Earning a master’s degree in business enables students to build professional networks, identify career opportunities, and improve prospects for promotions and raises. U.S. News’ Best Business Schools rankings compared full-time MBA programs on their career placement success, student excellence and qualitative assessments by experts.
For data collection, U.S. News surveyed in fall 2020 and early 2021 all 486 institutions with master’s-level business programs in the United States accredited by AACSB International, widely considered the gold standard of business school accreditation. Schools reported on their full-time campus-based and hybrid programs that included a foundation of general management skills and knowledge. These are most often Master of Business Administration programs, although some degree offerings included in this ranking have titles such as Master of Science in Management and Master of Science in Industrial Administration.
Among those surveyed as part of Best Business Schools, a total of 364 survey recipients responded. U.S. News ranked 143 business schools that provided enough data on their full-time MBA programs and had large enough 2020 graduating classes seeking employment for valid comparisons.
This count of ranked schools includes five programs that were ranked and submitted data in the full-time MBA rankings last year: University of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chapman University, University of Delaware and Southern Illinois University—Carbondale. These schools did not submit their statistical surveys in the fall 2020 data collection, we believe in large part because of the COVID-19 pandemic. To make the full-time MBA ranking as useful as possible to prospective students given that these five schools are still operating their full-time MBA programs, they were included in the 2022 full-time MBA ranking. For the purpose of calculating the rankings, their current year peer assessment score and recruiter assessment score, fall 2019 admission information and 2019 graduating class data were used in the calculations. We explain in more detail below how it was handled.
Here is a breakdown of the ranking indicators:
Quality assessment includes two qualitative indicators that total 40% of a school’s ranking.
- Peer assessment score (weighted by 0.25): Business school deans and directors from each AACSB-accredited MBA program rated other programs’ academic quality on a scale of 1 (marginal) to 5 (outstanding), marking “don’t know” for schools they did not know enough about to evaluate. A school’s score is the average of all the 1-5 ratings it received. The survey was administered by U.S. News in fall 2020 and early 2021, and 47% of those surveyed responded.
- Recruiter assessment score (0.15): Corporate recruiters and company contacts rated full-time MBA programs’ academic quality on a scale from 1 (marginal) to 5 (outstanding), marking “don’t know” for schools they did not know enough about to evaluate. A school’s score is the weighted average of all 1-5 ratings it received in the three most recent years of survey results. Programs receiving fewer than 10 cumulative ratings over three years received an assigned value matching the lowest average score achieved by any ranked program that garnered at least 10 ratings and display an “N/A” instead of a recruiter assessment score in the usnews.com directory. U.S. News administered the recruiter survey in fall 2020. Recipient names were supplied to U.S. News in summer 2020 by MBA programs previously ranked by U.S. News and those eligible to be ranked.
Placement success includes three ranking indicators on employment and earnings that in total contribute 35% to each school’s overall rank.
U.S. News uses the MBA CSEA Standards for Reporting Employment Statistics as the basis for defining how MBA programs should report full-time MBA employment statistics and other career information, including starting base salaries, signing bonuses, and what proportion of MBA graduates have jobs at graduation and three months after. Using these industry standards has helped U.S. News ensure prospective students have accurate and comparable employment information for each school.
There are two distinct indicators on employment rates for 2020 graduates of full-time MBA programs: employment rates at graduation (0.07) and employment rates three months after graduation (0.14). In total, employment factors comprise 21% of each school’s rank.
Note for both indicators, those not seeking jobs or for whom no job-seeking information is available are excluded. If the proportions of graduates for whom no job-seeking information is available and who are not seeking jobs are high, the information is not used in calculating the ranking.
The employment rates for 2020 full-time MBA graduates did decrease from 2019 employment rates by statistically significant amounts. However, U.S. News has ranked business programs for decades under varying labor markets and believes prospective students want to know how business schools performed in the latest environment. For the five programs ranked in the previous edition that did not participate this year, their 2019 data was used in the ranking calculation; however, their 2019 at graduation and three months after graduation employment rates were adjusted downward by residuals for each indicator determined from regression analyses. Admissions data were the independent variables in both models: Year-to-year changes in employment rates at graduation was the dependent variable in one model and year-to-year changes in employment rates three months after graduation was the dependent variable in the other. Their 2019 graduating class salary and bonus data wasn’t adjusted for the rankings.
- Mean starting salary and bonus (0.14): This is the average starting salary and bonus of 2020 graduates of a full-time MBA program. Salary figures are based on the number of graduates who reported data. The mean signing bonus is weighted by the proportion of those graduates who reported a bonus because not everyone who reported a base salary figure reported a signing bonus. Despite lower employment rates for business school graduates, mean earnings of employed graduates were actually collectively higher for the 2020 class than the 2019 class. In fact, more schools’ average graduate earnings increased than decreased.
Student selectivity is composed of three admissions indicators that total 25% of each school’s rank. Unlike employment, schools’ scores on admissions ranking indicators did not incur statistically significant year-to-year changes according to t-test analyses, although U.S. News did lower the requirement for GMAT and GRE scores submitted for schools to earn full credit. Schools’ reported GMAT and GRE data is only available via a U.S. News Business School Compass subscription.
