MBA Accreditation: What’s Legit?

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Updated: February 29, 2024, Reading time: 13 minutes


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If you want to manage or launch your business successfully, you must have a diverse range of experiences, courage, skills, and perhaps an advanced level of study, such as getting an MBA.

Earning an MBA degree provides you with an entrepreneurial edge as well as expertise. Through your MBA program, you will learn the essential resources and tools to conquer challenges, manage various aspects and changes, keep business operations running smoothly, and stay cost-effective while remaining competitive and relevant.

The MBA program itself presents a form of validation that you can proudly add to your resume. As a result, the majority of colleges and universities take pride in their MBA graduates, with employment rates of at least 89.5%.

However, behind every MBA program, there is another significant aspect that one should be informed about in the process of selecting the right school and MBA program – business school accreditation.

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What is Accreditation?

Accreditation is an independent evaluation methodology developed to recognize colleges and universities that meet rigorous academic requirements and standards. Academic institutions must demonstrate their academic excellence and quality to an independent accrediting organization to gain accreditation.

It assures students that their preferred college or university adheres to high-quality standards based on professional practice and the latest research.

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While the national and regional accrediting organizations evaluate academic institutions, specialized accrediting organizations assess individual programs within the college or university. The most prestigious MBA programs and business schools earn programmatic accreditation.

Programmatic accreditation is similar to national and regional accreditation, except it only emphasizes a specific program rather than the whole academic institution. For an MBA program, the peer review committee consists of faculty and other professionals from the business industry.

As a result, MBA accreditation indicates that a program has met a certain standard of quality in its curriculum, services, and faculty members.

Numerous agencies focus primarily on MBA programs and business schools. As a result, prospective MBA students must always consider an online or traditional program that is accredited by specific accrediting organizations.

Enrolling in an accredited business school may also make you a more competitive candidate in the job market. Some top employers will only accept candidates from accredited institutions when considering salary packages or promotions.

3 Top Accrediting Agencies for MBA Programs

Association To Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business is the pioneering and most prestigious of the three accrediting organizations of MBA programs. In 1916, a group of prominent colleges and universities, such as the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard, established the Association of Collegiate Schools of Business.

These academic institutions, which have the top MBA programs in the country, developed the AACSB to advocate excellence in business studies.

As one of the most reputable agencies for evaluating MBA programs, the AACSB embodies the gold standard of business school accreditation. AACSB accredits fewer than 5% of qualified MBA programs. It marks out the most elite programs deliberating MBA studies. MBA programs that are accredited by the AACSB meet rigorous benchmarks of student outcomes, faculty credentials, and academic excellence.

Colleges and universities seeking accreditation from the AACSB must undergo an extensive evaluation process. Upon evaluating a school’s application, AACSB staff members develop a standardized alignment plan and assign a peer review committee to perform on-site assessments and reviews.

The entire process can take years, and the organization reviews accredited programs every five years.

MBA programs must also comply with regular self-evaluation reports to determine continuous adherence to the criteria of the AACSB.

Online MBA programs that are accredited by the AACSB have met well-defined standards. Students enrolled in AACSB-accredited schools benefit from an academically rigorous curriculum trained by top researchers and faculty members. Degrees completed through AACSB online MBA programs also bestow reputation value.

Some top employers will only recruit graduates from an AACSB-accredited academic institution. The right type of accreditation may eventually lead to better job opportunities and lucrative salaries for graduates.


Since there is a correlation between accredited and highly-ranked programs, AACSB accreditation has become the standard measure of top-quality business education. As a result, an AASCB-accredited MBA program may help you land a lucrative job in a competitive corporate environment. Some companies provide tuition reimbursement programs when their employees enroll in an MBA program only accredited by the AASCB.


AACSB-accredited MBA programs are more expensive than non-AACSB MBA programs. If you are looking for an MBA program that excels in the skills it provides you rather than the prestigious reputation, you can find more affordable non-AACSB accredited alternatives. In terms of the admission process and requirements, it is more stringent and lengthier when you are enrolling for an MBA program in an AACSB-accredited institution.

Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)

Founded in 1988, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs is a relatively new accrediting organization for business schools.

