Online Ph.D. programs undergo the same amount of scrutiny when it comes to accreditation as do on-campus ones. Accreditation, which is extremely important to the reputation and functions of schools, is earned through a voluntary but exhaustive process in which an institution and its programs are evaluated as to whether they meet required educational standards. Accrediting agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Education judge schools based on strict criteria as well as peer evaluations. Once a school is accredited, it is expected to uphold these standards with annual reviews of its teachers, course work, facilities and equipment.
Why You Should Care About Accreditation
A Ph.D. is the highest degree you can earn, so you want to be sure that you are attending a trustworthy school. The best way to ensure that your online Ph.D. program is reputable is to enroll in an accredited school.
In addition to conferring legitimacy, accreditation can directly affect a school's ability to participate in federal student financial aid programs. Accreditation also determines whether the college's credits will transfer to other higher learning institutions and whether employers will acknowledge its degrees.
Verify that your online college is accredited by checking the Department of Education's searchable Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. There are six accrediting organizations approved by the Department of Education and the National Education Association to evaluate online programs.
Watch Out for Diploma Mills
Attending an accredited university will also protect you from educational scams, such as diploma mills. These outfits profit by posing as legitimate colleges but selling academic degrees without evaluating any academic work from their students. The businesses award degrees based on students' life experiences, and they often claim accreditation by unapproved accrediting bodies. There are many indicators that a school may be a diploma mill, such as degrees that can be earned unusually quickly and no admission requirements or verification of previous academic work. No business will employ someone with a false Ph.D. degree, so thoroughly investigate a program before applying.