- Mean GMAT and GRE scores (0.1625): This incorporates the averages of GMAT score and (when applicable) GRE quantitative, verbal and analytical writing scores of full-time MBA students entering in fall 2020. Schools’ mean GMAT scores and each of the mean GRE scores were converted to 0-100 percentiles distributions specific to their exams; then U.S. News weighted these percentile distributions based on the proportions of new entrants submitting the GMAT vs. GRE exams. For example, if 80% of a school’s test-takers submitted GMAT scores and 20% submitted GRE scores, its 0-100 GMAT percentile distribution would be multiplied by 0.8 and its 0-100 GRE percentile distribution would be multiplied by 0.2 – then the two adjusted values are combined for the final score. This means U.S News did not convert GRE scores to GMAT scores or vice versa in its calculations.
If a school’s combined percentages of its fall 2020 entering class submitting GMAT and GRE scores was less than 25% of all its new entrants, it received less credit on this ranking indicator. This 25% threshold is reduced from 50% in previous editions. The change was made to account for many schools reporting on fewer GMAT and GRE test takers this year due the disruptions in 2020 entering class admissions process due to the pandemic. Despite this, mean GMAT and mean GRE scores themselves did not undergo a statistically significant change year-to-year among schools based on a t-test comparing both years’ data. Operationally, the weighted percentile distributions were adjusted downward by the proportion of the percentage of the student body that submitted test scores in relation to the 25% threshold. For example, if 20% of the entering class submitted test scores, then the final composite GMAT and GRE 0-100 percentile distribution used in the rankings was multiplied by 20/25 or 0.8.
- Mean undergraduate GPA (0.075): This is the average undergraduate GPA of students entering the full-time program in fall 2020. Schools reporting that fewer than 50% of their entering students submitted average undergraduate GPAs had their values adjusted downward based on the proportion that submitted relative to 50%. For example, if 25% of the entering class submitted undergraduate GPAs, the undergraduate GPAs were reduced in value in the ranking model by 25/50 or 50%.
- Acceptance rate (0.0125): This is the percentage of applicants to the full-time program in fall 2020 who were accepted. Lower acceptance rates indicate greater selectivity.
Data was standardized so that each school’s indicator value was compared with the mean and standard deviations of all other schools. This created standardized scores, or z-scores, that reflected the number of standard deviations each school’s value was relative to other ranked schools. U.S. News weighted and summed the indicator z-scores, then rescaled so the top school received 100; others received their percentage of the top score. Graduate business programs were then numerically ranked in descending order based on their scores.
Schools Listed With a Ranking Range
U.S. News numerically ranked the top three-quarters of the MBA programs’ schools. For schools in the bottom quarter of the rankings, U.S. News made an editorial decision to only display the bottom quartile ranking range. Schools listed with a ranking range are listed alphabetically.
U.S. News will supply schools listed in the ranking range with their numerical ranks if they submit a request following the procedures listed in the Information for School Officials.
To receive a numeric rank or ranking range in the Best Business Schools rankings, a program needed to have campus-based offerings, provide U.S. News enough statistical data for use in the rankings and report at least 50% of its 2020 graduating class be seeking employment. There was a modified requirement this year: Only 10 graduates from the 2020 graduating class needed to be seeking employment for a school to be rank eligible – reduced from 20 in the previous editions.
If a school is listed as unranked, U.S. News did not calculate a rank for it. Programs marked as unranked are listed alphabetically below those marked with a ranking range.
U.S. News produced 13 standalone rankings of popular specialties. These areas are offered through concentrations and coursework that award credit toward schools’ MBA program degrees. The Best Business Schools rankings do not assess fully specialized master’s in business programs such as a master’s in accounting or project management.
The ranked MBA specialties are the following: accounting, business analytics, entrepreneurship, finance, information systems, international business, management, marketing, nonprofit management, production/operations, project management, real estate and supply chain/logistics management.
These rankings, as well as an additional ranking of executive MBA programs, are based solely on ratings by business school deans and directors of AACSB-accredited MBA programs from the list of schools surveyed. They were asked to nominate up to 15 programs for excellence in each of the areas listed.
Those schools receiving the most votes in each specialty are numerically ranked in descending order based on the number of nominations they received, as long as the school or program received seven or more nominations in that specialty area. This means schools ranked at the bottom of each specialty ranking received at least seven nominations.
As part of its Best Business Schools survey, U.S. News also collected data on part-time programs, when applicable. This data was not incorporated into the full-time MBA program ranking but was applied toward a distinct 2022 Best Part-Time MBA programs ranking. Part-time program data was also published in each school’s Best Business Schools directory profile, including new outcomes data this year on employment and earnings of the 2020 graduating class. This part-time MBA outcomes data is for informational use only and was not used in the ranking.
School Data, Directory and Search
All 486 schools have individual profile pages with rankings data and distinguishing characteristics. These are populated from data that schools reported directly to U.S. News. If a data point is listed as “N/A,” the school did not provide it.
The five schools ranked on their previous year submissions display N/A for all their statistical data in the directory. They are footnoted as nonresponders. In the ranking indicator section of the five nonresponder schools, you can find their 2019 entering class and 2019 graduates’ salary and jobs placement data.
Each school’s directory page can be accessed using U.S. News’ search tool. Users can filter ranked schools by factors like location, tuition, undergraduate GPA and average starting salary to create personalized shortlists of places to examine further.