New MBA program and business school rankings are still about six months away, but all year long, curious students’ fingers dance across the keyboard, searching online for “MBA rankings”. Rankings are a good way for students to begin the search process, but it should be a first step, not an end point. The key to using rankings is to understand how different publications create their rankings, also known as their methodology.
“Each rankings has a different methodology; different sources of data, and they’re weighing different things and assigning different qualities,” said Linda Abraham of Accepted.com in an interview with OnlineMBA.com in March. “If an applicant goes and reviews those parameters and their values match up perfectly, then I think a student can rely on it very heavily. But however, more than 99.9% of applicants will not have the same criteria, therefore very poor basis for decision.
“Rankings are wonderful places to find broad data – if you want to know how you stack up as far as GPA, GMAT, level of work experience, rankings are a great place to go. Rankings are a great place to start your research, a terrible place to stop it.”
There are four highly recognized publications that rank MBA programs and business schools, and each has its own niche. Here’s a look at how each formulates its annual rankings:
U.S. News and World Report: U.S. News and World Report has ranked undergraduate and graduate colleges and universities for 25 years, but for the first time, the news magazine ranked online programs this past fall. The magazine broke the rankings into four categories. There are separate numerical indicators for the online master’s of business degree program rankings: admissions selectivity, faculty credentials and training, student engagement and accreditation, and student services and technology. U.S. News and World Report gathered information through surveys sent to 960 regionally accredited institutions.
For the traditional business school rankings, U.S. News and World Report considers only AACSB-accredited schools. From there, the magazine considers a quality assessment (weighted 40%, which consists of a peer assessment score and recruiter assessment score), placement success (weighted 35%, comprised of mean starting salary, employment rates) and student selectivity (weighted 25%, comprising of mean GMAT score and acceptance rate).
Financial Times: An English business newspaper with a global focus, the Financial Times, only looks at schools that have run a full-time MBA for at least four years and graduated their first class at least three years ago. Classes must have 30 or more students and European or U.S. schools must be accredited by international bodies such as AACSB International, Equis, or the Association of MBAs.
The Financial Times gets information from two main sources, schools and alumni, and analyzes three categories – alumni salaries and career development, the diversity and international reach of the schools and its MBA, and the research capabilities of each school. Salary is weighted at 40%. A couple of things to note – salary data from alumni in the non-profit and public service sectors are removed, as well as the highest and lowest salaries. For larger schools, salaries are weighted to reflect the difference in size. The rankings are published in January.
For students considering a career path in international business, or looking to study abroad, the Financial Times rankings may carry more weight.
Related: Distance Learning Up Worldwide, According to a AMBA Study | Database: Search, Sort, Compare Online MBA Programs | School Reports: Full Details on MBA Programs | Specialties: Research MBA Concentrations
Bloomberg Businessweek: Once every two years, in the fall, Bloomberg Businessweek announces its full-time MBA rankings. The business magazine examines schools by the age of the program, enrollment, test scores, acceptance rates, and number of minority/international students. A school must be accredited to be considered. There are three main sources of data that go into compiling the rankings: a student survey, a survey of corporate recruiters, and an intellectual capital rating. The student survey is weighted the most at 45%.
Poets and Quants: The Poets and Quants, a business school blog run by Forbes contributor, author and entrepreneur John A. Byrne, runs its rankings later in the school year and is based on curation. The P&Q list is a composite of the five major MBA rankings published by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The Economist, The Financial Times, Forbes, and U.S. News & World Report. The ranking takes into account a massive wealth of quantitative and qualitative data captured in the five major lists, from surveys of corporate recruiters, MBA graduates, deans and faculty publication records, to median GPA and GMAT scores of entering students as well as the salary and employment statistics of the latest graduating class. The P&Q rankings weight the U.S. News & World Report rankings slightly heavier than the other news and business magazines, because of the sheer amount of information it collects.
Coming Up Wednesday: Abraham shares more of her thoughts on rankings, what MBA students should be doing over the summer and how incoming students can best prepare for the fall semester.
–Alanna Stage, @AlannaTweets