In 2017, people are taking online classes more frequently, but some remain concerned the quality of online credits is not as good as the quality of on-campus credits. As long as sonography students earn online credits at a school that is highly ranked for quality and completes requirements for one of the CAAHEP accredited online sonography programs, employers will not consider the sonography degree or certificate as having less value because of online credits earned.
It can get a bit confusing when reading university and college websites because they will often list a number of school and program accreditations. Accreditation is the end result of a quality assurance process in which universities, colleges and technical schools are evaluated as to their ability to meet acceptable levels of quality.
The accreditation process is carried out by private educational organizations that develop standard review criteria and carry out evaluations to determine if the criteria are met. A school or a particular program can be accredited. The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) does not accredit schools, but it does maintain a list of accrediting organizations that it recognizes for purposes of allowing the school to administer federal financial aid.
There are national and regional accrediting agencies and a number of special program accrediting organizations. They attest to the quality of education a student receives when attending a school and/or a program.
Reasons to Attend Accredited Schools
Accreditation carries a lot of weight because it means the institution or the program has been peer reviewed. Students in general want to attend an accredited school because:
- Only schools with accreditation recognized by the USDE can award federal grants and loans
- Many states also require accreditation for financial aid purposes
- Many licensure boards require students to study at accredited educational facilities
- Employers often give more consideration to job applicants who earned their degree or certificate from an accredited school
The large number of accrediting organizations makes discussion on institutional accreditation a complex topic. Besides the USDE, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) maintains a list of accrediting organizations, designating if they are recognized by CHEA, the USDE or both. CHEA and the USDE are responsible for validating the competency of the accreditation agencies. Unfortunately, there are lot of scam accrediting organizations that “sell” their accreditations, doing very little, if any, review of the school.
The list of accrediting organizations is available here and can serve as a reference website when researching educational facilities while looking for the right sonography program. A student can look for accreditation by a regional or national career-related accrediting organization.
When a school is accredited by a recognized organization, the quality is found in on-campus and online programs. The requirements in terms of work required to earn credit is the same. Today, online programs are much more technology advanced, creating an on-campus, in-classroom experience through interactive programs that allow dispersed students to participate in classroom discussions with other students, listen to faculty lectures and ask questions of the faculty.
A Matter of Quality: Accredited Online Sonography Programs
Institutional accreditation and program accreditation are two different things. Anyone researching sonography programs needs to verify the program is accredited by the CAAHEP. This is the premier accrediting organization recognized by CHEA and USDE. Students who graduate from a CAAHEP accredited Diagnostic Medical Sonography program enjoy the following benefits:
- Quality education
- Coursework and hands-on clinical training
- Ability to sit for the ARDMS exams for credentialing upon graduation without additional clinical training
- Employer preference for those who graduated from a CAAHEP accredited school
It is never advisable to attend a non-CAAHEP accredited sonography program, which is why it is important to go the accredited online sonography program route rather than attend a lesser quality program. There are online accredited ultrasound technician schools accredited by organizations that are not on the CHEA or USDE list, and students need to avoid them (Read here)
Bringing School and Program Accreditation Together
Students interested in taking online courses for general education requirements or to complete an online sonography program can use accreditation as a guide that ensures they are choosing a school or program recognized for quality. For example, Armstrong State University in Georgia is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The SACS-COC is on the CHEA and the USDE list of recognized agencies. This is the institutional accreditation level.
Armstrong State University’s sonography track program is accredited by the JRC-DMS organization which stands for Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. The organization is a CAAHEP member. This means the sonography program is CAAHEP accredited.
Accreditation may be a bit of a confusing topic, but it is an important one. Accredited Diagnostic Medical Sonography schools deliver high quality online prerequisite and general education classes. Accredited online sonography programs that are CAAHEP accredited have been appropriately reviewed for quality. It does not matter whether classes are taken on-campus or online because the quality will be embedded in the instruction in the accredited schools for ultrasound. Follow the recommended 8 steps to become a sonographer carefully, and the student cannot go wrong.