By Sarah Stevenson
Accredited online MBA programs can get you paid more, get you more respect from employers—and they can get you hired in the first place. But the first question a potential student asks might well be "why."
Why is an accredited program so much better than a non-accredited program? Isn't my MBA degree a valuable investment, no matter where I earned it? Of course education is always a worthwhile endeavor, but accreditation adds to the value of your degree in a number of critical ways.
At the most basic level, accreditation means you won't be taken advantage of by a school offering a less-than-legitimate MBA program. In addition, accreditation ensures that a school or program meets the standards of a government-approved or industry-specific accreditation agency. Accredited online MBA programs are regarded more highly by potential employers as a result.
From the student's perspective, courses and credits from an accredited program are more likely to be transferable to other institutions. Not only that, when seeking higher education such as a doctoral degree, only accredited degree programs will be accepted as a prerequisite to more advanced study.
Last but not least is the fact that accredited online MBA programs are eligible for the same federal and state financial aid programs as MBA degrees offered by traditional institutions. That means the financial aid options at an accredited MBA program will be much better than those at a non-accredited institution—which is critical if you're relying on scholarships or other outside funding to help you through college.
Nationally Accredited Online MBA Programs
Accredited online MBA programs may be regionally accredited or nationally accredited. Both national and regional accrediting bodies must be approved by the U.S. Department of Education, in order to ensure that they are reliably able to assess the quality of the educational programs they accredit. However, employers do view the two types of accredited programs slightly differently.
National accreditation, such as that granted by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) or the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), is considered to be the strictest form of accreditation for MBA programs. National accreditation ensures the highest standards for faculty-student interaction, admissions selectivity, and rigorous curriculum.
AACSB International accreditation, in particular, is considered to be a sign of excellence in an online MBA program. The ACBSP, meanwhile, has a greater focus on accrediting programs that concentrate on teaching rather than research.
Regionally Accredited Programs
Regionally accredited online MBA programs are also guaranteed to meet high standards of academic quality. Regional accrediting bodies such as the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, as well as institutional accreditation agencies like the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) must be approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Regional agencies and other specialized accreditation bodies are responsible for developing criteria to evaluate the rigor and effectiveness of postsecondary programs or schools, as well as conducting peer evaluations to assess whether or not a program or school is meeting the criteria. If an accrediting agency's criteria are met, then accreditation is granted.
Don't fall prey to a diploma scam—make sure that your business degree is worth more than the paper it's printed on by pursuing an accredited online MBA program.