Over the past few years, six-figure jobs out of business school have become harder and harder to obtain given the way the economic environment has impacted MBA recruiting. With that in mind, applicants have recently become more concerned than ever about MBA rankings. For the typical applicant, being in a higher ranked school not only impacts the way colleagues will perceive them when they graduate but more importantly the way employers will read their resumes during the recruiting process. But there’s just one problem. Given the large number of sources of MBA rankings, most of which disagree with each other and use different methodologies to rank, how do you know which rankings are correct?
Fortunately, recent times has brought some good news – the MBA job market is picking up, and students are starting to get jobs in large number again (click here to see the pace of consulting recruiting). Top programs, like Kellogg, have a lot more companies coming to campus than they did a few years ago and they’ve also starting reporting higher percentage of students with summer and full time offers. This means students across all the top schools are benefitting, which for some applicants, helps take off some of the pressure to get into a top five ranked school. On the other hand, this still doesn’t stop a lot of applicants from closely following a school’s national rankings. After all, everyone that graduates from an MBA program carries with them a school’s reputation and resulting alumni network for decades to follow.
My personal view on the topic is threefold. First, that U.S. News tends to be the most widely used source for business school rankings, and for all other program rankings. Though over the past decade or so, a lot of people have also increasingly began referencing BusinessWeek. Second, that all sources can be good data points and provide different perspectives in the market. This is especially true because most sources use different methodologies, so you can look at things such as return on investment, post MBA salary, students survey responses, rankings based on prestige, and international reputation. And finally, my experience is that most similarly-ranked schools have access to very similar job roles after business school, whether banking, consulting, marketing, general management, or anything else you can think of. Because what really matters to recruiters is not a magazine’s ranking of the school on your resume but instead the experiences (and results) on your resume, and future potential as an employee at the firm.
Because of that, my view is that fit is especially important when selecting a business school. That means understanding what school appeals to you most and has the highest number of classes you find interesting. Which students you fit in best with. Where did the energy levels inside and outside of the classroom best match your energy level? And what place will not only set you up personally to be most successful after graduation?
But it also means understanding which “program” might be best for you. Today, more students than ever are more interested in programs, such as study abroad programs, skill-based training programs, and most notably dual degree programs, such as the Northwestern JD-MBA which I’m a huge proponent of. But being in the program isn’t necessarily the same experience as being at Kellogg, nor does it draw the same reaction from recruiters. So it pays to understand the program more deeply and see if actually makes sense for you to apply.
In sum, if you want to select the ‘best’ business school for you, you should not only look at rankings but also look at fit and program options before making your final choice.
Without further discussion, here below are BusinessWeek’s 2010 MBA rankings. And below that, are links to the articles on the BusinessWeek website.
Top Ranked U.S.
1 University of Chicago (Booth)
2 Harvard University
3 University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)
4 Northwestern University (Kellogg)
5 Stanford University
6 Duke University (Fuqua)
7 University of Michigan (Ross)
8 University of California – Berkeley (Haas)
9 Columbia University
10 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan)
11 University of Virginia (Darden)
12 Southern Methodist University (Cox)
13 Cornell University (Johnson)
14 Dartmouth College (Tuck)
15 Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper)
16 University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler)
17 University of California – Los Angeles (Anderson)
18 New York University (Stern)
19 Indiana University (Kelley)
20 Michigan State University (Broad)
21 Yale University
22 Emory University (Goizueta)
23 Georgia Institute of Technology
24 University of Notre Dame (Mendoza)
25 University of Texas – Austin (McCombs)
26 University of Southern California (Marshall)
27 Brigham Young University (Marriott)
28 University of Minnesota (Carlson)
29 Rice University (Jones)
30 Texas A&M University (Mays)
Click here for BusinessWeek’s interactive rankings table
Click here for BusinessWeek’s profile on Kellogg
Click here for BusinessWeek’s slide show on the programs
Click here for BusinessWeek’s article about the rankings
Click here for BusinessWeek’s ranking methodology