Accounting Accreditation

Accreditation is a process by which an entity or an organization can be certified for its competency, authority, or credibility.  The professional accreditation process ensures that it accrediting agencies are able to test and certify third parties, behave ethically, and provide quality assurance.  There are three primary accreditation agencies for accounting programs:  The Association for Advancing Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), The Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), and The International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE).

When selecting an accounting program at a university, it is very important to determine if the university is accredited.  With an accredited program, the university will be able to provide the most up to date curriculum and teaching practices.  Also, it may be easier to transfer your credits to another university and have your degree recognized by employers if you have earned your credits and degree at an accredited university.

It is also important to understand the process for a university to receive accreditation for its accounting program.  A university can be a member with any three of the agencies mentioned above, but not be accredited by any of them.  Also, the university may have an accreditation from one of the agencies, but since accreditation is specific to a program, the accounting program may not be accredited.

The process for a university to become accredited with any three of these agencies is very similar.  There maybe more or fewer procedures for any specific agency, but here is a simple outline of the process itself.

A summary of the Accounting Accreditation process:

1. The university has to become a member of the agency it wishes to gain accreditation from.

2. After the university is a member it will have to apply for accreditation candidacy.

3. Upon becoming a candidate, the agency will provide a mentor to the university to help them develop a plan with a timetable and consults them in the accreditation process.

4. A committee is assigned to examine the plan which is then either approved or suggested to be modified.

5. The university will have to complete annual reports on its progress and outline any changes made to the accreditation plan and its timetable.

6. After approval by the committee the university will enter a self-study where it can demonstrate and record it is compliance with the agencies rules and regulations.

7. The agency will assign a team to the university which will go to the site and objectively look at the accounting program .

8. a report by this team will be sent to the committee and reviewed for the approval of the universities accreditation.

9. Once the university is accredited, any agency will require some type of periodic report on the accounting program and follow up with a reaffirmation of the institution’s accreditation after so many years.

This is just a brief summary on the university’s process of becoming accredited.  This process can take a number of years. So again, just because the university may be a member of one of these agencies or a candidate for accreditation in the accounting program, does not mean you will be provided assurance of quality.

The accreditation guidelines are based on standards for an accounting program.  Each agency looks at specific aspects of the program to measure its competency.  Most of these standards overlap between these agencies, but we will be giving you a brief overview of the standards in general, not in any specific order.

Standards for Accounting Accreditation

One of the standards the agency looks at is called strategic management or strategic planning.  Here the university has to outline and focus on its mission.  It will identify the student population within the accounting program, any intellectual contributions faculty will make; provide measures for improvement, how it will obtain resources for the program and establish performance requirements for the students to stay in the program.

Example: The school will have a separate department for their school of accounting, where they will separately manage their finances and operations.  The accredited accounting program will have its own staff and support for the students that attend the school.

The agencies take a look at the participants and the focus of the faculty and staff within the program.  An agency will look the credentials and characteristics of all the participants, (i.e., its students, staff, faculty, and administrators), in the program and make sure they are aligned with the objectives of the program.  This would allow the program to develop a community to work towards the same mission.  The agency may also want to see an environment which provides opportunities for faculty development and an atmosphere for the highest standard of teaching.

Example: An accounting professor who is teaching cost accounting will have several years of experience working as a cost accountant for a well known company.  The professor will have some kind of credentials like a CPA, PHD, and may have written publications on the subject.

Agencies also want to see what would be the assurance of learning and performance.  This standard will ensure that the curriculum is up to date and everything that is being taught is relevant to the accounting degree.  This standard also helps the faculty develop better courses, structure, and focus on the accounting program.

Example: The institution will provide different accounting courses most of which will be mandatory to take to pursue a degree in one of the accounting tracks.
Students receiving an education through an accredited accounting program must be thoroughly prepared for the workplace.  Agencies require the educational and business process standard to ensure that graduates are able to interact with other members of society, adapt to social changes, and be reliable in their performance.

Example: The institution will develop an internship program that would deal with various employers to place their students in a work environment as an educational experience.

Agency versus Agency

As far as the concern for which accreditation agency is better, that will be a matter of opinion. As of July 2010, 596 member institutions divided among 37 countries hold AACSB Accreditation. Of the accredited schools: 47 institutions have undergraduate programs only (8% of accredited members), 52 institutions have graduate programs only (9% of accredited members), 173 institutions have AACSB’s additional accounting accreditation, 497 institutions have both graduate and undergraduate programs (83% of accredited members). As of August 2008, the ACBSP held 585 member institutions in various countries around the world, 413 of which received official accreditation.  The IACBE currently holds over 230 educational institutions in over 20 countries


The basic idea for students who pursue a degree in accounting is to make sure they pick the right school to invest in.  There are plenty of schools out there that offer accounting courses and can give you a piece of paper saying you have received an accounting degree. For you to be able to receive the best skill set and knowledge of accounting in today’s world, you should look for a university that has been accredited.  This is an investment of your time and money:  Make sure they are put in the right place!

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