A bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree can be great for your career. Choosing one that is credible is key.

How to Know If a Degree Is Credible

As the economy continues to evolve, the pay gap between those with a college education and those without a degree continues to widen.* No matter your career aspirations, if you want to make a good living and reach your goals, you’ll likely need at least a bachelor’s degree, and perhaps a master’s or doctoral degree. But where you earn a degree matters.

Not all colleges and universities are created equal. When conducting a college search, you want to include only those institutions offering credible degrees. Here are some tips you can use in your college comparison to tell the good colleges and universities from the ones you should avoid.

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Look for Accreditation

If you compare colleges from a wide spectrum, you’ll notice that some provide no information on accreditation. That should be a red flag. If you want a credible degree, you want to attend an accredited university.

Accreditation is a voluntary process by which colleges and universities submit their educational programs for independent review by an accrediting organization. There are six regional accrediting organizations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. There are also a number of accrediting organizations focused on specific educational programs (e.g., social work education, teacher education, and nursing education).

All accrediting organizations use a set of criteria to judge whether an educational institution is providing uniform, high-quality education. If the university meets the accrediting organization’s standards, the organization grants accreditation. To maintain their accreditation, universities must maintain their standards.

Accreditation is necessary for a school’s participation in federal and state student loan programs. Additionally, you can only transfer college credits from accredited colleges and universities. Just as importantly, employers are understandably more interested in employees whose degrees come from an accredited university.

Look for a Commitment to Education

Good colleges don’t make it easy to earn a degree. That’s because good colleges understand that, for a degree to be credible, it must represent a quality education. When reviewing your list of colleges to consider, take time to look at each school’s curriculum and expectations for your intended degree program. If the program of study is rigorous, your degree will be more credible.

Look for Strong Student Resources

Colleges and universities that take their mission seriously also take their students seriously. A good way to tell whether a university is designed to provide a meaningful education is to review its student resources. If it provides its students with the resources they need to excel in their studies and reach their career goals, that’s a good indication the university is offering credible degrees.

See What Graduates Have Accomplished

Among the best products of great colleges and universities are the accomplishments of its graduates. In fact, many will share their stories online. Be sure to take time to learn how alumni—especially those graduating from your degree program of choice—have put their education to good use in the workforce or in the community.

Look at Online Universities

Thanks to modern technology, earning a credible degree no longer requires you to attend a campus-based college or university. Students of accredited online colleges and universities are now earning bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees that are helping to propel their careers forward.

There are also plenty of other reasons to consider online education. For one, instead of having to move to be near a top school, you can earn a degree online from your home or anywhere else you have internet access.

Additionally, online degree programs offer a level of flexibility you’re unlikely to find in a campus-based program. That’s because online learning allows you to complete your coursework at whatever times and days work best for you. This can make it much easier to work full time and/or take care of your other responsibilities while you earn your degree.

Earning a credible degree is essential if you want to get the most out of your education. The right online university can help.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

*C. Rugaber, Pay Gap Between College Grads and Everyone Else at a Record, USA Today, on the internet at www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/01/12/pay-gap-between-college-grads-and-everyone-else-record/96493348.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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