An accredited program is one that has been reviewed and approved by a recognized accreditation body. There are several different types of accreditation bodies, including professional associations, government agencies, and educational institutions. I always make sure to ask what the accreditation status of the school is before I enroll in an online course.
Accreditation can be verified with your state department or with an organization like the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU).
Just as important as whether or not it’s accredited is whether or not it’s regionally accredited. A nationally accredited institution is located outside of any particular region but has applied for approval from one or more regional accrediting organizations. A nationally-accredited institution may have a branch campus within a particular region but does not offer degrees at the regional level. Regional-accredited institutions offer degrees at the regional level only and are subject to oversight from their respective regional associations for higher education such as Western Association of Schools and Colleges, New England Association of Schools and Colleges, etc. If you’re looking for a college degree in nursing, it would be extremely helpful to find a school that offers this specific type of degree instead of finding any old college degree that you think might do the trick.
A nationally-accredited institution will work if you want to become an engineer or accountant because they usually don’t require regional accreditation; but they would not work if you wanted to become an attorney or teacher because those occupations require regional accreditation which can vary depending on where in the U.S. you live. It’s best to know exactly what you need so that you can find the right program. When I was starting my search for a master’s in social work, there were schools that offered the degree on both a national and regional level. Luckily there was also information about each school’s location so I knew ahead of time if there was even going to be an opportunity for me to take classes locally.