Each academic institution or training facility that provides an educational program designed to meet the standards for professional licensing of a nurse is subject to two different forms of accreditation. This article will explain the two different types of accreditations that nursing programs might hold and what graduating students can expect from schools with each type of accreditation.

State Approved Nursing Schools

Local accreditation refers to the approval of a nurse education program by the state board of nursing in the state in which the school is located. This type of accreditation means that the institution has been granted approval to provide education courses that meet the minimum standards for nurse licensure in that state. Each institution will need to apply for separate approval for each type of nursing program they wish to offer (RN, LPN or CNA). If an institution has an approved LPN program that does not necessarily mean that their RN program is also approved. State approval guarantees graduating students that they will be able to obtain licensure to practice in that state after completing all state licensing requirements.

Nationally Accredited Nursing Schools

National accreditation for nursing programs is granted by two major organizations; the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). The NLNAC accredits LPN programs and RN programs. This includes both Bachelor’s degree RN programs and Associate’s degree RN programs. The accrediting body of the AACN is called the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and they grant accreditation to Bachelor’s degree nursing programs, Graduate level nursing programs and nurse residency programs. In instances where the two accrediting agencies overlap, such as a Bachelor’s degree RN program, both may evaluate the education program and make their own decision to grand accreditation (or not).

Difference Between “Approved” and “Accredited” Schools

Local accreditation or state approval does not guarantee that a program holds national accreditation. These two types of accreditations are completely separate and differ for each program. At a minimum level, any nursing education program must hold at least state approval because otherwise their diploma would be worthless for those interested in becoming a nurse. However, many programs exist that hold local approval and lack national accreditation.

The downside of attending a program that lacks national accreditation is that the diploma or degree granted from that institution might not be recognized in other states or by other educational institutions.

When choosing a nurse education program prospective students should be fully aware of what they are getting and more importantly what they are not getting. For those who wish to become a nurse and practice in their state of residence a locally approved program might be acceptable. For those who want to have the opportunity to participate in travel nursing, possibly relocate to another state and continue to practice nursing, or return to school to build upon their nursing education, they would be better prepared by attending a nationally accredited program.