MBA Ranking

MBA, MBA Programs, MBA Preparation

7 Things You Might Not Know About MBA Rankings

February 10 2022 By The MBA Exchange
Select viewing preference

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) program rankings show up a lot in b-school admissions chatter and advertising. But what does it all mean and which MBA rankings are the best for your b-school plans?

It’s certainly something to consider. High marks on tests like the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT™) may mean you can shoot for the top 10 range, or even top 5 MBA programs but is the price tag worth it to you? Applicants with lower GPAs or other challenges need to target accordingly or submit a total knockout of an application package.

The MBA admissions experts at The MBA Exchange are here to help you learn more about MBA program rankings, and what role rankings should play in your plan for the MBA programs you should choose to aim for in your applications, based on your current strengths and future goals.

What do MBA rankings really tell you?

The aim is to give you at a glance quantification for the pluses and minuses of top MBA programs. Often include online MBA rankings, letting you weigh the benefits of remote or in-person study for your business degree.

MBA rankings can indicate programs in line with your goals of increased employment potential, increased salary, or opportunities for networking before and after graduation. Different MBA rankings include different criteria, so make sure you know which MBA rankings are the best matched to your concerns and dreams.

Programs that consistently come in at the top of different ranking lists excel in multiple ways, but you might be looking for something more specialized or targeted, too. MBA rankings are a tool you can use to guide your decision-making around your MBA program of choice.

What is in MBA rankings?

What exactly goes into MBA rankings? That’s going to be key to understanding which MBA rankings are the best fit for you.

Some of the common factors that determine the best MBA rankings and online MBA rankings out there include:

  • Acceptance rates, tracking how selective each institution is when it comes to admissions
  • Professor quality, a way to measure the value of the education you’ll receive
  • Starting salaries for graduates, measuring the earnings bump enjoyed by new degree holders
  • Employment outcomes, identifying all the ways that an MBA degree from a given institution will help your resume and career development
  • Corporate recruiter assessments that show what major employers think of MBA programs and their graduates
  • Peer and alumni assessments that take the perspectives of former students and other program deans into consideration

But, remember, no two publications use exactly the same criteria when it comes to MBA program rankings!

Which MBA rankings are the best in the biz? The most trusted, overall best MBA rankings come from a few publications each year.

Each publication uses a unique formula to rank MBA programs on a yearly basis. 

  • The Financial Times ranks a variety of MBA types, including online MBA rankings, top European business schools and EMBA rankings, using different formulas for each of their ranking lists
  • U.S. News and World Report ranks programs in three main categories of Quality Assessment, Placement Success and Student Selectivity
  • The Economist focuses heavily on employment statistics, but also uses a full set of ranking criteria including networking and faculty quality
  • Bloomberg Businessweek uses the four key indexes of Compensation, Learning, Networking and Entrepreneurship to rank MBA programs
  • Forbes uses a quantitative approach to rank MBA programs based on the five-year MBA gain, comparing pre and post MBA salaries to evaluate your return on investment

You can learn more about the details by taking a moment to study the various factors and weightings used by the best MBA ranking lists.

7 Things you might not know about MBA rankings

You’re probably not a dean, so what’s your takeaway from all this? As a potential applicant, what don’t you know about MBA rankings that you need to understand?

1. Every ranking is different

A key caveat to keep in mind when looking at MBA rankings some factors that go into rankings are concrete and quantifiable, while others are subjective. Every ranking is different each year. Don’t go too hard on a single data point.

2. MBA programs manipulate rankings

You should also understand that MBA rankings and online MBA rankings aren’t necessarily objective. Top MBA programs chase high ranking scores to remain at the top, and the subjective portions of rankings mean that schmoozing can definitely have an impact on where things end up on each yearly list.

3. You can’t always trust rankings

The simplicity of a ranking’s single-number system is seductive, but you need to keep complexity in the picture when you’re looking for and choose the right MBA program for you.

The school with the best MBA ranking might not ultimately make it into your top 10. Learn from rankings and compare the data used to determine rankings each year by various publications, but keep an open mind when it comes to big decisions that will affect your future.

4. MBA rankings are designed to generate ad revenue

MBA programs are like businesses themselves in many ways, including the constant need for advertising and ad revenue. So of course each program is going to do everything possible to game the system and hit that top spot! Don’t get rolled by fancy marketing materials, do your own research and keep a clear head.

5. MBA rankings ignore fit

You need an MBA program that fits your learning, professional and personal needs. Your subjective valuation might not match up exactly with the best MBA ranking scores, and that’s okay. What you’re looking for is more information so that you can proceed in a grounded decision about your b-school plans.

6. Schools may be missing

The rankings from major publications only include so many schools and programs. The executive MBA (EMBA) program or part-time MBA program you’re interested in might not be commonly ranked. That doesn’t necessarily mean that pursuing admission to that program would be a bad idea.

Online MBA rankings include a wider range of programs, and may be of interest to non-traditional prospective MBA students!

7. Rankings are always changing

The world is always spinning, and the only constant in life changes. Rankings shift from year to year although there are certainly a group of MBA programs that consistently remain in the top program range with a majority of rankers.

How to use MBA rankings?

MBA program rankings give you the information on individual MBA programs that you need to be able to plug into the algebra equation that is your future, so you can come out with confidence in your correct answer to questions of what is MBA program, what is best for your needs.

You should compare MBA rankings from multiple publications and multiple years. Take the breakdown of each publication’s ranking system into account, as well, considering which MBA rankings are the best match for your values and needs.

Plan on using MBA rankings as guidelines rather than rules, and avoid getting dazzled by marketing numbers. You need the right MBA program for you, not the right program for every other applicant.

MBA ranking concerns and considerations

No standardized number can tell you where you should go next in your education, your career, or the life that’s got to be up to you, and there’s a lot more complex than can be boiled down with a single set of rankings.

Consider where your target schools fall in terms of rankings, but don’t let that be the only factor guiding your decision. Look at multiple publications, and keep each list’s methodology in mind when considering MBA program rankings. You might have major concerns, important to you, that ranking methodologies don’t account for at all. 

And, your application materials have to measure up to the level you’re targeting. Taking the Graduate Record Examination (GRE ®) might get you a better score than the GMAT (GRE vs GMAT), but if you don’t have the scores for top-10 programs, you could still find an MBA program that’s a great fit for where you are now.

(And, if you’re interested in re-testing for a higher GMAT score, The MBA Exchange offers some unique GMAT test prep resources that could boost your number by multiple percentiles.)

How can you find the best MBA program?

It takes a lot of thought to put together the final slate of the MBA programs you want to target for admission. In order to find the best MBA program for you, look at factors including ranking, cost, selectiveness, location, and more. Maybe keep your field broad and check out the plus sides of the top business schools in Europe as well as the United States.

Working with an expert MBA admissions consultant helps you more perfectly target your MBA applications to your strengths and goals. We stick with you through the MBA admissions process. To get started finding the right MBA program for you with a member of our consulting team, fill out The MBA Exchange’s custom profile evaluation form today.