Accredited Degree Programs: Important or Not?
“Is your program accredited?”
Potential students occasionally pose that question, and I direct them to the page on our website that addresses that.
I believe most do not know why they are asking that question, other than an affirmative answer is more comforting than a negative one. It’s a box that is nice to check while proceeding on the path to selecting a school for their studies.
What does accreditation mean? Accredited by whom or what organization?
Investing in one’s education is a serious business. Applicants are considering putting blood, sweat, tears, and finances into a venture that will hopefully lead to a positive expected end.
Horror stories abound of graduates who found out that they needed an accreditation stamp on their diploma but were not aware that they needed to attend an accredited institution. All their hard work did not yield the result they expected, and they need to start over or press on sadly with what they have.
That would be a painful outcome for anyone to endure. Sometimes, students with a bachelor’s degree in one discipline want to pursue a master’s at another institution, only to find that their degree is not recognized by the new school.
The growth of online schools adds another level of complexity to the issue. Brick and mortar institutions, with physical classroom settings, can be easier to assess, regulate, and control than internet-based schools. Many of these institutions increasingly offer online options also.
Accredited Degrees Can Be Important
Many professions and careers require an accredited degree – physicians, lawyers, accountants, and more. Accreditation in these ventures is proper because it helps to ensure the quality and thoroughness of the degree program. However, that accreditation comes with a hefty price tag that is bundled into the tuition.
Is accreditation necessary for Christian Counseling degree students so they can do God’s work? The answer is …. maybe!
My counsel to applicants is that they have a good understanding of what they want to accomplish. For those who want to incorporate state (or country) licensing into their qualifications, I make it clear: ours is probably not the best program for you. If a student wants to operate in Caesar’s (the world’s) realm, then they must dance to Caesar’s tune.
We make it a point to be very clear in our conversations and on our website that our program, provided through the National Christian Counselors Association, is best suited for those who want to pursue a ministry/church calling. Our programs offer seminary degrees, not academic degrees, so application towards state licensing will not apply. Graduates, subject to the business laws of their state, can open their own pastoral counseling practices, just as we did in Florida.
Are accredited programs better than non-accredited ones? I do not believe you can make that case universally. There are many weak accredited schools and strong non-accredited institutions. Each student needs to do their own research and, again, answer the fundamental question: “What do I expect to gain from this investment in myself?”
Going to an accredited school does not guarantee that education will be better or the degree worth more. If a student does not require an accredited degree to meet their life goals, then why pay for that?
I have been practicing as an NCCA-Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor since 2001. My degrees (Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral) hang on the wall of my office, along with my NCCA license. They are also listed on my resume on the website.
Very few clients will ask about my education or note that I graduated from Jacksonville Theological Seminary. Nobody asks if my degree is accredited. While the knowledge gained and the degrees earned added to my storehouse of experience, the degrees themselves signal, for most, that I am qualified to counsel, that I have “studied to show myself approved” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Not a single person has ever asked about the accreditation of my degree.
If you would like more insight into this discussion, I highly recommend this article by Joshua Franklin at Colorado Theological Seminary (one of our schools): https://www.seminary.ws/online-christian-colleges/accredited-or-not-accredited/