MBA Accreditation: AACSB vs. ACBSP vs. IACBE

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There are many aspects of a Master of Business Administration for students to consider as they select a program that aligns with their interests and future goals. It’s imperative for students to examine the prerequisites for application, the topics and concepts included in the curriculum, and the potential career paths available after graduation.

In addition to checking out the program itself, students should also examine the particular school that offers it. Top-tier Master of Business Administration programs can be accredited by several key organizations, including the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), or the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE).

“MBA” next to an above-view of people working at a table.

Attending a higher education institution that offers a degree program aligned with recognized accreditation standards can provide numerous benefits for MBA students, both during their studies and after they graduate. The University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business Online Master of Business Administration program, for instance, is AACSB accredited and is among only 5% of all business programs globally that have earned this distinction.

Today, we’re taking a closer examination of accreditation, including from top accrediting bodies like the AACSB, ACBSP, and IACBE. Before we delve into the specifics of these international accreditation organizations and their individual standards, we’re going to dive into the advantages of attending MBA programs accredited by these organizations.

Accredited program: Why is institutional accreditation important?

As points out, there are a few critical reasons why it’s important to check on schools and colleges’ accreditation, especially when it comes to on-campus and online MBA programs:

  • Accreditation means quality for colleges and universities: Accreditation is a key distinction in the world of higher education, and only a small percentage of schools are able to achieve institutional accreditation. That’s because accrediting agencies and councils have very specific standards that a degree program and its school must meet to qualify. Colleges and universities that do have accreditation from a recognized organization offer a guaranteed quality program that will prepare students for what lies ahead after graduation.
  • Accreditation standards include frequent reviews: A program that earns accreditation must continually ensure it keeps up with programmatic accreditation requirements. The accrediting agency or council will perform frequent reviews of the school and/or program to make sure that standards are upheld. Accreditation is an ongoing process for schools, colleges, and universities.
  • Narrowing a search by accreditation helps students choose the right MBA degree: As MBA students are considering potential degree programs, it can help to narrow down the available choices by filtering out any schools and universities that don’t hold accreditation. It can also be beneficial to narrow down the selections by searching only for programs that have been accredited by a specific accrediting agency, such as the AACSB.
  • Accreditation helps with credit transfers and financial aid: In addition to having a high-quality program curriculum, accredited higher education institutions can also support students who are transferring their credits and receiving financial aid. Most colleges and universities enable students to transfer their credits, but only if the credits were earned through another accredited program. What’s more, accreditation also helps ease the financial aid process, as the federal government puts significant consideration into an institution’s accreditation status when awarding financial aid.
  • Checking for accreditation helps students avoid low quality programs: As notes, checking for a school’s accreditation can prevent students from participating in a program that may not meet industry education standards and could potentially be a degree mill scam.

“The best accredited online MBA programs list their accreditations on their website, so if you have trouble determining whether a program is accredited, it’s best avoided,” recommends.

AACSB, ACBSP, and IACBE explained

Once MBA students understand the importance of accreditation, it’s also necessary to look at the different accrediting agencies and councils that can award regional or international accreditation.


One of the oldest and most distinctive accreditation bodies for MBA degree programs is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. This global nonprofit has been using high-quality accreditation standards for higher education MBA programs since 1916, with a mission to “foster engagement, accelerate innovation, and amplify impact in business education,” as the organization states on its website.

AACSB’s network includes more than 1,700 member organizations and over 840 accredited schools across the globe. The Collat School of Business at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is among only 5% of programs internationally accredited by AACSB. The AACSB prioritizes values like quality, diversity and inclusion, global mindset, ethics, social responsibility, and support for the community, and seeks to improve the standard for business education on a global scale.

AACSB is one of the most prestigious accrediting bodies, and many consider program accreditation from this organization as the gold standard for MBA programs. Because only a small percentage of schools and universities make the cut for AACSB accreditation standards, those that do are recognized by the higher education sector in the United States and throughout the world.

The review process for AACSB accreditation is lengthy and includes application evaluation by AACSB staff, a peer review of the school’s curriculum and offerings, and overall verification that the institution is aligned with the organization’s rigorous standards. The initial accreditation process can take several years. Colleges and universities that are accredited must undergo a review every five years to maintain this distinction.

Not only are programs accredited by the AACSB globally recognized, but graduating from this type of high-quality MBA degree program can also help students improve their chances of job placement. Some employers seek out AACSB-accredited school graduates and certain businesses will only recruit candidates who hold a degree from an AACSB-recognized higher education institution.


