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What is the Best Accreditation for MBA Programs?

Ravi Mittal, PhD
By Ravi Mittal, PhD

When it comes to choosing an MBA program, there are several factors to consider. You will want to choose a program that fits your needs when it comes to the  cost, location, the length of the program and anything else you may need to know as you embark on this next step in your education. In addition to those points to consider, it is also important to research the reputation of the MBA programs you’re considering, namely their accreditations.

What Is Accreditation?

Accreditation is achieved when a program goes through a process of peer-review and self-review to verify academic quality. Accreditation is important because it holds educational institutions accountable to the public and ensures they are teaching correct and valuable information. Per the U.S. Department of Education, “The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions and/or programs of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.”1

When it comes to accreditation, there is a difference between institutional accreditation and program accreditation. Institutional accreditation “involves the examination of an entire institution of higher education and all of its functions”2 and allows students to access federal funds such as state scholarships. For example, UMGC is a constituent institution of the University System of Maryland and is governed by the USM Board of Regents. UMGC is institutionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, an institutional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Program accreditation is when a specific program, such as an MBA program, is evaluated by an established third-party organization. Program accreditation involves a self-study based on criteria outlined by the accrediting body. This self-study is closely examined during a peer-review process. Based on the self-study and peer review, the accrediting body decides whether to accredit the academic program. When applicants to an MBA program see the logo of the accrediting body on the program’s web page, they should be assured that the program will prepare them for success in the business world. 

Types of Accreditations in MBA Programs 

Typically, MBA programs in the United States are accredited by one of three accrediting agencies or programmatic accreditors: IACBE, ACBSP and AACSB. These third-party accrediting bodies are private educational associations that review higher education programs to ensure that they meet the accrediting body’s standards for program quality and are committed to continuous improvement.

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is a U.S. association of degree-granting colleges and universities that recognizes accrediting organizations. Only three accrediting bodies (IACBE, ACBSP and AACSB) are recognized by CHEA for business-related degree programs like the MBA.  

The International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE) was founded in 1997. Its accreditation process is intended to be mission-driven and outcomes-based. IACBE believes that excellence in academic programs should be measured by positive educational outcomes for students “rather than by prescriptive standards relating to academic resources.”3

The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) was founded in 1988. According to their website, their accreditation process is based on the Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence. ACBSP assesses “whether or not business programs offer a rigorous educational experience and commitment to continuous quality improvement.”4

Founded in 1916, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) defines its purpose as to encourage “business schools to hold themselves accountable for improving business practice through a commitment to strategic management, learner success, thought leadership, and societal impact.”5 AACSB requires academic programs to demonstrate student-to-student and student-to-faculty engagement, while making a positive impact on society. 

UMGC’s MBA Program is Accredited by IACBE. How does that compare to ACBSP and AACSB? 

UMGC is proud to have an MBA program that is accredited by IACBE. How does this make UMGC’s MBA program stand out? One factor that differentiates the three accreditors is their philosophy related to the role of teaching and research in how the program is delivered: 

IACBE focuses on the quality of teaching and learning in business education, with expectations that university faculty will engage in professional and scholarly activities as those apply to their teaching disciplines. As a result, UMGC’s faculty training programs and performance evaluation criteria are primarily directed toward the continuous improvement of teaching effectiveness.   

AACSB serves business schools/departments with strong research agendas. There is a major emphasis on the generation of scholarly research by a high percentage of faculty. AACSB’s accreditation is closely aligned to a business unit’s ability to surface and advance new knowledge, i.e., conduct research, and faculty and funding resources are allocated accordingly. 

ACBSP views research as a tool to facilitate teaching and their member institutions are strongly encouraged to pursue a reasonable, mutually beneficial balance between teaching and research. 

 IACBE’s accreditation process requires that its member institutions follow a process of continuous quality improvement that builds student competencies and prepares them to succeed in the business environment. If a student wants an MBA program that focuses on helping them gain industry skills, an IACBE-accredited MBA program like the one at UMGC can help them achieve their goal. An IACBE-accredited program can also provide students with faculty who specialize in their field and are known for providing quality education in their courses.

As you choose which MBA program is the right fit for you and your education and career goals, consider their accreditations. Finding out if a program is accredited and by whom can help you decide if the program will fit your specific needs, and ultimately help you succeed.

Reference on this webpage to any third-party entity or product does not constitute or imply endorsement by UMGC nor does it constitute or imply endorsement of UMGC by the third party.