For students pursuing a degree in accounting, the list of possible schools to attend seems almost endless. How do you begin choosing the right school for you? One factor all prospective students should consider is accreditation. Any college-level accounting program should have both institutional accreditation (of the overall school) and specialized or programmatic accreditation. Three professional organizations are recognized in the United States as agencies that are qualified to award programmatic accreditation to accounting degree programs: the Association for Advancing Collegiate Schools of Business, the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs and the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.
The Three Accounting Accreditation Organizations
The Association for Advancing Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) is an international professional organization that awards accounting accreditation in addition to business degree program accreditation. As of 2015, 180 accounting programs have earned accreditation from the AACSB. All candidate programs must successfully complete a self-evaluation and a peer review process as well as having a mentor involved. Even after earning AACSB accreditation, college accounting degree programs must meet continuous improvement requirements on a regular basis to maintain their accreditation.
Like the AACSB, the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) accredits business degree programs. Schools that have earned the organization’s business degree accreditation can also apply for a separate accounting program accreditation. Though the organization has accredited close to 1,000 business programs worldwide, the ACBSP’s accounting accreditation is fairly new. The first degree program to earn this accreditation did so in 2009. In 2015, 10 degree programs have earned the organization’s separate accounting accreditation.
Unlike the other two agencies, the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE) does not award a separate accounting accreditation. It does, however, accredit accounting degree programs as part of schools’ overall business programs. The organization has so far accredited 1,258 business programs across the globe.
The Importance of Accreditation
As long as the school itself has earned institutional accreditation from a regional or national agency, you may wonder why specialized accreditation of your business or accounting degree program matters. Accreditation ensures that the particular degree program you are pursuing meets high standards. Choosing an accredited program means that you’re not investing your money, time and hard work into earning a degree that won’t be recognized or respected by potential employers.
A lack of accreditation can present an obstacle to aspiring accountants. In some states, they may face more challenges in meeting eligibility requirements to become a certified public accountant (CPA), and they may be unable to earn professional certifications that could help them advance their careers.
For aspiring accountants, making sure that your intended school has received specialized accreditation from one of these recognized organizations is an essential step to beginning your education. Though the different accrediting agencies may emphasize different requirements, each has high standards that candidate programs must meet. Which of the three organizations has awarded the accreditation is less important than knowing that the business or accounting program is accredited.