There are a ton of choices you’ll have to make when you’re choosing an MBA program. Do you want a traditional or online program? Will you spend two years or one year studying? Are you just finishing your undergraduate degree, or have you spent years in the workforce?

But there’s one critical question many students don’t think about: is this MBA program accredited? Accreditation is an important quality in any university and any MBA program.

Here’s why every interested student should know about – and look for – accredited MBA programs.

What Accreditation Means

Accreditation may not seem like a very important factor in choosing an MBA program, but it’s actually one of the first indicators you should look for. At its most basic level, accreditation is the mark of a quality university and school. At a deeper level, it shows that a school or program is regulated every few years.

For students, an accredited program means a specific MBA program is providing quality learning, preparing students for their futures, and sending skilled graduates out into the world.

As MBA.com explains, accreditation is entirely voluntary and awarded by non-governmental organizations. Organizations dedicated to education and higher learning review individual colleges and universities, assessing everything from their mission statements to the faculty’s qualifications to the curriculum of every program offered. These organizations then award accreditation to schools that meet these requirements – but that accreditation has to be renewed and reevaluated every so many years.

Essentially, accreditation is a process that ensures a university or school offers the very best education possible, and that this education is consistent from year to year.

There are two specific types of accreditation a university can earn for its business school programs:

  1. Institutional accreditation: The entire university is reviewed as a whole, examining everything from the school operating budget to classwork to student services. In order to give degrees of any kind, institutional accreditation is required.
  2. Specialized accreditation: Also called “professional” accreditations, this type reviews an individual discipline or field of study. Specialized accreditation reviews the specific degree program and stamps it as acceptably rigorous. For example, the specific business school (like Arizona State University’s Carey School of Business) you’re earning your MBA from will be accredited.

Universities Have to Earn Accreditation

One reason accreditation is so important for students is it’s a quality that isn’t handed out lightly. Universities and business schools have to earn their accreditation, meaning they have to prove they’re an institution up to the standards and quality of the accrediting organization.

When seeking or renewing accreditation, a school has to undergo a thorough review and examination of all the parts of its education. From classwork to faculty to research to courses offered, every aspect is looked at by accreditation board or committee. Every year, Poets and Quants for Undergrads writes, universities and colleges must report data, undergo periodic peer reviews, and follow the accreditation standards in order to renew and keep their accreditation.

And when it comes to MBA programs, most programs are accredited by the AACSB. This organization ensures that the MBA programs it awards accreditation to are consistent in their teachings, have high-quality faculty teaching students, and are engaged with real-world businesses to provide the best education possible.

So, when you see an MBA program accredited by the AACSB, you’ll be assured that school and its curriculum meet the organization’s high standards. You won’t need to worry about whether or not it’s a valid program accepted by employers and other institutions.

On the other hand, if you encounter a program or school that isn’t accredited, know that it hasn’t met the standards for accreditation or can’t earn accreditation. That means the school is less reputable and less trustworthy. Consider these MBA programs with a grain of salt – they could have something they’re hiding, or qualities that result in less successful student outcomes, lower quality education, or even a for-profit model.

How to Find Accredited MBA Programs

Fortunately, it’s easy to find accredited MBA programs and schools. Many universities and business schools offering MBA degrees are accredited by the AACSB – and according to the AACSB, 90 percent of the top ranked schools globally hold this accreditation.

All you need to do is look for highly-ranked and well-rated MBA programs. These programs are the most likely to have accreditation from the AACSB and other regional or national accreditation organizations. You can easily search online, too, and look specifically for universities that hold the most current, up-to-date accreditations.

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