Like the credibility of an organization or the reputation of an individual, a school’s accreditation evokes trust within its walls and from the outside world. In the United States, accreditation is a major way that students, families, government officials and the press know that an institution or program provides a quality education.

As a prospective graduate student, you’ll need to ensure that your investment in a graduate program is solid. You can do that by confirming the higher education institution that you’re considering is in good standing with recognized accreditation and quality assurance organizations such as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the U.S. Department of Education (USDE).

Accreditation guarantees a legitimate, quality education by holding graduate degree programs to specific standards. Students, employers and instructors acknowledge and value these standards as a sign of authenticity.

From local ground schools to online education providers, educational institutions of all types voluntarily seek and maintain accreditation. Because it involves reviewing the quality of higher education institutions and programs, accreditation requires a great deal of work on the part of the institution or graduate program under review, as well as the accrediting organization. After an institution or program requests an agency’s evaluation and then meets the agency’s criteria, the agency then “accredits” the graduate school or program.

Keep reading: The Importance of Accreditation at the Graduate Level