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Accreditation for MBA Programs – ACBSP, AACSB or IACBE?

When it comes to pursuing an MBA online, you have many options. You may be looking for a great learning experience, but you also want a degree that will serve you well in your career. How can you shortlist strong programs that deliver both? One of the top criteria for prospective MBA students is accreditation.

The three main accrediting bodies for business education in the United States are:

  • Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
  • Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE)

All three agencies accredit degree programs in business and accounting, and they are all nonprofit and international in scope.


Whether granted by ACBSP, AACSB or IACBE, accreditation involves a thorough appraisal of a number of criteria including strength of curricula and coursework, faculty quality, and student performance. So an MBA program accredited by any of these agencies is usually a safe bet.

It helps to look at which types of institutions seek each accreditation to determine how the education you will get at a particular university can help you reach your goals.

A university with AACSB accreditation is typically focused on faculty advancement based on research grant attainment and publication, for instance. Prospective MBA grads whose career goals include research or teaching might look for AACSB accreditation. If employers in your industry value academic prestige, they skew toward graduates of AACSB-accredited programs.

ACBSP- and IACBE-accredited programs tend to emphasize teaching and student learning, with learning outcomes being central to their accreditation assessment. Such programs hold appeal for MBA seekers with practical motivations for pursuing the degree, like earning the MBA to add business skills, qualify for promotions, start their own businesses, or transition to different industries.

The following table provides a comparative snapshot of ACBSP, AACSB and IACBE.









Type of accreditation

Programmatic – accredits degree programs

Institutional – accredits colleges and schools of  business

Programmatic – accredits degree programs

Programs accredited

All levels of degree programs from associate to doctoral

Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs

All levels of degree programs from associate to doctoral. Does not accredit business programs of institutions that offer only associate degrees.

Assessment emphasis

Teaching excellence, student outcomes and continuous improvement

Strategic management; curricula and coursework; faculty qualifications

Excellence in teaching and learning

What types of schools or programs seek this accreditation?

Programs focused on teaching and student learning that aim for a balance between research and teaching

Research-based institutions and large public universities

Programs that seek to advance academic quality through evidence-based accreditation

Number of member campuses




Recognition by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)


CHEA withdrew recognition in 2016


As of June 2019

Spotlight on ACBSP Accreditation

The globally recognized ACBSP accreditation is held in high regard for enabling member institutions to achieve excellence in business education. Northwest Missouri State University's online MBA programs belong to this elite group.

"The accreditation focuses on recognizing teaching excellence, determining student learning outcomes, and a continuous improvement model. ACBSP's student-centered teaching and learning approach, which is measured and analyzed for quality, ensures that students gain the right skills from their educational investment," notes the ACBSP website.

ACBSP has an international presence with its headquarters in Kansas, USA, and offices in Belgium, Peru and China.

Steps for ACBSP Accreditation

When you choose an accredited program, most of the work of vetting the program has already been done for you. This brief overview of ACBSP's accreditation process lets you peek behind the scenes:

Self-study - The educational institution does a self-evaluation. This part of the process takes six months on average.

Site visit - Trained program evaluators from ACBSP conduct a site visit.

Board review - The ACBSP Board of Commissioners reviews the self-study, site visit report, institution's response and other relevant materials.

Accreditation - Successful completion of the above steps culminates in accreditation.

Universities typically take 18-24 months and pay $12,500 to achieve ACBSP accreditation. This is an estimate, and the actual time and cost will vary based on a number of factors, including the size of the business school or program.

To pursue ACBSP accreditation, an institution must hold regional accreditation from one of six regional accrediting organizations. Northwest Missouri State University holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

To maintain ACBSP accreditation, institutions must file quality assurance reports every other year and be open to review of faculty credentials by ACBSP.

How Do Programs With ACBSP Accreditation Benefit?

Promoting continuous improvement is central to ACBSP's mission. What this means for member institutions like Northwest Missouri State University is that they are charged with keeping their degree programs relevant and up to date. ACBSP also "encourages faculty involvement within the contemporary business world to enhance the quality of classroom instruction and to contribute to student learning."

How Is This Important for Students and Graduates?

When you enroll in an ACBSP-accredited program, you can count on receiving an up-to-date business education from faculty with real-world experience. This gives Northwest's MBA programs the practical focus most mid-career professionals seek.

A few other considerations make accreditation especially important for prospective MBA students:

  • Eligibility for federal financial aid requires enrollment in an accredited program.
  • Students run the risk of credits not transferring if they have to transfer from an unaccredited program to an accredited one.
  • Companies that offer tuition reimbursement may require enrollment in an accredited program.
  • Employers look at accreditation to gauge the preparedness of their B-school hires.

Northwest's MBA Programs Are ACBSP-Accredited

Northwest provides MBA seekers with three affordable online program options, all of which are ACBSP-accredited. Each consists of 30 credits of coursework that students can complete in as few as 12-18 months.

The online format offers the convenience and flexibility working professionals need to fit studies into their busy lives. With ACBSP accreditation, graduates can be confident in the quality and career-boosting potential of their online MBA.

Learn more about Northwest Missouri State University's online MBA programs.


Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs
Obtaining Accreditation
Maintaining Accreditation
Accreditation Standards
Search Accredited Programs

Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
2013 Eligibility Procedures and Accreditation Standards for Business Accreditation
AACSB-Accredited Universities and Business Schools

International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education
Accreditation Process Manual
Member Status Search

The Higher Learning Commission
Higher Learning Commission: About the Higher Learning Commission

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