Selecting a program of study in a health area can be confusing. Health programs can vary in length and in credentialing depending on what area you select. Here are some questions you MUST ask and tips to consider as you contemplate your education options.
- Ask if the program you are considering is accredited. Accreditation is a method of assuring the public that the graduates of the program meet quality expectations. You want to ask if the “program” is accredited, not just institutional accreditation (for example, “Is this Diagnostic Medical Sonography program accredited and, if so, by what accrediting body?”). Program accreditation means that the individual program is accredited and that it has been reviewed and meets the quality expectation for that profession. Institutional accreditation means that the school that offers the program is accredited, however that does not mean the program is accredited. Some health professions will not allow you to sit for their licensure or certification exam unless you completed an accredited “program.”
- Ask what type of certificate or degree you will receive. Some programs are offered through continuing education and earn CE units. Some programs are offered through college credit and the student receives a certificate or degree with specific numbers of credits earned. If you eventually want to go further in school, a credit program offers transfer possibility. Be sure and find out if the coursework you will receive will transfer as credit to another institution and be accepted by other colleges.
- Ask what you will be eligible to do once you complete the program. Upon completion, will you be ready to go to work or will you need to pass a certification or licensure test to practice? Each field has their own requirements and there may also be state licensure requirements. It is important to find this out and a good way to do this is to call the professional society for that field and inquire. If certification or licensure is required to get a job, find out what it takes to become certified or licensed by contacting the certifying or licensing body. For more information about each profession in which CAAHEP accredits programs, including links to the professional organizations and certifying bodies, please visit the Profession Description and Certification Information page.
- Ask about the cost of the program and what kind of financial aid is available. Research the costs and compare programs. In some cases loans may be available but remember those loans must be repaid whether you finish the program or not. Avoid making loan decisions hastily.
- Ask to talk to a current student and a graduate of the program. Most schools can identify some individuals for you to talk to. Inquire about the program, how the job market is and what kind of support is available.
- Find out what kind of “on-the -job” experience you will be provided as you go through the program. Most programs require class, labs and clinical. The clinical portion is done in the workplace, where the skills learned are applied. Accredited programs in health fields require some sort of clinical application, set up by the school during the educational process. Students participate during the coursework and are not expected to find their “own” clinical application after they complete the lecture/lab portion.
- Contact a work setting in the field you are considering and talk to actual employers and people working in the field. Clarify with them what kind of requirements need to be met to be hired. Most health programs have clinical affiliation agreements with hospitals, etc., so students can get the experience and programs should be willing to tell you one or two of those affiliates and contacts for those affiliates.
For additional information on the professions CAAHEP accredits, please visit the For Students section on this website and select the Profession Description and Certification Information link. There you will also find general information on the profession, certification, along with the contact information for each profession’s certifying body and professional organization.
The Association of Specialized & Professional Accreditors (ASPA) has developed a YouTube video on behalf of its 61 members, including CAAHEP, to help prospective students protect their tuition dollars by helping them learn what to ask about accreditation before they enroll in school. Follow this link to view this "must see" video for prospective students!
Please contact CAAHEP
with any additional questions you may have.