Accreditation is a voluntary, non-governmental process that uses peer review to determine if academic programs meet public confidence.
The ACEN provides specialized accreditation for programs of nursing education, both postsecondary and higher degree, which offer either a certificate, a diploma, or a recognized professional degree (clinical doctorate, master’s, baccalaureate, associate, diploma, and practical).
Programmatic accreditation is voluntary, meaning that the process is initiated by each nursing program, and not all nursing programs are accredited. In order for an individual to be considered a graduate of an accredited nursing program, the date of graduation must fall within the nursing program’s accreditation period.
You can search for a nursing program on the ACEN website through the ACEN Search Programs page. The search feature will allow you to refine your search by program name, location, and type.
The ACEN website only identifies those programs that are currently ACEN-accredited, and the details provided are for the program’s current and most recent accreditation. If a program is not listed on our website, it does not necessarily mean that the program was not accredited previously. Similarly, if a program closed, or lost or withdrew from accreditation and was again granted accreditation at a later date, the archival information will not be reflected on the ACEN website.
If you would like to inquire about accreditation for a closed nursing program or any nursing program not listed on our website, please use the Verification of Accreditation Status form.
In order for programmatic accreditation to apply to a nursing program graduate’s education, the date of graduation must fall within the nursing program’s accreditation period. Accreditation is not retroactive, and there are no policies of grandfathering for previous cohorts. Additionally, the ACEN accredits nursing programs, not individuals. If the effective date of ACEN accreditation is not inclusive of your date of graduation, you have not graduated from an ACEN-accredited program.
You may find that some employers, nursing programs, and State Boards of Nursing require that you have graduated from a nationally accredited nursing program as part of their employment, admissions, or approval policies. These policies are specific to each employer, nursing program, and agency.
As you research your options for employment or continuing your nursing education, it would be best to inquire with the employers or programs directly regarding their requirements.
There are currently three agencies recognized by the US Department of Education as agencies specializing in the accreditation of nursing education programs. The ACEN is the first agency approved by US Department of Education (ED) as a programmatic accreditor of nursing education programs, as of 1952. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) was recognized as of 2000, and the NLN Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (NLN CNEA) was recognized as of 2021. You may view each agency’s recognition and current status with the U.S. Department of Education by visiting their website listing for accreditation agencies: https://ope.ed.gov/dapip/#/agency-list.
State Board of Nursing approval of nursing programs is a separate process from accreditation, and it is possible for a nursing program to be State Board of Nursing-approved but not accredited.
Each State Board of Nursing has its own requirements and policies for program approval and licensure. For questions related to the eligibility requirements for the nursing licensure examination and other policies set forth by a particular Board of Nursing, please contact them directly. You may find State Board of Nursing contact information through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN; https://www.ncsbn.org/contact-bon.htm).
A nursing program wishing to apply for initial accreditation must first meet a certain set of criteria to be eligible to continue with the accreditation process. Eligibility is not an accreditation status, and a program’s eligibility to apply for ACEN accreditation does not guarantee that a program will achieve Candidacy or accreditation.
An eligible program is granted a period of time, typically one year, to prepare and submit for Candidacy. The timeline for applying for Candidacy is specific to each program, and these timelines are determined by the program.
You can read more information about the eligibility requirements and accreditation processes in Policy #3 Eligibility for Initial and Continuing Accreditation.
Candidacy is the first step toward ACEN Accreditation. You may the nursing programs that currently have Candidacy status on our website on Search ACEN Programs page. Please note that Candidacy itself is not an accreditation status, and the program must have been granted initial accreditation before students will be recognized as graduates of an accredited nursing program. Additionally, Candidate status does not guarantee that a program will achieve initial accreditation.
A nursing program seeking initial accreditation must first apply for Candidacy, and programs that achieve Candidate status must complete the accreditation process within two years. A nursing program may proceed with seeking initial accreditation any time within their Candidacy period. The timeline for achieving initial accreditation is specific to each program, and these timelines are determined by the program.
Once a program has submitted their application for a site visit for initial accreditation, the program will be added to the list of site visits for the corresponding cycle (upcoming and future cycles). Initial accreditation, if granted, is effective to the date of the Candidacy approval.
If the program does not achieve initial accreditation within the two-year Candidacy period, the program’s Candidacy status will expire. However, the program can reapply for Candidacy at any time to restart the accreditation process.
You may read a more detailed description of the Candidacy process here.
A program will be granted continuing accreditation with a stipulation status (Conditions, Warning, or Good Cause) when it has been found to be in non-compliance with one or more of the ACEN Standards. When the ACEN Board of Commissioners grants a status such as this, the program receives a prescribed period of time determined by the Board (typically one to two years) in which to address any areas of non-compliance. After the prescribed time, the program is then reviewed again by the Board. Throughout the timeframe of a status of Conditions, Warning, or Good Cause, the program is considered an ACEN-accredited nursing program.
For a detailed explanation of the accreditation statuses and ACEN Board of Commissioner actions, please refer to Policy #4 Types of Commission Actions.
ACEN accreditation reviews are scheduled in a two-cycle format: Spring Cycle (January 1 – June 30) and Fall Cycle (July 1 – December 31).
The ACEN Board of Commissioners meeting to review and make the final accreditation decisions for programs reviewed in Spring Cycles occurs in September, with decisions made public in October. And the Commissioners meeting to review and make the final accreditation decisions for programs reviewed in Fall Cycles occurs in April, with decisions made public in May.
Each State Board of Nursing has its own requirements and policies for licensure. You may find State Board of Nursing contact information through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) website at https://www.ncsbn.org/contact-bon.htm.
The ACEN is not a regulatory agency and does not maintain specific information related to each nursing program.
For information pertaining to program outcome data, please contact the program directly. You may also wish to visit the Board of Nursing for your state (NCSBN; https://www.ncsbn.org/contact-bon.htm).