AACSB vs. ACBSP Accreditation [2024 Guide]

By Joy Cromwelle
Edited by Briana Sukert
Updated on April 13, 2024
Edited by Briana Sukert
Ready to start your journey?
Trying to compare AACSB vs. ACBSP and aren't sure which accreditation is better? Welcome to the world of applying to business degree programs.

Trying to compare AACSB vs. ACBSP and aren’t sure which accreditation is better? Welcome to the world of applying to traditional or online business degree programs.


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You may find that the distinction becomes important as you plot a degree path that helps you reach your professional goals!

AACSB vs. ACBSP Accreditation – What’s the Difference?

business major students studying at a cafe

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) are the two primary options to consider when looking at graduate programs.

Let’s break down the qualities of each accreditation:


  • Established in 1916
  • Requires schools to seek links within the local community
  • Given to business programs that demonstrate quality faculty and business-focused ideals
  • Schools must have excellent career opportunities for graduates in order to qualify
  • Schools must offer business and accounting programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels
  • Schools must pass rigorous self-evaluation processes and peer reviews
  • Only about 5 percent of the world’s business programs earn this accreditation
  • Graduates from accredited programs are highly desirable in the employment world
  • Accreditation is primarily given to larger business programs
  • Some larger companies will only reimburse tuition for business degrees earned through schools with this accreditation
  • Most Ivy League business programs have this accreditation


  • Established in 1989
  • Requires schools to seek links within the local community
  • Has accredited more than 3,000 programs
  • Schools must pass a rigorous vetting process
  • Schools must conduct a full review every 24 months following initial accreditation

It’s clear to see that the big thing the two programs have in common is an emphasis on quality education that is vetted by an outside body.

Is ACBSP a Regional Accreditation? What About AACSB?

regional accreditation

No. ACBSP is not a regional accreditation. However, schools located in the United States must have regional accreditation in order to qualify for ACBSP accreditation.

AACSB offers international accreditation. Wider accreditation is considered more prestigious than regional accreditation. However, it is not a replacement.

Why Do Schools Choose AACSB vs. ACBSP?

college students studying in university campus

Schools that seek out AACSB accreditation tend to place a heavy emphasis on business training.

This often encompasses facets like writing, oral communication, information technology, financial theories, organizational management, decision-making skills, and the core characteristics of global organizations.

AACSB schools also tend to place a big emphasis on promoting evidence-based business decisions. In fact, this type of accreditation is thought to put a much bigger focus on research that provides insights regarding business management.

This is why you’ll often see AACSB accreditation given to research universities.

business major students studying in university campus

Schools that don’t place as much of an emphasis on research often seek out ACBSP accreditation. In fact, ACBSP-focused schools often emphasize a balance between teaching and research in the educational process.

The ACBSP was partially founded to provide respected and notable accreditation to schools that did not meet the strict research-oriented guidelines of AACSB international accreditation.

One distinguishing feature of ACBSP accreditation is that it actually applies to a wide range of programs. That includes MBA programs, master’s programs, doctoral programs, and two-year associate’s programs.

Are ACBSP Schools Good?

college students listening to their professor in university classroom

Yes, ACBSP schools are good. They’re often highly respected institutions. It is easy for ACBSP schools to be overshadowed by their AACSB counterparts. However, the reality is that this is still a very valuable designation.

It’s still important to know that choosing an ACBSP school will impact the type of educational experience you will have.

Business is a good major for instance, but program quality can vary quite a bit between schools. But through an accreditation program such as ACBSP, students can be confident that their business degree may be highly regarded by employers.

ACBSP schools do not have the strong research backgrounds that some other schools have. This may not be an ideal match for you if you’re looking to follow a career path that requires a research background.

ACBSP schools are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The fact that more schools have ACBSP accreditation than AACSB accreditation simply means you have a higher chance of attending a school with this distinction.

The big thing to know about ACBSP accreditation is that it places a much bigger emphasis on ensuring that all quality schools are accredited than it does on exclusivity.

Which Business School Accreditation is the Best?

Business School Accreditation

The program accreditation that is best will vary depending on what you plan to do with your business degree.

It’s impossible to deny that AACSB accreditation is truly the gold standard among business schools in the academic world.

The fact that only a very small percentage of schools across the globe are welcomed to enjoy this distinction adds instant prestige to degrees that are received from AACSB schools.

What do AACSB schools offer? Accredited colleges and universities provide very exclusive access to world-class learning opportunities.

Students often have access to faculty members who represent the upper echelons of their fields. In fact, it is common to be instructed by world experts and thought leaders in business.

business professionals working together in office

Another critical feature of an AACSB school is a demanding curriculum. Students are challenged in every conceivable way during their studies. A degree program typically requires independent research conducted over an extended period of time.

The most important feature of an AACSB-accredited school may be what happens after students graduate. Graduates of AACSB colleges and universities enjoy nearly unprecedented and unmatched career opportunities.

Those who receive MBAs are often recruited into top firms around the world. The bottom line is that AACSB schools often graduate the future leaders of the business world.

