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When you begin your search for the right MBA program, you’ll likely evaluate factors such as schedule, cost, flexibility and coursework. However, it’s crucial not to overlook the importance of accreditation. What exactly is accreditation? Accreditation is a voluntary, non-governmental process that reviews the school’s mission, faculty and curricula. This process includes self-evaluations, reviews by peers and committees, and development of strategy plans to provide the best education.

Attending an accredited school is beneficial for a number of reasons. Aside from the assurance that you’ll receive a quality MBA education, accreditation is necessary if you want to pursue an advanced degree in the future, apply for federal financial aid or have your education recognized by employers.

Accreditation typically comes in two forms: Institutional and programmatic. The former relates to accreditation for the entire school whereas programmatic accreditation, also known as specialized accreditation, evaluates specifics programs or departments.

Who Are the Accreditors?

Accrediting agencies are organizations that create the standards and guidelines that must be upheld by educational institutions and programs. When an institution requests evaluation by the accrediting agency, and the institution meets the agency’s criteria, then they will be accredited by that agency. If you’re thinking about earning your MBA, look for accreditation from organizations that are approved by the U.S. Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Accreditors can grant accreditation on a national or regional basis. The following organizations are widely recognized national accrediting agencies, which grant accreditation to institutions of higher learning located anywhere in the United States and abroad:


The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business grants national accreditation to undergraduate and graduate business administration and accounting degree programs. With only 25 percent of U.S. business schools achieving AACSB International accreditation, it is widely considered to be the highest level of accreditation for business schools.


The Accreditation Council for Collegiate Business Schools and Programs accredits smaller private and public schools that offer associate’s, baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral-level business degree programs that focus on teaching. The ACBSP’s national accrediting standards emphasize teaching excellence through outcomes assessment, which are based on quality and the continuous improvement process.


The Distance Education Accrediting Commission, a private, non-profit organization, grants program-specific accreditation to online or distance learning programs through the doctoral level.

For regional accreditation, there are six associations in the U.S.

Middle States Commission on Higher Education

New England Association of Schools and Colleges

North Central Association of Colleges and Schools

Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

Western Association of Schools and Colleges

Now that you know the basics of accreditation, use this guide to learn more about accreditation agencies. We’ll take a deeper look at the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), a premier business school accreditor, and understand the importance of attending an accredited school.

What is AACSB?

With a vision toward improving global prosperity via business education, AACSB ensures business schools provide quality education to students. When a school earns their seal of approval, students can feel confident their MBA program meets strict standards and will prepare them for a career in business.

Recognizing that business is a constantly-changing environment impacted by technology, global economics, social responsibility and demographic shifts, AACSB is steadfast in ensuring schools create curriculums that prepare students for an evolving marketplace. Schools with accreditation from AACSB are expected to “hold themselves accountable for improving business practice through scholarly education and impactful intellectual contributions.”

While AACSB recognizes that schools can deliver a quality education in different ways, they do expect every accredited institution to continuously improve in three areas: Engagement, innovation and impact.



The presence of academic engagement and professional engagement must be demonstrated. In addition, a school must show that these two facets intersect, creating a well-rounded education that prepares students in all aspects of their lives.



While a business school program should have consistency, AACSB applauds creativity so innovation can occur. Well-planned, organized and strategic experimentation is encouraged. Schools that demonstrate rational and developed innovation are not punished for negative outcomes.



To earn and maintain accreditation, schools are responsible for demonstrating their positive impact on students, society and the global community. Examples of impact include work published in leading, peer-reviewed journals, case study development and career success of students beyond initial placement.

Did You Know?

Only 5 percent* of the world’s business schools have earned AACSB Accreditation.

This high distinction comes from ensuring schools maintain rigorous quality standards:
✓ Delivering their education promise
✓ Maintaining high-quality faculty
✓ Offering a relevant, challenging curriculum
✓ Providing educational and career opportunities not found at other business schools

*Source: The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB)

Who is AACSB?

In existence since 1916, AACSB is a non-profit organization made up of more than 1,500 member organizations across the globe. As of this writing, 777 business schools in 52 countries are accredited by AASCB.

While accreditation of business programs is one of the main duties of AACSB, the organization is also instrumental in providing business education intelligence, thought leadership and professional development services.

As a key accreditor, AACSB regularly reviews its accreditation standards in order to improve relevance, maintain currency and increase value.

Types of AACSB Accreditation

AACSB accredits two types of programs: Business and Accounting. They review and provide their approval on MBAs, along with bachelor’s and doctoral programs. Once accredited, all institutions must enter the Continuous Improvement Review process every five years.


In this voluntary process, educational institutions that offer business programs can apply for AACSB accreditation.


The application process is similar as the business program process, but this accreditation is strictly for accounting programs, not overall business curriculums. There are 180 institutions that currently hold AACSB accounting accreditation.

Why You Should Choose an Accredited School

Accreditation is ultimately a seal of approval letting you know that the school you’re interested in has met high quality standards and continues to implement changes to raise the bar. What you may not know is that attending an accredited MBA program is vital to more than your classroom experience. Let’s take a look at how accreditation impacts your overall education.


Credit Transfer

Transferring credits between schools will be easiest when the credits were earned at a regionally accredited college. This agreement is in place between many accredited schools because they have the same standards of education.



In general, employers accept MBAs from both for-profit and not-for-profit schools, just as long as the school and/or program is properly accredited. The accreditation recognition lets an employer know that they are hiring someone who is properly trained in their field, especially when it comes to business.


Financial Aid

Want financial aid? If you’re hoping to receive help paying your tuition, make sure the school you attend is accredited. The U.S. Department of Education mandates schools participating in federal student aid programs to be accredited. In addition, your state’s education agency’s aid programs may not offer you financial aid if you are not attending an accredited institution.

Remember that paying for your MBA can be a costly commitment, but attending a school that has been deemed an institution with strong academic standards and well-qualified faculty can make a significant difference in your future employment.

Other Ways to Earn an Accredited MBA

While the traditional way to earn your MBA is to enroll in a full-time program, you can also receive your MBA degree from an accredited school without enduring the stress of the highly selective process. Many renowned schools have less stringent requirements for students who attend part-time, online or enroll in an executive MBA.

Executive MBA (EMBA)

EMBAs are different. They are focused MBAs for students who already have five or more years in the professional world. Because of their experience, there are generally no introductory courses in the EMBA program. Classes typically meet at night and/or weekends to combine classwork and real-life applications of course content.

Part-Time MBA

This is a perfect program for those who wish to keep working or remain committed to outside engagements. You may be surprised to know that many schools have different acceptance criteria for their part-time programs, allowing a significantly larger number of students into these programs, and with lower GPAs and GMAT scores. You may also find traditional MBA students in your evening classes because it fits their schedule as well.

Just remember that you can have the prestige of a certain school’s MBA, even if you’re unable to meet some of the traditional requirements for their full-time programs. Consider alternate timelines for earning your MBA and, as long as they’re accredited, the program of your choice may be more attainable than you imagined.


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