The ACBSP provides accreditation to academic institutions that follow models and sets of criteria for continuous improvement, highlight healthy student learning outcomes, and demonstrate their teaching and academic excellence.

The ACBSP adheres to a student-centered leaching and teaching approach to ensure that learners gain the essential skills from their chosen MBA program. MBA programs accredited by the ACBSP measure and certify the standards of student learning as well as the MBA program outcome of graduates.

Academic institutions must apply and complete a detailed questionnaire to earn an accreditation status from the ACBSP. An ACBSP adviser is assigned to examine the MBA program and authorize a self-study report. After reviewing, the ACBSP performs an on-site visit before announcing its evaluation.

The organization also prioritizes programs that focus on research aside from the school’s student learning outcomes. MBA students who are enrolled in an ACBSP-accredited college or university benefit from the organization’s pledge to quality.

The ACBSP also reports that graduates from accredited business schools are well-prepared to find promising career opportunities in a competitive job market.


Academic institutions with MBA programs accredited by the ACBSP are dedicated to continuous improvement that guarantees their business program will provide students with the skills and expertise that employers desire. Since it has global recognition, it sets you apart from the competitive job market around the U.S. and the world.

With an increased student value and reputation, ACBSP delivers better marketability for MBA students and provides them a competitive advantage in the job hiring process.


Similar to AACSB, MBA programs with accreditation status from the ACBSP are more expensive compared to other non-accredited MBA programs.

International Accreditation Council For Business Education (IACBE)

The International Accreditation Council for Business Education, or IACBE, is the latest addition to business accrediting organizations. It was established in 1997 and earned recognition from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) in 2011.

The IACBE evaluates MBA programs according to the view that academic excellence can be measured by comparing a specific MBA program’s mission to its academic outcomes. IACBE focuses only on smaller private academic institutions.

MBA programs go through an independent external evaluation procedure developed to measure effectiveness. The organization evaluates a program’s learning and teaching approach as well as its educational outcomes.

Similar to other accrediting organizations, programs applying for IACBE accreditation must prepare a self-study highlighting adherence to IACBE principles. After evaluation, colleges and/or universities must be willing to comply with an on-site visit facilitated by the independent peer review committee.

The Board of Commissioners from IACBE eventually determines if the MBA program has garnered accreditation.

MBA graduates from an IACBE-accredited program benefit from the organization’s guarantee that the program meets academic excellence and high standards and only adheres to the best practices and expertise in business education.


The IACBE delivers external confirmation and validation of quality in an academic institution’s MBA program. It also ensures that the academic program demonstrates the characteristics of academic excellence in business studies. Both MBA graduates and their future employers benefit from a top-quality educational standard.

Another benefit of the IACBE is the sponsorship of workshops and conferences throughout the academic year to help in the professional development of business faculty as well as share their proficiency and best practices in business studies.


Compared to other non-accredited MBA programs, the IACBE-accredited programs are more expensive. Some companies have tuition reimbursement and assistance programs; however, not all IACBE-accredited programs are recognized by these companies.

Which Type of Business School Accreditation is Suitable for You?

Most students choose a business school with programs that align with their career aspirations. Choosing the right MBA program comes down to whether your passion lies in pursuing a career in a real-world business setting or research.

Some employers will recruit candidates based on the type of MBA program earned and its curriculum as well as foundational methods. Whether the MBA program you will pursue has an AACSB or ACBSP accreditation, becoming clear on which career aspirations and career track you want to have is the critical component to selecting the MBA program that is perfect for you.

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While the AACSB accreditation has been the frontrunner and has a broader scope, the ACBSP is also a highly significant indicator of the high quality and effectiveness of a business school. Business organizations prefer their employees to have the practical expertise that they can implement immediately.

As a result, an ACBSP-accredited MBA program from a regionally accredited academic institution that focuses on real-world applications of business knowledge is a suitable choice.

Checking Your Business School’s Accreditation Status

The best way to determine a college or university’s accreditation status is to visit the official website of the national or regional accrediting agency. The majority of organizations maintain up-to-date lists of institutions granted accreditation by respective agencies.

