The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB) is a non-governmental, voluntary accreditation board that is responsible for standardizing business and accounting across the United States. Because it has served this purpose for nearly a century, the AACSB has become the benchmark for academic quality in the most prestigious Ivy League businesses colleges – Stanford, Yale and Duke, for instance, all have MBA programs accredited by the AACSB. AACSB accreditation is given a lot of credit by employers and academics alike.

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Business Schools Offering an AACSB Accredited Online MBA Degree

Just about a third of all the US based business schools are accredited by the AACSB; a survey conducted in 2011, of 207 business schools that offered an online MBA degree, revealed that just 85 schools offered an AACSB accredited degree, whereas the remainder offer degrees accredited regionally or nationally.

One thing to be constantly aware of is the difference between AACSB membership and AACSB accreditation. You may come across several business schools that promote themselves as ‘AACSB membership’ holders; what this actually means is that they registered themselves for the accreditation by AACSB but were unable to meet the rigorous standards, so they do not have an AACSB accreditation.

Employment Opportunities for an AACSB Online MBA Degree Holder

There are some career paths that absolutely require you to pursue an online MBA program that is accredited by the AACSB. If you want to work as part of the faculty at a business school, then you should definitely go for it. Besides a career in academia, this accreditation is only required when you want to work at the very top of your field i.e. at executive level or at a company that falls into the fortune 500 list.

A prime example of this is Intel, the computer hardware manufacturing leader that recently announced that they would reimburse their employees’ tuition costs if and only if they were accredited by the AACSB. Of note here is the fact that Intel did not make a distinction between an online or regular degree. An online MBA degree from an AACSB accredited school is essential if you want to have the maximum amount of career choices open to you at the time of your graduation.

Cost Ranges for AACSB Accredited Online MBA Programs

One of the toughest choices that face an online MBA student is making the choice between an affordable degree and AACSB accredited degrees known for their higher price tags. However, the truth is tuition cost for AACSB accredited degrees varies a great deal.

  • Low cost AACSB accredited programs range between $9,600 and $20,000. Examples of programs falling under this category are Southeast Missouri State University at the lower end and University of Mississippi Main Campus at the upper end.
  • Universities that offer AACSB accredited degrees at what would be considered a moderate cost start from over $20,000 such is the case with Florida Gulf Coast University’s MBA program, and go as high as $36,000 like with Southern Illinois University-Carbondale’s program.
  • The most prestigious online MBA schools are also the ones with the highest costing AACSB accredited online MBA programs. For instance Duke University’s online MBA program costs around $145,000.

Find MBA programs ranked by affordability or online MBA programs ranked by affordability.

Advantages of AACSB Accredited Degrees

Top Faculty

An AACSB online MBA accreditation requires that the faculty of the institution in question be thoroughly tested to ensure that they meet the strict AACSB standards. This means that that you will be taught by people who are spearheading researches and well versed in the latest advances in their respective fields. If you want to learn from the best of the best, then go for an AACSB accredited degree.

Find MBA programs ranked by their strength in faculty or online MBA programs ranked by faculty.

Career Oriented Curriculum

AACSB require a career oriented curriculum. This means that AACSB accredited degree programs are designed to give you the skills, knowledge and tools essential for succeeding in your business career. Not only this, they educate you in a manner that makes you ready to learn new concepts and techniques throughout your life. It goes without saying that keep oneself up to date is the only way to retain your job. If you want a steady career that can survive the changing trends in the market, an AACSB accredited degree is your best bet.

Constantly Evolving and Improving Curriculum

A college receives AACSB accreditation for its program only after it has a definite vision for its students, and after it has demonstrated a clear educational plan for achieving that vision, while submitting itself to regular reassessment and repurposing to ensure that the students receive the best and most relevant education.

As Good as a Regular MBA Degree

Most online MBA degrees are stigmatized by employers because of they assume that these degrees are too easy to acquire and do not involve the same level of effort needed to get a regular MBA degree. However, an AACSB accreditation puts all this discrimination to rest, because of the inherently rigorous and thorough standards, for both students and faculty, demanded by the AACSB from institution that wish to be accredited.

Highlights the Resume

A degree accredited by the AACSB on a resume instantly gives a good impression; employers automatically know that this employee has solid past achievements that qualified him for this degree, in addition to enough dedication to put in the effort needed to complete it.

Do You Need an AACSB Accredited Degree

With the generally more difficult admissions and the relatively high cost of AACSB accredited programs, students are often faced with a difficult choice. Although AACSB hold better value and present students with better career opportunities upon completion, the extent of the benefits offered by these degrees may not be worthwhile to everybody. The questions below can help you decide whether you need to pay the extra cost and effort for an AACSB accredited online MBA, or if another degree if sufficient for your individual needs.

Time and Commitment

According to this article, AACSB accredited online MBA programs require students to put in 10 or more hours per week on study, class preparation and asynchronous course material, aside from the weekly synchronous/on campus classes. The programs themselves are spread over 18-36 months and may include additional hours where the students work on assignments and projects with classmates. Think of entering an AACSB accredited program only if you can commit to this kind of routine.

GMAT and AACSB Accreditation

AACSB programs have strict admission criteria for their applicants. GMAT clearance is required by most AACSB accredited programs, and even in the cases where this requirement is waived, the applicant has to have a very high undergraduate GPA (typically 3.5+). Do you meet either of these requirements?

Find MBA programs ranked by GMAT scores or online MBA programs ranked by GMAT scores.

Cost of an AACSB MBA Degree

The average cost of a program accredited by the AACSB is around $37,000. In comparison, a regionally accredited online MBA degree will cost you just about $25,000. That makes for an approximate saving of $12,000 – an amount that can make all the difference in affordability. This brings us to the next two questions: Can you afford an AACSB accredited degree? And if yes, are the savings worth it if you forego an AACSB accreditation?

Return on Investment

What are your career objectives? An AACSB accreditation is a sound investment when you want to work for the best of the best. For instance, top urban job locales such as NYC or Boston give extra credit to an online MBA degree. The same applies to Wall Street or a Big Ten corporation. If you plan to work as a faculty member at a college, you should definitely get an AACSB accredited online MBA degree. Outside of these environments, for instance in rural corporate environments or smaller companies, the AACSB degree won’t have as much return on investment, and you may be better off with a regionally accredited online MBA.

Other Options Besides AACSB

The AACSB accreditation is not compulsory for business schools in order to offer MBA programs, be it on-campus or online. The 2011 survey conducted by GetEducated.com revealed that the majority of online MBA offering business schools had regional accreditations. If your answers to the above section pointed you in the direction of a degree accredited by organizations other than the AACSB, you can opt a regionally accredited institution or one with a DETC accreditation.

Conclusion

An AACSB accreditation is considered the ‘gold’ standard by employers and educationalists alike. Here is the bottom line: Without it, top employers will give your online MBA degree less preference than a regular degree. With it, your online MBA degree will be held in the same esteem as a regular MBA degree.

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About Rebecca Smith-Allen

Rebecca Smith-Allen solved business problems across a variety of industries as a McKinsey consultant before discovering her true passion was writing. Now, Rebecca brings together her love of drafting clear, concise, and persuasive text with her business background as a freelance writer. She focuses on content management, website content, and boosting message visibility via social media. Rebecca earned her B.A. in Economics from Wellesley College and her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. In her spare time, Rebecca writes young adult speculative fiction.



Data sources: MBA School Websites, IPEDS, National Center of Educational Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences (ERIC), Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). US News, The Econominst, Forbes, Bloomberg Business Week, Financial Times.

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