MBA Accreditation: What It Is and How It Works

by Blake Huggins

Updated April 12, 2023 • 6 min read is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Industry accreditation indicates that an MBA program gives prospective students the value and impact they deserve from a degree.

If you're considering enrolling in graduate school in business, checking for MBA accreditation should be among your top priorities. Graduating from an accredited program ensures that you are actually qualified for professional roles and certification. Only regionally accredited colleges and universities with programmatically accredited business schools can provide the comprehensive training needed to meet industry standards.

This guide explains the importance of MBA accreditation and why accreditation status should inform your decision-making process when applying to MBA programs.

Common Questions About MBA Accreditation

Is Accreditation Important for An MBA?

Yes. MBA accreditation ranks among the most important factors to consider as a prospective student. It safeguards your investment and ensures that you are ready for the job market after graduation.

Do Employers Care About MBA Accreditation?

Yes. Employers often consider MBA accreditation because it guarantees the quality of your degree and measures the potential impact you may bring to their organization. Earning an unaccredited degree may not qualify you for the roles you want.

What Is AACSB Accreditation?

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business is a leading professional organization that sets global standards in business and management education. It delivers accreditation for MBA programs.

Is AACSB Accreditation Good?

Yes. AACSB-accredited schools are held in very high regard by employers due to the agency's high standards of quality and excellence.

What Is the Best Accreditation for an MBA Program?

AACSB, ACBSP, and IACBE accreditation are all held in high regard for business programs. The best programs are those that come from regionally accredited institutions and hold programmatic accreditation from one of these agencies.

What Is MBA Accreditation?

Accreditation provides students, employers, and other stakeholders with a way to measure the effectiveness of an educational program or institution. It acts as a quality assurance tool, demonstrating whether a school and its programs have met acceptable standards. For MBA programs, accreditation occurs at institutional and programmatic levels, using guidelines set by business industry leaders.

Where you earn your MBA matters. Schools without proper MBA accreditation carry less prestige, don't offer the same learning outcomes, and aren't recognized by employers and other educators. When it comes to accreditation, MBA-seekers should only choose regionally accredited schools. Earning your degree from a regionally accredited school and a program with MBA accreditation ensures the quality and staying power of your degree.

Who Accredits MBA Programs?

There are a few independent agencies that administer MBA accreditation. Each organization applies its own criteria, but they all use guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), and other stakeholders.

While specifics differ, each agency works to ensure that MBA programs achieve measurable learning outcomes that meet high standards of rigor. Learn more about each agency below.

AACSB is one of the oldest and most widely recognized MBA accreditation agencies. It accredits over 800 business schools throughout the world. AACSB-accredited programs must meet quality standards in three categories: learner success; strategic management and innovation; and thought leadership, engagement, and societal impact.

Industry leaders founded ACBSP over 30 years ago to accredit business schools that emphasize teaching and learning. Recognized programs must demonstrate a commitment to strategic planning, academic excellence, and continuous improvement. ACBSP accreditation demonstrates that programs develop practical skills that are valued by employers.

The IACBE puts MBA accreditation in global focus. It uses a mission-driven and outcomes-based process to evaluate business and management programs. IACBE accreditation requiress a comprehensive assessment of a program's educational process, including its use of proven best practices and other principles of excellence, like collegiality and cooperation.

This London-based accreditor focuses solely on MBA accreditation. Alongside AACSB and EQUIS, AMBA ranks among the most authoritative business accreditation agencies. Its accreditation process assesses employability and learning outcomes.

EQUIS administers a broad-based accreditation service that takes an international perspective, setting it apart from other top accreditors, like AMBA and AACSB. The agency measures accreditation against a set of quality assurance benchmarks, including sustainability and responsible governance, rigorous research and instruction, internationalization, and student engagement.

Regional Accreditation Considerations

Unlike MBA accreditation, which is specific to a business school or program, regional accreditation applies to colleges and universities as a whole. Agencies deliver regional accreditation based on merit, reputation, and academic rigor. To obtain accreditation, qualifying schools must undergo an extensive and comprehensive evaluation process using ED and CHEA guidelines.

Regional accreditation ensures that a school's programs lead to valuable degrees backed by robust learning resources and rigorous instruction. Most programs with MBA accreditation come from schools with regional accreditation, but prospective students should always double-check before applying.

Seven different agencies currently offer regional accreditation in the U.S.:

  • The Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).
  • The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

Evaluating a Potential MBA Program

Narrowing down your prospects may take time, but it will help you identify a top choices that meet your needs, paying off in the long run. Your career goals should be a major factor in your selection, but you also need to ensure that each prospective program holds MBA accreditation and comes from a regionally accredited school.

Other questions to consider include:

It's also important to know a few tell-tale signs of inferior or low-quality programming. Consider these red flags when assessing potential MBA programs.

Red Flags to Look Out For

  • Ambiguous or unknown accreditation status
  • No information about recent alumni success
  • High faculty or administrator turnover rates
  • Little opportunity for networking, internships, or student support
  • Lack of diversity in course offerings and/or student body
Portrait of Blake Huggins

Blake Huggins

Blake Huggins is a Boston-based writer and researcher with roots in north Texas and southern Oklahoma. He holds degrees in religion and philosophy and writes widely on higher education, healthcare, and the humanities broadly conceived. He earned a PhD from Boston University and has taught college courses in philosophy, writing, and composition.

Header Image Credit: JohnnyGreig | Getty Images

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