MBA accreditation: What it is and why it’s important

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MBA accreditation is a process that evaluates a college’s quality. Accredited MBA programs often have higher academic standards and can therefore boost graduates’ prospects when they enter the workforce. Before selecting an accredited MBA program, make sure that you understand the differences between the types of accreditation and the organizations that provide them.

What is MBA accreditation?

MBA accreditation is an evaluation that colleges can choose to undertake in order to demonstrate their academic standards. The accreditation process is carefully developed and peer-reviewed. In addition to protecting students, schools and employers, it aims to improve programming quality, management and innovation.

To earn this recognition, institutions need to meet the requirements set by the organization overseeing the MBA accreditation. Accredited programs may, for example, need to demonstrate commitment to the accrediting organization’s overall mission and dedication to improving diversity in classrooms and in thought leadership. They also need to provide adequate support for students, faculty and staff.

Once a school becomes eligible, it must submit a self-evaluation report, then undergo a peer-review visit. From there, accredited schools must maintain continuous improvement and pass subsequent peer reviews at regular intervals.

Why is MBA accreditation important?

MBA accreditation gives students peace of mind when selecting a school. Programs without accreditation may offer quality training, but degree-seekers have no way of knowing this for sure. Accredited schools can cost more and feature more challenging admission requirements than the alternatives, but they also have a proven track record of success and may offer more financial aid than nonaccredited institutions.

While not technically mandatory for employment, MBA accreditation can also lead to better postgraduate career, earning and learning opportunities for graduates. Employers trust the quality-vetting accreditation process as much as students, and many organizations hire candidates only from accredited schools. Since MBA accreditation standards and requirements differ by organization, some employers may actually prefer one accreditation over another.

Types of MBA accreditation

MBA students typically encounter three main types of accreditation: regional, national and programmatic accreditation. Regional and national accreditation measure quality at the institutional level, while programmatic accreditation evaluates specific programs within that institution.

Regional accreditation

Regional accreditation measures a school’s academic quality, faculty and student services against the standards for that area. Without regional accreditation, schools may not qualify for federal funding, and their credits may not transfer into accredited schools.

Regional accreditation depends entirely on the school’s location. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognizes six graduate-focused accreditation agencies across the country to evaluate the schools in their respective regions:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC): The HLC region covers 19 states throughout much of the north central area of the country.
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE): The MSCHE region includes several eastern states, along with Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE): The NECHE region covers six New England states, including Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU): The NWCCU region spans the northwest section of the country, including distance programs offered by institutions in this region.
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC): The SACSCOC region includes much of the southeastern parts of the country, covering 11 states and Latin America.
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC): The WSCUC region covers schools in California and Hawaii.

National accreditation

National accreditation compares institutions with a specific career focus against each other — for instance, comparing nursing schools against other nursing schools. National accreditation is typically held in lower regard than regional accreditation, since nationally accredited schools are usually for-profit institutions with less competitive acceptance standards.

Programmatic accreditation

Programmatic accreditation recognizes the specialized and professional programs within an institution, rather than the institution itself.

There are several national organizations that offer MBA accreditation for specific programs. The quality of recognition from these programs can vary, as can the standards they use to judge programs. A few organizations are:

  • The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP): ACBSP recognizes all levels of college and university business degrees around the world. The organization emphasizes “recognizing teaching excellence, determining student learning outcomes and a continuous improvement model.” In total, ACBSP has provided accreditation to more than 1,200 member campuses across 60 countries.
  • The Association of MBAs (AMBA): AMBA offers an accreditation service that recognizes the top graduate-level business programs, providing DBA, MBA and master’s degree accreditation. The association evaluates eligible schools and programs, basing decisions on teaching, curriculum design and career development. AMBA has accredited more than 260 schools in 75 countries.
  • The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB): AACSB provides accreditation to more than 900 business schools around the world. AACSB-accredited programs meet the organization’s standards for teaching and learning, management, engagement, thought leadership and innovation.
  • EFMD Quality Improvement System (EQUIS): Managed by the European Foundation for Management Development, the EQUIS accreditation system evaluates business management schools and programs. EQUIS measures schools in 10 areas, including programs, faculty, research and responsibility and sustainability. The organization provides accreditation to nearly 200 business schools.
  • The International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE): IACBE provides accreditation to business schools and programs based on the mission and outcomes of their training. IACBE accredits more than 2,000 business and accounting programs around the world.

Frequently asked questions about MBA accreditation

What is the best MBA accreditation?

Each MBA accreditation offers a different focus. While many view the AACSB-accredited programs as the gold standard, other accreditations may provide more research-based or practical training. Prospective students can look to their ideal employers to see if they have a preference.

Do employers care about MBA accreditation?

Graduating from a school with an MBA accreditation can give you a leg up when you’re job-hunting. In the same way that some organizations value a degree from one school over another, some employers prefer candidates from programs with specific MBA accreditations.

Is AACSB accreditation important for MBA?

Graduating from an AACSB-accredited program can help students in their job searches. Though not mandatory for all employment, many organizations value this MBA accreditation more than others. Some employers may even require it.

What if my MBA is not accredited?

Attending a program without MBA accreditation comes with risks, since there’s no way to guarantee the quality of the education. The MBA accreditation process evaluates and reviews the educational standards and processes of each program. For that reason, it’s almost always best to choose an accredited program.

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Written by
Doug Wintemute
Since 2014, Doug Wintemute has contributed content and editorial work for award-winning digital trade publications, global SEO copywriting projects and hugely popular online brands.
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