Another way is to verify through your chosen college’s or university’s official business school website. Most MBA programs offered by different schools have the official accreditation seal as part of the description on the school’s website.

ACBSP, AACSB, and IACBE: The Difference

Earning and maintaining accreditation can be an expensive endeavor. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE), and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) differ in terms of the cost of accreditation and the rigorous process of their accreditation guidelines.

Another factor in determining accreditation is institutional resources. The AACSB-accredited MBA programs are more prominent in public institutions; however, private academic institutions are more likely to have MBA programs accredited by the ACBSP and IACBE. As mentioned, the IACBE also focuses on providing accreditation to small private institutions.

AACSB-accredited MBA programs usually have high student populations and the most well-skilled faculty. They also pay the highest professor wages and utilize the most strategies and facilities for academic instruction.

These higher education institutions also generate high revenue from most revenue sources, except tuition and fees.

The Importance of Accreditation in MBA Programs

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Elimination of Degree Mills

When you research specific schools and MBA programs, it is vital to eliminate degree mills and other scams. The best accredited MBA programs list their accreditations on their official websites. If you are having difficulties in determining whether your chosen MBA program is accredited, it’s best to avoid it.

Global Recognition

AACSB, ACBSP, and IACBE have an international presence and awards accreditation to MBA programs in the United States and abroad. Accreditation is an internationally recognized standard of academic excellence, which may provide an advantage to students who are planning to pursue careers in international business environments.

High-Quality Reputation to Employers

Your future employers will often evaluate your MBA program’s reputation by looking at the accreditation status. MBA accreditation offers an additional guarantee that the degree holder received a reputable, top-quality education. Several agencies also recommend that MBA graduates include the accrediting organization’s name on their CVs or resumes.

Indicators of High-Quality Education

MBA accreditation is one of the strongest indicators that your program provides quality education. The high standards and requirements of MBA accrediting organizations and their frequent review of accredited MBA programs guarantee that MBA programs are comprehensive and academically rigorous.

Narrow-Down MBA Program Search

Accreditation helps prospective MBA students narrow down their list of potential MBA programs. All reputable MBA programs earn some accreditation. For example, restricting a search of MBA programs that have received accreditation from the AACSB will exclude less competitive MBA programs.

Obtain Financial Aid

MBA programs’ tuition expenses can be overwhelming. The federal government utilizes an academic institution’s accreditation status to identify if the students are qualified for financial aid. Enrolling in an accredited MBA degree may assist you in easing the financial expenses in your MBA program.

Some employers provide tuition assistance and reimbursement programs exclusively to selected accredited MBA programs.

Top-Notch Faculty

Accrediting organizations methodically evaluate the faculty members at MBA-granting academic institutions to ensure that they meet high-quality teaching requirements and contribute to the study through research. Accredited colleges and universities also attract and retain faculty members with top credentials, as well as pay them competitive salaries.

Transfer Credits

Several MBA programs accept transfer credits obtained at other academic institutions – but generally only from accredited MBA programs. As a standard for academic excellence, accreditation is an easy way for colleges and universities to evaluate the value of your transfer credits.

Other International MBA Accreditation Organizations

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For MBA programs, the AACSB, ACBSP, and IACBE are the top three accrediting agencies for business schools. However, these three aren’t only the accrediting organizations that can grant international accreditation to a college or university.

There are also accrediting organizations not headquartered in the U.S., namely the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS). It is an international organization administered by the European Foundation of Management Development. It has granted accreditation status to more than 138 institutions of higher learning across 38 countries.

One of the significant differences between AACSB and EQUIS is that the European accreditation organization considers the academic institution’s level of internationalization within its accreditation guidelines. On the other hand, the AACSB does not adhere to the same standards.

Another reputable accreditation agency is the Distance Education and Training Council. It evaluates distance learning programs, including online MBA programs.

More than 100 colleges and universities offering distance education across 21 states have earned accreditation from DETC. The majority of these institutions are not-for-profit and military colleges and universities.

The DETC’s standards emphasize the program’s student services, ethical business standards, administrative and financial capacity, learning and development resources, and program curricula.

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