There are national and regional accreditation for both an academic institution as a whole and specifically for an institution's nursing program.
There are so many labels and types that this topics frequently misunderstood by pre-nursing students as well as nursing students and nurses! Make sure you know the differences and what accreditation the schools your are considering posses It is important for your future employment, career advancement, and academic opportunities. Let's explore the different accreditation types and accrediting bodies!
Nursing Program Accreditation:
Your State Board of Nursing
Sometimes it is called accreditation, other states call it licensing, clearance, permission, or permitting. Without it, students cannot sit for NCLEX in that state or receive an RN license. You can verify a programs status on your state's BON website.
National League of Nursing Accreditation Commission NLNAC
American Association of Colleges of Nursing Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education AACN-CCNE
NLNAC accredits ADN/ASN/BSN programs. CCNE accredits BSN/MSN/DNP programs as well as post-bacc nurse residency programs. These are often desired/required by employers for employment and by academic institutions for further nursing education. For example, the VA, the nations largest employer of RNs, will only consider applicants from NLN/CCNE programs. Many RN->BSN and MSN/DNP programs will not accept applicants from non-accredited programs.
You can search a nursing program's national accreditation status here:
Academic School Accreditation:
Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
New England Association of Schools and Colleges
North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
Western Association of Schools and Colleges
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
These bodies accredit colleges and universities, private and public, mostly non-profit (some for-profit). Accreditation by these bodies improve credit and degree acceptance without specific articulation agreements between individual institutions. Credits from unaccredited institutions are likely to be rejected forcing students to retake them as a prerequirement for further degrees. Institutions will state their academic accreditation status on their website (sometimes you have to look).
Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)
These bodies are "predominantly organized to educate students for occupational, trade and technical careers, and institutions that offer programs via distance education." For example, ITT-Tech is academically accredited by ACICS. These bodies have come under criticism for having board members that are controlling owners in the for-profit schools they accredit. This is known as having the fox watching the henhouse.
State Nursing Accreditation: MANDATORY
National Nursing Accreditation: High Importance
Regional Academic Accreditation: High Importance
National Academic Accreditation: Low Importance
Your school of choice certainly needs state BON clearance at a minimum if you want to take NCLEX and become a licensed RN after graduation. While accreditation is not a guarantee of quality, it is a somewhat reliable indicator. In a highly competitive world, attending a program with national nursing and regional academic accreditation can open many doors that would otherwise be closed in both the job market and in future academic pursuits.