The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs is a newer accreditation body, established in 1988. According to the organization’s website, the ACBSP is the only accreditor for associate-level degree programs, and also verifies the educational standards of on-campus and online MBA programs.

This organization is also globally recognized and includes a network of 11 global regions, extending from the United States through Latin America, Europe, South Asia, Africa, Australia, and beyond. Overall, there are 1,200 ACBSP member campuses in 60 different countries.

The ACBSP is unique in its student-focused approach to accreditation standards. The organization delves deeply into schools’ teaching and learning approaches to ensure that students possess the proper skills upon graduation. In this way, standards revolve around MBA student learning outcomes.

Schools seeking ACBSP accreditation submit an application with an extensive questionnaire covering the school’s curriculum, learning outcomes, and other information. In addition to reviewing the application and questionnaire, a staff member  from the ACBSP, known as a mentor, visits the school for an on-site verification before awarding accreditation. Besides prioritizing MBA student-centered learning outcomes, the organization also highly values programs that include a research emphasis. Its website notes, “institutions are strongly encouraged to pursue a reasonable, mutually beneficial balance between teaching and research.” The accrediting council also values institutions where faculty promote engagement with the current business sector to better support classroom lessons.

While not as longstanding and prestigious as accreditation by the AACSB, schools and colleges that earn ACBSP recognition are still globally recognized and can benefit graduates in their employment search.


One of the newest accrediting bodies, the International Accreditation Council for Business Education was established in 1997 and earned Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognition in 2011. Like the ACBSP, this organization’s accreditation standards place a high value on educational outcomes, as opposed to other standards from academic resources. Overall, its mission is geared toward educational programs that are “outcomes-based, mission driven, and highly supportive,” according to its website.

Often smaller, private schools and colleges will seek IACBE accreditation, as these are the types of higher education institutions that the organization focuses on.

To qualify for IACBE recognition, colleges and universities go through a review and evaluation process, consisting of a detailed application and verification of program teaching and learning methods by an IACBE staff member. An on-site review is also part of the requirements, conducted by independent peer reviewers. After the necessary steps are taken and information collected, the IACBE Board of Commissioners decides whether or not an institution meets accreditation standards.

Other international accreditation organizations

For MBA programs, the AACSB, ACBSP, and IACBE are among the top-recognized accrediting bodies. However, these are by no means the only organizations that can provide international accreditation for a higher education institution.

There are also agencies that are not based in the U.S., including the European Quality Improvement System, for example. EQUIS is an international agency operated by the European Foundation of Management Development. Overall, EQUIS has awarded accreditation for more than 138 higher education institutions across 38 countries.

One of the key differences between EQUIS and AACSB is the fact that the European accreditation agency considers a school’s level of internationalization within its accreditation standards. This is not part of the standards for AACSB accreditation, however.

Another noteworthy accreditation council is the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), which evaluates distance learning offerings specifically, including online MBA programs. Currently, over 100 higher education institutions across 21 states specializing in distance learning hold accreditation from DETC, many of which are nonprofit and military colleges and universities.

This organization’s accreditation standards focus on the school’s curriculum, learning and research resources, administrative and financial capacity, ethical business standards, and student services, including academic support services.

Regional accreditation

In addition to international programmatic accreditation, there are also associations that specialize in regional accrediting. As explains, regional accreditation includes standards specific for education in schools’ particular area.

Selecting a regionally accredited school can be beneficial for MBA students, especially those seeking to remain in the same area as their higher education institution after graduation. Local employers, for example, will be familiar with regionally accredited schools and will often consider these candidates.

Regional accrediting agencies include:

  • The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, which evaluates and accredits schools in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands
  • The New England Association of Schools and Colleges, which accredits higher institutions in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont
  • The Higher Learning Commission, which provides recognition for institutions in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming
  • The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, which reviews higher education in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
  • The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which accredits schools in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia
  • The Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which provides accreditation for higher education in California, Hawaii, and the Pacific Basin

MBA accreditation supports higher education

Accreditation helps hold institutions of higher education to specific standards, ensuring that schools, colleges, and universities use the best teaching methods to provide top-tier learning outcomes for MBA students.

Institutional accreditation is incredibly important, not only during students’ time in their MBA degree program, but as they move toward their career goals after graduation. Visit our website to learn more about the Collat School of Business’ accreditation, and reach out to one of our expert enrollment advisors today to learn how the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Online MBA program can benefit you.

Recommended Reading:

Executive MBA vs. MBA: Which one is right for you?

How does an online MBA offer opportunities for career advancement and leadership?


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