Online business school accreditation can be complicated.
In a nutshell, here’s why:
The Idea: Accreditation means that a group of people outside of a school has decided that the school is competent and credible. They give this school a stamp of approval, so that the world knows this school is a quality school, providing academic excellence, good facilities, and appropriate curriculum.
The Problem: There is no group of people accrediting the accreditation agencies. In other words, you could start your own accrediting business right now and start handing out accreditation titles. You could even charge for these. You could sell an accreditation to a school you’ve never even looked at.
The Solution: It is up to students and prospective students to determine which accreditations matter to them, i.e., which accreditations will matter to their future employers and their professional peers. Don’t panic! We’re going to make it easy for you. To find a reputable business school that employers and peers will respect, look for the following two accreditations:
1. Regional Accreditation:
Regional Accreditation (which is different from “national accreditation”) means that a school has been accredited by an association in its geographical area. There are six regional accrediting agencies in the US. Every college in the country has access to one of these six agencies.
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (Commission on Higher Education)
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (Commission on Technical and Career Institutions and Commission on Institutions of Higher Education)
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (The Higher Learning Commission)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (Commission on Colleges)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges and Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities)
2. AACSB accreditation
AACSB is a “specialized accreditation,” which means that this association only accredits business and accounting degree programs. These schools have been deemed worth your while by AACSB International. Only about 25% of business schools (see lists here) have AACSB accreditation. You’ll want to look for schools with this stamp of approval.
So, you’ll want to look for an online business school that is both regionally accredited and AACSB accredited.
- Arizona State University is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and is accredited by the AACSB.
- University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and is accredited by the AACSB.
Regional Accreditation vs. National Accreditation
So what does all this mean to you?
In the future, you may need to change colleges, which means you will want to transfer your hard earned college credits. If you went to a Nationally accredited school, you may find some roadblocks:
- Nationally accredited colleges and universities will usually accept credits from other nationally accredited schools, as well as from regionally accredited schools. However, in general, regionally accredited colleges and universities will only consider the transfer of college credits from other regionally accredited schools. In most cases, regionally accredited colleges will not accept credits from nationally accredited schools.
- Lets say you earn an associate’s degree from a nationally accredited college or university, but then decide you want to pursue a bachelor’s degree at a regionally accredited school, the second school might not recognize your associate’s degree.
- Want to get a master’s degree somewhere down the road? If your bachelor’s degree was earned at a nationally accredited college or university, it will be nearly impossible to go to graduate school at a regionally accredited college or university. Keep in mind that most graduate schools in the United States are regionally accredited. While graduate school may be the furthest thing from your mind right now, you still might want to keep that door open for your future.
Going to a regionally accredited business school doesn’t make you or the school any more special. Making sure that the college or university you pick is regionally accredited should be the bare minimum that you do.
Other types of accreditation:
“National accreditation” may sound like a bigger and better version of “Regional accreditation,” but it’s not. National accreditation has nothing to do with location. If a school cannot qualify for or chooses not to apply for Regional Accreditation, it can apply for National Accreditation. But National Accreditation is inferior to Regional Accreditation.
The Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs accredits small business programs that focus on teaching.
The Distance Education and Training Council Accrediting Commission is a private, non-profit organization that operates as a national accreditor of distance education institutions.
For more information, check out this ever-growing list of unrecognized accreditation organizations. (In other words, accreditations that won’t help you.)