Bachelor vs. MBA Accreditation ACBSP vs. AACSB

Bachelor vs MBA Accreditation ACBSP vs AACSB

Both bachelor and MBA programs can receive ACBSP and AACSB accreditation. Some students are interested in seeking both degrees from colleges and universities with AACSB accreditation. However, that isn’t always necessary.

Is it possible to get into an AACSB MBA program if you didn’t graduate with a bachelor’s degree from an AACSB school? The answer is that it is.

AACSB schools don’t necessarily only accept applicants from undergraduate programs with AACSB accreditation. Plenty of prestigious colleges and universities with AACSB accreditation may take students into their MBA programs from schools without this accreditation.

It should be said that MBA applicants who graduate from undergraduate programs with AACSB accreditation do have somewhat of an advantage because they’ve already proven that they can compete in such a rigorous, high-level learning environment.

business major students studying together

Additionally, undergraduate students who have completed undergraduate degrees from AACSB schools may also demonstrate research experience and capabilities that few students around the world have been trained in.

Even students who graduate from AACSB undergraduate programs may choose to pursue MBAs at schools that do not have AACSB accreditation. There are several reasons for this.

The first reason is the location. An MBA applicant may simply be looking for ACBSP schools that are located in specific cities or regions. This could be a personal preference because a student simply wants to be near family.

Also, a student may be seeking a school in a city that is known for having ample opportunities in a particular industry.

Another factor is cost. Some graduates of AACSB undergraduate programs are looking for MBA programs that are slightly more affordable. They may turn to ACBSP schools for this reason.

Of course, grants and scholarship opportunities often put the most prestigious AACSB schools within reach for students who are accepted into MBA programs.

The bottom line on MBA versus undergraduate programs for both AACSB and ACBSP is that there really is no rule! Students are free to move back and forth between the two accreditations as they pursue further education.

It’s really up to each student to look at their own desired career path when deciding how to strategically plan their education. A balance between both programs may provide a well-rounded education that employers find attractive when looking for MBA graduates.

business major student studying at a cafe

The last thing to say is that attending a college that is highly respected in a city or region can be beneficial regardless of which accreditation it has.

This is something to consider if you anticipate that you’ll be applying for jobs in the same city as the school you’re graduating from. Local reputation can give you more room to explore ACBSP options.

An AACSB school may deliver international recognition that opens doors to very exclusive, high-level career opportunities at the world’s leading firms and institutions.

Is Harvard AACSB Accredited?

Is Harvard AACSB Accredited

Yes, Harvard is AACSB accredited. In fact, many of the world’s top business schools only have AACSB accreditation. The list of AACSB schools includes American University, Bentley University, Boston University, California Polytechnic State University, and Stanford University.

Harvard famously has one of the lowest rates of admission in the country. The total percentage of applicants admitted stands at 4.6 percent for today’s applications.

What is the IACBE?

What Is the IACBE

There is one more accreditation to discuss besides AACSB and ACBSP: International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE) . IACBE is entirely set apart from other accrediting bodies.

IACBE is an outcomes-based accrediting organization. Its focus is on business programs in colleges and universities that take a student-centered approach to providing quality education.

The IACBE has been around since 1997. The organization was primarily established to offer accreditation to outstanding schools that did not necessarily meet the specifications of other accrediting bodies.

IACBE accreditation is something that’s primarily geared toward smaller and private liberal arts colleges. It also works with some of the mid-sized public and private colleges around the country that have thriving business programs.

The big emphasis of IACBE is on ensuring that esteemed business accreditation isn’t something that’s only given to more expensive colleges.

The IACBE examines each school’s business program based on eight key factors.

Here’s a look:

  • Outcomes assessment
  • Strategic planning
  • Curriculum
  • Faculty
  • Scholarly and professional activities
  • Resources
  • Internal and external relationships
  • Educational innovation

This is a very well-rounded approach to evaluating the educational experience. The goal is for graduates to leave the programs prepared to lead and make decisions in the global business landscape.

Which One is the Best?

AACSB vs ACBSP Accreditation

It’s important that students don’t necessarily view the differences between AACSB, ACBSP, and IACBE as being part of any sort of competition when comparing the accreditations.

Students should really take the opportunity to see what each accreditation offers in terms of the educational experience that is delivered. There’s no escaping that accreditation type is something that employers are going to look at. However, there’s more to the story.

Yes, it’s vital to seek acceptance into a program that will be respected by employers. However, it’s also important to choose a program that meets your own personal and professional goals. You should also look at the type of learner you are while making your decision.

Someone who thrives in a research setting may want to exclusively focus on AACSB schools. A person who is looking for a more holistic approach to learning business may find that an ACBSP university offers a better fit.

business major student studying in a library

It can be reassuring to know that respected accreditation is available even if you’re focusing on smaller private schools or mid-sized public schools when pursuing a business degree online or on campus.

IACBE accreditation places the spotlight on programs that might otherwise be overshadowed by pricier schools with more substantial endowments.

The one thing that’s for sure is that researching accreditation is one of the first steps to finding a program that’s a good fit for you!

It’s important to remember that you won’t necessarily be locked into one accreditation tier for your graduate degree just because that’s what your undergraduate degree reflects.

Ready to start your journey?