Are MBAs From AACSB Programs Better?

I will tell anyone that my first and foremost concern in regards to choosing an appropriate MBA program was cost. However I realize that for most other people, the consideration of quality, job prospects, and admissions statistics are their primary concern. To be fair, in the end, I did end up choosing a program that was AACSB accredited over some other options; mainly because it was accredited. But that was three years ago. And I’ve learned a lot about graduate school and the atmosphere of graduate business studies since then.

I am not going to say that AACSB accreditation doesn’t matter. Also for the purpose of simplicity (and my own personal ignorance), I’m not going to touch at all upon other non-AACSB business school accreditation such as  IACBE or ACBSP. While many people argue about the importance of earning an MBA from a AACSB accredited program; the fact remains that all of the “Top 20 MBA Programs” are AACSB accredited. But the question that many MBA program applicants have is “Does the AACSB accreditation help determine superior MBA programs from inferior MBA programs?” And the answer is: no, it does not.

Why? Well, the answer lies in three facets of the MBA degree itself. #1 – It is a peer-reviewed, academic elitist accreditation. This is not necessarily a bad thing. But you have to keep in mind that the people granting the accreditation are from a particular background (academia) and have specific expectations. Such as having a faculty that actively engages in research and publishing. #2 – It is not a requirement in order to sit for professional exams or to obtain professional certifications. While individual states set the educational subject requirements on determining the eligibility of someone to sit for the CPA exam; they don’t require that the candidate be a graduate of an AACSB program. Whereas if you want to sit for the PE exam (an exam that certifies professional engineers), you need to be a graduate of an ABET accredited program. #3 – The term “AACSB” is not widely sought our or known of among hiring managers. Even if they are aware of it, it may not be as important as the overall reputation of the school and/or your previous work experience.

In spite of these facts, AACSB accreditation should still be considered by any aspiring MBA for the following reasons:

  • Competitive admission requirements. While the acceptance rate from school to school will vary greatly along a spectrum, almost all AACSB programs have high admission standards and require applicants to obtain a minimum score on the GMAT. Some programs do waive the GMAT requirement; but only when the applicants GPA was above a certain level or when the applicant has significant previous management experience. These admission standards enhance the program by building a MBA cohort that is competent and interesting, and will create a challenging learning environment during your tenure in the program.
  • Increased eligibility for some professional scholarships. The NBMBAA only offers MBA scholarships to people who are enrolled in an AACSB program.
  • Creating the opportunity to teach business in higher education. Although it may not be specifically called for, having a degree from an AACSB program does give you brownie points in a very competitive field of employment (higher education).
  • A measure of academic quality. AACSB may do nothing to attest to MBA program factors such as average starting salary of graduates or on campus amenities such as live stock trading rooms. However, it does certify that a program meets particular academic rigors. You can equate it to car inspections — a car without it may be an excellent machine…or it could be a death trap.

Remember, through the end of the tunnel is your MBA degree; but keep in mind that your degree(s) is just one aspect of your total package. AACSB accreditation in turn is just one part of your MBA package. Only you can determine what the whole picture looks like and how these individual components fit together in it.