What is CCNE Accreditation

CCNE Accreditation

Are you considering a career in Nursing? If so, you are probably browsing numerous academic programs available to aspiring nurses. In exploring options, you will note that most, if not all, programs boast that they are “accredited.” Accreditation is important to consider as you narrow your search for the academic program that best meets your needs.

This article will:

  • Describe what accreditation means.
  • Why is accreditation necessary?
  • What does accreditation of a program mean to a prospective student/graduate?
  • What are the accrediting bodies and how do they differ?
  • What is the accreditation process?

What is Accreditation

State Boards of Nursing in each state, while not accrediting bodies themselves, play a crucial role in overseeing nursing education programs. They ensure these programs meet specific state requirements, which is separate from the accreditation process conducted by independent accrediting organizations. This governmental approval assures citizens that the program meets minimum standards to prepare graduates to sit for the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination).

Accreditation is a non-governmental, purely voluntary process. Nursing programs choose to undergo a rigorous review process with accrediting agencies to:

  • Validate to prospective and incumbent students that the program meets high quality academic standards.(1)
  • Demonstrate that the program utilizes high-quality clinical resources, thus providing well-rounded clinical experiences for students.
  • Demonstrate to the public that the program is aligned with the community’s needs and meeting its healthcare needs.

Why is Accreditation Necessary

Nursing programs that invest fiscal and human resources in the accreditation process are making a statement about their commitment to providing high-quality nursing education to prospective students and the public.  Though voluntary, achieving accreditation has become the standard practice of nursing programs desiring to compete for students and resources in a highly competitive environment.

Prospective students need to consider the following if considering enrolling in non-accredited programs:

  • Most employers require registered nurses to have passed the NCLEX exam and graduated from an accredited nursing education program.
  • If the pursuit of an advanced practice degree is in the nurse’s future, advanced degree programs require that prospective students have graduated from an accredited undergraduate program.
  • Should writing or participating in federally funded grant programs be in the nurse’s future, graduation from an accredited program is a participation requirement.

Who Accredits Nursing Programs

The U.S. Secretary of Education recognizes two organizations as accrediting agencies for nursing education programs:

  • Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (2)


The ACEN is the oldest of the accrediting bodies.  It is an affiliate organization of the National League for Nursing, which once served as an accrediting body.

ACEN offers accreditation services to:

  • Vocational/Practical Nursing programs
  • Associate Degree programs
  • Baccalaureate Nursing programs
  • Advanced Practice Nursing programs
  • Entry-into-practice fellowships and residency programs for new graduates

Accreditation from the ACEN is typically valid for up to eight years for baccalaureate and graduate degree programs and up to five years for practical, diploma, and associate degree programs, after which the institution must seek re-accreditation.  Accreditation and subsequent re-accreditation are achieved through a rigorous application process wherein the organization submits several required documents for review.  In addition, ACEN requires an on-site review by volunteer surveyors to validate findings before awarding accreditation.  The application and on-site survey focuses on the following:

  • Curriculum design and content
  • Faculty credentials
  • Ongoing self-evaluation process
  • Quality of clinical settings and resources affiliated with the program


CCNE was established in 1998.  It is an affiliate organization of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

CCNE offers accreditation services to:

  • Baccalaureate Nursing programs
  • Advanced Practice Nursing programs
  • Entry-into-practice fellowships and residency programs for new graduates

The duration of a program’s CCNE accreditation and subsequent re-accreditation is based on the level of achievement of various criteria. The maximum accreditation period awarded by the CCNE for baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs can extend up to 10 years following a successful accreditation process. As with ACEN, the CCNE accreditation process is based upon a comprehensive application wherein the program submits requested documentation. This documentation includes evidence of rigorous, ongoing self-assessment. An on-site visit by volunteer surveyors validates the application documents. Accreditation criteria utilized by CCNE are based on the following:

  • The program’s mission. (focus on commitment to professional advancement, the community and public health)
  • The program’s goals. (focus on the sustainability of the program and strategies for future growth and advancement)
  • The program’s integrity. (focus on self-assessment of the program’s goals and mission)
  • The program’s performance. (focus on student and faculty retention, NCLEX pass rates)
  • The program’s utilization of resources. (focus on relationships with the community and efficient utilization of clinical resources)


Non-governmental accreditation of nursing education programs was established decades ago to serve as a “quality seal” on academic programs as they emerged across the nation. The process assures prospective students and the consuming public that the academic preparation of nurses meets a high standard.

The accreditation process has become even more important in modern times. With a shortfall in the supply of nurses across the nation continuing to grow, there is a great deal of societal pressure to increase the flow of nurses into the workforce pipeline.  This pressure creates an inherent risk to society as existing nursing programs attempt to accelerate training.

In addition, there is impetus for new programs based on profit motivation. These factors can result in a deterioration in the quality of education and, thus, the quality of graduates.

CCNE and ACEN serve society by voluntarily participating in rigorous quality evaluation processes. The accrediting agencies serve to establish quality guardrails for current and future nursing education programs. Aspiring nurses can be confident that they are about to embark on a quality academic journey when applying to accredited nursing education programs.

See Also

Pediatric Nursing Certification Board

Florida Board of Nursing

Can New Nurses Work Per Diem

Types of Nurses

Current Version
March 7, 2024
Updated By
Tim Bevelacqua, MN, RN
November 25, 2023
Written By
Tim Bevelacqua, MN, RN
November 25, 2023
Edited By
Andrea Morales G.
January 14, 2024
Fact Checked By
Andrea Morales G.

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