Nurse Practitioner Accreditation Organizations

Last Updated/Verified: Dec 18, 2023

Completing an online nurse practitioner program is an exciting time for nurses who want to improve their career potential or change their career fields. Nurses who plan to work in a particular sub-specialty or want to enjoy a better salary should understand the importance of accreditation and how to choose an accredited online nurse practitioner program.

Discover the reasons why accreditation is important when you pursue an online nurse practitioner program.

Accreditation – What Is It?

Accreditation of an online nurse practitioner program helps to ensure the integrity and quality of the program. It supports the interests of nursing education, the nursing practice in general, the interests of the public, and public health. It also serves as a non-governmental and external peer review process. Accrediting agencies operate according to nationally recognized standards and serve as a means of supporting continuous growth and continuous improvement in collegiate nursing programs.

Nursing program accrediting agencies develop the criteria and standards for nursing program accreditation and foster trust in the accrediting process. They ensure autonomy and fairness in deliberations related to the decision-making process. Accrediting agencies serve as a means of recognizing those educational institutions and nursing programs that meet and exceed the criteria and standards set for accreditation. They encourage nursing programs, including those offering online nurse practitioner programs, to develop graduates that are both capable nursing professionals as well as socially responsible citizens.

Accrediting Organizations for Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

There are two nursing accrediting organizations: the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Both agencies are equal in terms of properly accrediting online nurse practitioner programs. Each organization has a set of goals and a mission that focuses on being a supportive partner in the strengthening of nursing education programs, including nurse practitioner programs.

The ACEN and the CCNE also focus on valuing and fostering innovation in programs to be accredited, and with the accreditation process. Both organizations have some differences in how they state their mission and goals, yet the accreditation standards are the same.

Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)

The ACEN is recognized as an accrediting body for nursing education by the U.S. Department of Education, along with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

The Accrediting Commission for Education in Nursing abides by strict accreditation requirements for an online nurse practitioner program. The ACEN accreditation extends to online programs, along with traditional classroom learning environments. The ACEN also considers the nurse practitioner program’s compliance with the established criteria and standards in the context of the mission and philosophy of the particular nurse practitioner program.

ACEN accreditation, including online nurse practitioner programs, includes factors such as:

  • Specialized accreditation is mandatory for education programs that prepare nurses for the advanced practice role of a nurse practitioner
  • ACEN accreditation heightens faculty member and administrator awareness of areas needing improvement
  • The ACEN meets the mandated accreditation requirements of many state regulatory agencies for licensure and requirements set by many nurse practitioner employers
  • The organization requires that a college, university, or program offering a nurse practitioner program demonstrates its ability to meet the necessary educational quality standards.

Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is an accrediting body that helps ensure the quality and integrity of baccalaureate, graduate, and residency programs in the nursing field. The agency encourages and supports ongoing self-assessment, improvement, and growth of nursing programs, including online nurse practitioner programs.

Some points regarding how the CCNE provides accreditation activities for online nurse practitioner programs include:

  • Maintains integrity through fairness, honesty, and consistency
  • Assesses and identifies the NP programs that engage in effective educational practices
  • Holds online nurse practitioner programs accountable by ensuring that the program offers a demonstrated mission, goals, and appropriate outcomes that prepare students to fulfill their expected role as nurse practitioners

Is Accreditation the Same as Approval from My State’s Board of Nursing?

Accreditation serves a different function when compared to a state board of nursing. The state board of nursing gives a particular nursing school or program approval to operate within the specific state. A state board of nursing (BON) provides authorization for the educational institution to enroll and graduate students.

Students who complete a program with a state board of nursing approval are potentially eligible to sit for certification and licensure exams. These points make the state board of approval an essential tool for prospective online nurse practitioner students.

Nursing program accreditation is facilitated by a national accrediting agency approved by the U.S. Department of Education. Accreditation ensures that the online nurse practitioner program adheres to the high levels of the particular profession.

Another difference between accreditation and approval is that the state board of nursing’s approval is required by law. In contrast, accreditation of a nursing program is a voluntary process. It is recommended that students choose an online nurse practitioner program that is both state BON-approved and properly accredited.

What Happens if I Don’t Choose an Accredited Online Nurse Practitioner Program?

Although accreditation is voluntary, there are advantages to completing an accredited online nurse practitioner program. Graduating from an accredited program indicates that you completed the requirements of a high-quality online nurse practitioner program that has been evaluated and vetted professionally.

If you do not choose an accredited program, there are several downfalls and possible consequences. Many states now require specialized accreditation and that the certification comes from a program that the U.S. Department of Education recognizes. Nurses who do not attend an accredited online nurse practitioner program risk not transferring nursing credits, not being eligible for certification exams, and may not be able to find employment. Nurses who graduate from an accredited program likely enjoy a higher salary and improved career options than nurses who do not complete an accredited program.

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