What Is Accreditation?
According to the U.S. Department of Education, accreditation is the recognition that an institution maintains standards requisite for its graduates to gain admission to other reputable institutions of higher learning or to achieve credentials for professional practice. This includes professional accreditation, which recognizes that an institution adheres to the acceptable guidelines wherein a graduate would be able to competently practice within the field upon graduation.
As the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) puts it, “accreditation is recognized as a symbol of accountability to the public.” To ensure that your online MBA will be respected by potential employers, you’ll need to earn it from an accredited institution.
The history of accreditation dates back to the nineteenth century, when the pursuit of higher learning was experiencing an increase in popularity. The demand for quality colleges and universities created the need for a process that could define whether schools met traditionally valued standards of educational quality. In the 1880’s, the United States saw an emergence of regionally accrediting bodies, which were peer-based and comprised of other colleges or universities, meaning that the accreditors involved were applying the same standards of education to themselves. By the twentieth century, national accrediting agencies were established in order to set up minimum standards of academic quality throughout the country. In 1912, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) was created for private institutions and became one of the first national accrediting bodies in the United States. Shortly after, the American Council of Education (ACE) was established in 1923, with the goal of including public institutions in the accreditation process.
Today, both ACICS and ACE are still in operation as are the six major agencies who provide regional accreditation. Accredited MBA programs online should have regional accreditation according to the state where their main campus is located. Accredited online MBA programs with satellite campuses and locations must also have the proper regional accreditation for those states, as well. These agencies are recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) as well as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, (CHEA) and are:
- Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges or MSA, grants accreditation to institutions in Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Central America, Europe, and the Middle East.
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges or NEASC, grants accreditation to schools in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
- North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement or NCA, grants accreditation to institutions in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Navajo Nation, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
- Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges or NWCCU, grants accreditation to institutions in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.
- Southern Association of Schools and Colleges or SACS, grants accreditation to institutions in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Latin America.
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges or WASC, grants accreditation to institutions in California, Hawaii, and other Australasian nations.
There are 52 recognized national accrediting organizations. If an institution has not earned MBA accreditation from a regional agency, it should have accreditation with a national agency instead. Some of the broader agencies (as recognized by the U.S. Department of Education) include:
- Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
- Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET)
- Council on Occupational Education (COE)
- Distance Education and Training Council (DETC)
Why Is Accreditation Important?
While searching for the right accredited online MBA program, it is important to make sure the school’s accreditation is from a regional or national accrediting organization recognized by the United States Department of Education. If the institution from which you hope to earn your accredited online MBA is exclusively taught through distance learning, the school should be accredited by the DETC or any other agency that specializes in distance or online learning that is recognized by the Department of Education.
Any school seeking MBA accreditation must first apply for institutional accreditation, which is the accreditation of all the programs offered in an entire college or university. An institution may also choose to apply for specialized or programmatic accreditation to gain extra recognition for the quality of a particular program in a particular profession. Some schools, such as trade and professional schools, only need to seek out programmatic accreditation because they specialize in only one area.
Gaining accreditation is a rigorous process. The guidelines are outlined at the U.S. Department of Education’s accreditation website. Once the institution is accredited, the school will continue to be monitored to make sure they are continuing to uphold the same standards. For this reason, it is important to find out how long an institution has had its accreditation. Accredited MBA programs online will usually state on their web site how long they’ve been accredited. You can also see when high profile online MBA programs earned their accreditation by checking CollegeNavigator.com.
Furthermore, professional accreditation is equally important, especially in the business world. Accredited online MBA programs are becoming more widely accepted as more and more people are turning to the internet for advanced degrees. Accreditation from a specialized or programmatic accrediting agency shows your future employers that you earned your degree through a business school that values and upholds the standards of a quality, well-rounded business education. One of the best indicators of a solid online MBA program is accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB – International), which has been the pioneering and foremost accrediting association for business institutions since 1916. High profile online MBA programs will be accredited by AACSB ñ International, as this accreditation has only been awarded to one-third of the business schools in the world. Employers are known to check for AACSB accredited schools when looking for potential hires with MBA degrees.