Rankings are one source of information that you can consult as you decide which MBA programs to which you will apply, and it is a good idea to review all of the major rankings as they all have different focuses. Forbes, for instance, typically ranks business schools solely using its own ROI measures. Bloomberg Businessweek, on the other hand, has in the past provided MBA rankings based on the experience of recent graduates and corporate recruiters.
It’s also important to note that the different criteria result in different schools on each list. What makes the best business schools is subjective, and there is no single method for assessment. When choosing your ideal MBA program, research all of your options. Attend networking events, meet current students and alumni, and speak with faculty and administrators. Talk to your friends or colleagues, and get as much advice as you can from informed people who understand your field of interest, as well as the MBA landscape related to that field. MBA program rankings can be highly illuminating and offer direction and perspective — when used in conjunction with other resources.
How MBA Rankings Work
Many MBA ranking systems rely on surveys to gather information and data, but their approaches vary depending on what the surveying organization wants to emphasize about an MBA program. Typically the organization surveys a targeted group of people to develop its ranking. That group varies but can include administrators, students, alumni and/or MBA recruiters. Some of the surveys are completely subjective, while others may combine a variety of subjective criteria with data.
Ranking organizations might also contact the business school to gather data about its MBA program. Some organizations use this objective data, such as average GMAT scores an average grade-point-average (GPA), in their rankings, while others use it to create online profiles about the MBA programs.
Popular MBA Rankings
Bloomberg Businessweek publishes its list of the best full-time MBA programs every two years. Bloomberg BusinessWeek ranks part-time and EMBA programs the years in between those when it ranks full-time MBA programs.
U.S. News & World Report
U.S. News & World Report publishes an annual list of the best MBA programs. It does not survey students or alumni. Instead, U.S. News & World Report surveys deans, MBA program directors and corporate recruiters. It also measures placement success, GMAT scores, GPA and other factors.
The Financial Times publishes its MBA list annually. Through a survey of alumni, it asseses the career progression of MBA graduates. It also surveys the school to analyze the diversity of faculty, students and board members, and the international study experience of MBA students. Lastly, it considers faculty research that has been published in business journals and well as schools’ PhD programs.
Forbes publishes its list bi-annually, and its MBA ranking is based solely on return on investment. It compares the earnings of alumni within their first five years after graduation to their opportunity costs (two years of forgone compensation, tuition and required fees), with adjustments made for the cost of living expenses and required fees.
The Economist publishes its MBA school rankings every October. The rankings are broken down by region, including worldwide, Asia, Europe’ and North America.
The Princeton Review
The Princeton Review publishes an annual ranking of the top-25 online MBA programs. The ranking is based on a survey of school administrators and students. The criteria focused on five core areas: academics, selectivity, faculty, technical platforms, and career outcomes. Data points were weighted in more than 60 unique fields to determine the final ranking.