It’s definitely a good idea to get your nursing degree from a properly accredited school, particularly if you want to become an RN or a get a more senior management position in nursing – now or in the future. American nursing schools are accredited by non-government groups that confirm that make sure that key educational standards are met before degrees are given to students. Most schools that are accredited by a national agency state it loud and clear on the home pages of their websites.
Taking The Long View
You may be able to find employment as a licensed practical nurse (sometimes called a “vocational” nurse) with a nursing certificate from a school with no major accreditation. But if you’re seeking a job as an RN, you’ll find that employers are very discriminating about whether or not your nursing school has the proper accreditation. At the same time, if you start out with an lpn certificate and then decide to take your career to the next step with an associates, bachelors or even master’s degree, it will be much tougher to get accepted by a good-quality nursing school if your lpn program was not accredited.
Nursing schools have their own universe of accrediting agencies, which is completely different from the group of agencies that accredit most college and university degree programs. The agencies rate the quality of the classes, the skills taught and the general training given to nursing students.
The most broad-based national accreditation group in nursing is the National League of Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC), a New York-based organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the top accreditor for all levels of nursing degree programs. NLNAC accredits everything from lpn “diploma” and certificate programs to associates, bachelors and even master’s degree programs. You can learn more about NLNAC here.
Another key national organization is the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Though CCNE is also recognized by the Education Department, it focuses on accrediting only bachelor’s and master’s degree level programs. Many schools providing nursing degree programs at this level are accredited by both NCNAC and CCNE. For more information about CCNE, visit their website here.
Specialty Nursing Accreditation
Other groups have been created to accredit programs in the newer, more advanced nursing specialties that have emerged. The American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) gives accreditation to midwifery programs, while the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Education Programs (AANA) accredits nurse anesthesia programs, one of the hottest areas in advanced nursing today. ACNM accredits everything from certificate to bachelors to Ph.D. programs.
The State Nursing Boards
Every US state has a State Board of Nursing, which approves schools to train students to take that states National Council Licensure (NCLEX) Exam. NCLEX exams are given at various levels: the NCLEX-LP for licensed practitioners, NCLEX-RN for registered nurses and so on.
The relationship between the state boards and the nursing schools is a bit confusing. A considerable number of nursing schools are approved by a state nursing board but not by a national accrediting organization. It’s wise to think twice about attending an unaccredited school, even though some offer good quality training. Although you may be able to pass your state NCLEX exam and get your first nursing job (usually at the licensed practitioner level) by going this route, you’ll run into a roadblock later on if you decide to go after an associates degree to become an RN or a BSN. The accredited nursing schools that provide these more advanced degrees probably won’t be willing to count the basic training you got from an unaccredited school toward your next-level degree. If you need financial help for your nursing degree, you should also keep in mind that many government scholarship programs only give money to students attending accredited schools.