When we’re looking for outside expertise, we need it to be just that: expertise, not some random fly-by-night operation that seemingly sprung up out of nowhere. After all, if we wanted to make it up as we go and do a shoddy job, we’d just do it ourselves. So how do we know if we’re getting someone who is really qualified and up to the task? Who decides what makes someone “good enough” to truly call him or herself an expert in the field?
When you step on a college campus, do you ever think about who declares that the degrees given out by the school are actually, you know, good and useful degrees, ones that can be listed on job applications and referred to proudly during job interviews? There are a ton of regional and national organizations that visit each campus and decide if the school is up to snuff. They do this in part by looking at the curriculum of each program. If a nursing program isn’t teaching something that, for example, the Oregon State Board of Nursing requires nursing students in Oregon be taught, then the school has to shape up quickly or risk seeing its accreditation revoked. Colleges frequently have to juggle competing requirements from multiple boards and agencies. It can all get quite complicated, but good schools will have more than enough staffers devoted to ensuring that everything is on the up and up. They’ll be quite transparent about it too; many places stick accreditation information somewhere on their website. They want prospective students to know that if they attend a place like and accredited BA degrees.
What happens if a school’s credentials lapse? They may have to shut down certain programs, since who wants to get a degree that’s not worth the parchment that it’s printed on? It doesn’t take much to go from having a solid reputation to a terrible one, because news like this travels fast.
Doctors, lawyers, and more
Once a doctor gets a degree from a properly accredited medical school, he or she will start practicing medicine. When patients visit, they’ll typically see the doctor’s degree hung somewhere in his or her office. It’s a tangible way of reassuring the patient and saying, “See? This piece of paper proves that I know what I’m doing, so you can trust me.” Not all diplomas are created equal; a law degree from Harvard is going to get more positive attention than a law degree from a regional state school.
Some career fields don’t require a degree, but they do require a license. When you visit a beauty salon to get your hair trimmed and styled, you’ll probably see at least one state cosmetology license somewhere in the building. Licenses are required whether you’re running a or a liquor store in Portland, Maine. If you’re getting served pizza food in a local restaurant, it should be by someone who went through training to obtain a food handler’s license. Businesses operating without a license can and will be shut down. The cost of licensing can be expensive, but most places consider it a necessary business expense.