The AACSB Accredited Online MBA Quality, Flexibility and Why it Matters

Finances. Time commitment. Curriculum. Students interested in getting an MBA online have a lot to think about as they begin researching or selecting a business school. However, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) can help students narrow down their choices. This organization accredits only the top business schools across the U.S. and internationally, with just five percent of an estimated 13,000 programs meeting their rigorous criteria. This exclusivity can help students get a leg up on the career competition. Learn why AACSB accreditation matters to potential MBA students, find which states have accredited programs and explore what the accreditation process entails here.

AACSB Accredited Schools

The AACSB is the longest standing association dedicated to advancing management education worldwide. While every state in the U.S. has at least one AACSB accredited MBA program, some states have multiple. The map below shows how many programs have received AACSB recognition by state.

Scroll over any state and click to see a list of its AACSB accredited schools.

*Data gathered from AACSB.edu. 2016

Why AACSB Matters to Your MBA Degree

Selecting a program with AACSB accreditation is about more than just the respect or prestige that comes along with the letters: schools with this certification are known for offering students a high-quality education while opening the doors to promising future careers. Associate Vice President for Graduate Enrollment and Marketing at the University of New Haven, Sean-Michael Green, offers his insight into the benefits of AACSB accreditation:

  • Demand for excellence

    Many people know how rare AACSB accreditation is, but the rigor of the process is less commonly understood. Achieving accreditation is not a foregone conclusion for schools that engage in this process – they really have to earn it. Accredited programs establish their eligibility through self and peer-reviewed processes. Once approved, the school has periodic strategic improvement reviews to continue its accreditation.

  • Differentiated educations

    Not every AACSB program is the same, allowing prospective MBA students a chance to pursue their interests and still receive a quality education. Even though the faculty, concentrations and cultures may differ depending on the school, each school goes through the same review process.

  • Examined and evaluated programs

    AACSB is about recognizing academic excellence. While it can be subjective, and some programs that are not accredited by AASCB are high quality, the accreditation guarantees the school’s business curriculum is in line with its policies.

  • First-rate online programs

    The AACSB review process does not change for online MBA courses and programs. They are subjected to the same level of investigation and rigor as on-ground offerings.

  • Institutions willing to grow

    As an example, the University of New Haven, worked hard over the span of 10 years to earn the accreditation. It required the university to make different hiring decisions, to change policies, and to devote significant resources to the process.

  • Positive outcomes

    From qualified professors to an approved curriculum, the accreditation guarantees students receive an excellent education. It allows students to be selective; if a student wants to learn from people who are researchers in their fields, for example, they will find them at an AACSB school.

  • Recognition by employers

    Given the AACSB’s history and standards, employers around the world know AACSB. The acronym radiates high quality and rare achievement, lending itself to benefit students who graduate from AACSB approved programs.

Getting AACSB Accreditation

It’s no wonder only a small slice of business schools earn AACSB accreditation, given the intensity of the process and list of criteria that must be met. Institutions seeking this certification should be prepared to spend up to ten years from start to finish completing paperwork, hosting onsite visits and working with peer reviewers. The following checklist outlines all the necessary steps a school must take to become recognized as AACSB accredited.

  • The school must be a member of AACSB International and submit an application for eligibility.

  • The school must develop an initial self-evaluation report (iSER) in concert with a mentor business school administrator assigned by AACSB.

  • The school must examine its current alignment with the 15 standards for accreditation and create a gap analysis that not only highlights lagging areas, but also outlines how the program will work to better conform in those areas. (The iSER/gap analysis is typically completed in one to two years.)

  • The AACSB Initial Accreditation Committee reviews the iSER, leading to one of the following outcomes:

    • The iSER is accepted with a recommendation that the school develop a final self-evaluation report in preparation for an initial accreditation visit.

    • The iSER is accepted, but it is recommended that the school enter an action implementation phase, in which it works to align itself with accreditation standards.

    • The iSER is accepted, but with the recommendation that the school develop the alignment plan more fully and resubmit it.

    • The iSER is not accepted, with AACSB deciding the school cannot meet AACSB standards within the maximum time frame allowed.

  • Two years before an accreditation review visit, a peer review team chair begins working with the school to develop a final self-evaluation report (SER) and create a schedule for the visit.

  • The peer review team visits the school and creates a report, including a recommendation for accreditation, deferral or no accreditation.

Additional Resources

Students shouldn’t rush the decision on which online MBA degree program to enroll in without doing their research. The resources below are designed to help prospective students gain insider knowledge so they can find the program best suited to their needs and aspirations.

5 Tips to Help You Stand Out from Other MBA Graduates

With more than 191,000 students earning graduate degrees in business each year across the U.S., there is a lot of competition for jobs. The University of Ohio offers five tips graduates can utilize to gain the attention of employers.

AASCB Accredited Institutions

Is your prospective school one of the 739 that has received full accreditation by the AASCB? Consult this list to find out.

Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs

Another MBA program accreditor, the ACBSP, has assigned its mark to nearly 3,000 business programs worldwide. Although ACBSP may be considered less prestigious than AACSB, a school with this certification will still have gone through a multi-step process to receive their accreditation.

AffordableCollegesOnline.org: Best Online MBA Programs

Wondering which online MBA programs are the best in the nation? AffordableCollegesOnline.org has compiled a data-driven list of the top programs in the U.S.

Graduate Management Admission Council

As the official provider of the GMAT exam, the Graduate Management Admission Council has useful insights on how to prepare for the exam and also provides study materials.

Northeastern University Curriculum

Looking at Northeastern University’s curriculum is informative, as it gives a glimpse of some of the most common and popular specializations within online MBA programs, such as finance, sustainability, international management and marketing. It also lists classes within each concentration.

To Go or Not To Go: The Online Decision for MBA Programs

This 2008 paper by researchers at San Diego State University reviews the landscape of online MBA programs and offers helpful questions for students to ask themselves before enrolling.

U.S. News and World Report: How to Tell if an Online Program Is Accredited

With degree mills and bogus accreditors running rampant online, this guide helps potential students recognize legitimate (and illegitimate) programs.

Work-Life Balance in Online MBA Programs

The Princeton Review provides a list of helpful tips to ensure students completing their MBA online are able to balance their educations with the rest of their responsibilities.