Accreditation for Master’s in Healthcare Degrees
The healthcare industry is a promising field for master’s degree holders. Graduate degrees in various healthcare disciplines — like health science, public health, or nursing — can boost your existing healthcare career. Because graduate degrees are a popular pursuit for medical industry pros, online colleges and universities cater to the needs of these students by offering a variety of online master’s degrees in healthcare-related subjects. Online programs are popular at the master’s degree level, as students are usually more mature and established and need to maintain their professional and personal obligations while completing their degree. A few of the health care master’s degrees available online include:
- Master’s Degree in Health Services
- Master’s Degree in Long-Term Care Administration
- Master’s in Public Health
- Master’s in Health Science
- Master’s in Public Administration
- Master’s in Business Administration with Health Specialization
- Master of Science in Nursing
While the online master’s degree landscape offers a wealth of possibilities, it also comes with risks. The industry continues to raise its credibility and regulate the quality of online programs. But degree mills and unaccredited institutions are still a concern for many potential students and employers fielding applications from online degree holders. The best way to ensure you get a high-quality online graduate healthcare education is to earn your degree from an accredited school.
Accredited schools meet the standards of quality established by qualified accrediting agencies. Most schools declare their accreditation status in a visible place on their website. However, even accreditation can be a tricky. Accrediting agencies are private organizations and their recognition is not approved or verified by any official governing body, such as the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), nor does the USDE itself provide accreditation. However, the USDE does publish a list of nationally recognized agencies that are informally endorsed to award accreditation. These organizations operate in a regional or national capacity and typically accredit the institution as a whole. Students considering an online education are strongly encouraged to only consider schools that are regionally or nationally accredited by one of these agencies.
Specialized Accreditation for Masters in Healthcare Programs
While regional and national agencies accredit colleges and universities, individual programs and degrees can also be accredited through field-specific organizations. Master’s degree programs in a certain field can be accredited by a professional organization or accrediting body related to that field. Specialized accreditation can make or break your future career opportunities in some fields, but is merely an added bonus in others. For example, in the field of architecture, you cannot become a registered architect if your degree program does not hold specialized accreditation. In the case of most healthcare master’s programs, general institution accreditation is the biggest concern. However, the best online masters in healthcare will hold specialized accreditation as well.
Many field-specific accreditors are also recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Below is a list of major accreditors to look for when considering an online healthcare master’s program:
- Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education: This organization is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, and is the only organization recognized to accredit professional master’s degree programs in healthcare management. This organization accredits a variety of healthcare master’s degree programs in business (MBA), health administration, health policy, health systems administration, health services, public health, and more.
- National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, Inc. (NLNAC): The NLNAC is one of the primary accreditors for nursing master’s programs. The organization focuses on monitoring quality for nursing degrees at all levels, from associate to clinical doctorate programs. Many of the best Master of Science in Nursing programs are accredited by the NLNAC.
- Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE): The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, like the NLNAC, monitors standards of quality in undergraduate and graduate nursing programs. It is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and is also known to accredit online nursing programs. If you are considering a Master of Science in Nursing, NLNAC- or CCNE-accredited programs are recommended.
- Council on Education for Public Health: This autonomous agency accredits public health departments and masters in public health programs. It focuses on graduate and undergraduate programs in public health and is recognized by the Department of Education.
For a comprehensive list of federally-recognized accreditors in the healthcare field, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website.
Even in the case of a program with general and specialized accreditation, it’s important to do your homework before enrolling in any online healthcare program. Research how the program holds up against others healthcare administration schools and find out where your peers or superiors earned their degrees. An online school can make your graduate degree dreams a reality. But any program worth doing should be challenging, so take this into consideration before taking the plunge.