campus that is requesting accreditation or examines individual nursing programs and comes to a determination on whether or not those standards are being met. Every few years, the institution will have its accreditation re-evaluated to make sure the institution is still in compliance.

Accrediting Bodies for Nursing Programs

There are two national programmic accrediting bodies to pay attention to if you are looking at going to online nursing school at the graduate level—The National League of Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Both are nationally recognized as accreditors for nursing education programs. NLNAC accredits master’s, bachelor’s, associate degrees programs (along with diploma and practical nursing programs), while CCNE only accredits programs at the graduate and bachelor’s degree levels in nursing (as well as residency programs). NLNAC had accredited more than 1,100 programs as of 2006.

USDE and CHEA

If you want to verify the accreditation that an online nursing practitioner school claims on its website, some smart places to check are the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), both of which allow visitors to quickly search their databases for accredited universities and programs.

The U.S. Department of Education does not accredit any institutions itself, but it does maintain a database of accredited colleges and universities as a public service.

CHEA is a nonprofit organization that advocates for higher education accreditation; it is made up of 3,000 degree-granting institutions. The database maintained by CHEA contains more than 7,700 colleges and more than 18,700 programs that are properly accredited by legitimate accrediting bodies.