AACSB vs ACBSP Accreditation for Online MBA

By Henry Steele - April 12, 2018
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Reading Time: 4 minutes

If you are considering an online MBA for your educational goals, a major consideration is whether the program is accredited by a major business education accreditation body. In this highly competitive field, there are two major accreditation agencies: the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).

As a business professional weighing an online MBA to take your career higher up the ladder, understanding AACSB vs ACBSP program accreditation will help you to decide if a specific MBA program is suitable for your long term goals.

AACSB Accreditation Overview

According to the AACSB website, MBA programs that receive this accreditation have shown they have high quality faculty, demanding and current business curricula, and also must have excellent career opportunities available after graduation.

AACSB accreditation is generally recognized in many quarters as the most sought after business education accreditation; only five percent of the world’s 13,000 business programs offer this accreditation. Also, graduates from these programs are reportedly more desirable to employers because it is clear that the program is of the highest quality.

The AACSB was formed in 1916, while the ACBSP has been in existence for approximately 30 years. The AACSB is generally better known among employers and educators because it has been in existence for more than a century.

As a member of the AACSB, the business school must offer high quality business and accounting programs at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. It must undergo the most rigorous process of self evaluation and peer review. This begins with an initial submission, progresses through a one year evaluation and then an approval application.

Once the program is approved, the accreditation standards are carefully evaluated at the school, and if all requirements are met, the program is fully accredited. There is a Continuous Improvement Review every 60 months to ensure the school is continuing to meet AACSB standards.

The AACSB is generally regarded as ‘the gold standard’ for business school and program accreditation. However, some experts contend this organization is less focused on the quality of the business program, and is more focused on the published research being generated from the school. Schools that produce more independent research tend to get more grants.

The AACSB also tends to accredit larger MBA programs at larger schools. For example, virtually all Ivy League business programs are accredited by the AACSB. Also note that some companies such as Intel have announced they only will reimburse tuition for MBAs earned at AACSB accredited programs.

ACBSP Accreditation Overview

The ACBSP is newer, having been established in the 1970s. It has accredited more than 3,000 programs at 430 campuses across the globe. The mission of the ACBSP is the promotion of continuous improvement and to recognize excellence in the accreditation of business education programs around the world. The vision of the organization is to find that every high quality business school program in the world is properly accredited.

The ACBSP accredits bachelor’s, master’s and PhD programs in various business related disciplines. It rewards excellence in teaching and was the very first to offer specialized business accreditation for every degree level. Their website states the purpose of the council is to promote the need for regular and continuous research in universities; they feel this is of the highest importance in business to improve the quality of MBA curriculums.

Regarding its philosophy, it is said this organization focuses its efforts on the functions and quality of the program. It is less concerned with research. This organization tends to accredit small and medium-sized programs and schools.

Accreditation Similarities

The accreditation path for both entities is similar. The AACSB requires the program to work with an AACSB mentor team that provides oversight and helps the MBA program to generate a self study report. That report reveals how well it adheres to AACSB standards. That process is initiated with a pre-accreditation process, and proceeds with an extremely rigorous review process over at least a year before full accreditation is granted. The AACSB requires recertification every five years.

The ACBSP has a rigorous process as well to ensure the program is eligible and satisfies all accreditation requirements. This agency requires each business school to undergo a full QA review every 24 months after the initial accreditation.

Both organizations are similar in that they require MBA programs to seek links in the local community; this benefits students as they attempt to grow their professional network while they are in school.

Which Accreditation Is Best?

It is clear that AACSB accreditation is more well known and has been around a lot longer than ACBSP accreditation. But ACBSP accreditation still is an excellent indicator of the quality of the program. Businesses want their workers to gain critical business management knowledge in their online MBA program, so both of these accreditations are worth a lot.

It is worth remembering that the AACSB has simply been around much longer, and is considered the most important accreditation to have for MBA programs. But the ACBSP is also highly respected and is more focused on the quality of the program, while the AACSB targets original research the program produces.

Some education experts contend that ACBSP accreditation is fine for many professionals who are working in a regular corporate environment in many parts of the US. But if you are in an aggressive and highly competitive field and city, such as finance in New York City, you would probably find AACSB accreditation more important. AACSB accreditation is also deemed particularly important if you want to join a business school faculty.


Henry Steele
Managing Editor
Henry is Managing Editor of BusinessStudent.com. He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.

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