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Chicago Booth Lands Top Honors on Forbes Best U.S. Business School Ranking

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For the first time in Forbes’ history of ranking U.S. business schools, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business took the number one spot.

Booth’s meteoric rise followed the same path as Wharton did in the last ranking—both jumped from 7th to 1st in their respective rankings, and Wharton was also new to the leading position.  Forbes’ biennial ranking focuses primarily on return on investment for MBA graduates.  The organization surveyed more than 100 schools and 17,500 alumni from the Class of 2014 regarding their pre- and post-MBA compensation, career choice, and location. Responses received from 25 percent of those alumni determined schools’ ranks in terms of five-year MBA gain, which Forbes defines as “the net cumulative amount the typical alumni would have earned after five years by getting their M.B.A. versus staying in their pre-M.B.A. career.”  They did exclude programs if their response rate was under 15%, or if graduates actually lost money after five years. (In 2017, there were 100 schools in the ranking; this year, there are only 61.)

Booth landed top honors with a $94,400 five-year MBA gain, coming in $3,600 above the next highest school, Stanford GSB. While Stanford GSB’s Class of 2014 grads reported the highest total compensation of any other school—$250,000 five years post-MBA—the high cost of living in the Bay Area affected their net gains.  Meanwhile, Chicago Booth’s Class of 2014 reported reaching an annual salary of $245,000.  Two thirds of the Booth class had entered the lucrative fields of finance or consulting, with McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Accenture and Amazon scooping up most graduates.

Northwestern Kellogg moved up a spot from 4th to 3rd this year, reporting a five-year gain of $89,600 from the Class of 2014.  Harvard Business School (HBS) came in fourth with a five-year gain of $86,500. In the last biennial ranking, HBS had landed in third. Holding HBS back, historically, has been the school’s notoriously expensive tuition and fees, which reached $161,000 for the Class of 2020. Wharton slipped four spots and rounded out the top five, as the Class of 2014 graduates saw $84,700 in return on their investment.

Forbes 2019 top 10 U.S. business schools ranked by five-year MBA gain:

  1. University of Chicago Booth School of Business
  2. Stanford Graduate School of Business
  3. Northwestern Kellogg School of Management
  4. Harvard Business School
  5. University of Pennsylvania Wharton
  6. Dartmouth Tuck School of Business
  7. Columbia Business School
  8. MIT Sloan School of Management
  9. Cornell University Johnson Graduate School of Management
  10. University of Michigan Ross School of Business

Overall, the average five-year gain at the ranked U.S. schools is $54,500.

Clear Admit’s Alex Brown commented, “Congratulations to Booth for topping the ranking for the first time. While ROI as a measure for which are the best business schools does appear to be a very logical one and well understood by the marketplace of MBA aspirants, I’d caution that this measure does favor those programs that target the higher earning careers of finance, consulting, and now increasingly, tech. The measure penalizes programs that place more of their students in sectors where remuneration is not as attractive—non-profit and social impact come to mind. That said, the top ten US programs listed do include all the M7 programs, which are traditionally considered among the very best in the U.S.”

For the Seventh Time, London Business School Leads the International Programs

Forbes also released a separate ranking of international business schools, compiled using the same methodology to measure ROI. Among international two-year MBA programs, London Business School (LBS) came out at number one, with alumni of its Class of 2014 realizing a five-year gain of $93,100, the highest of any two-year program in the world, but a big drop from its $119,100 ROI in 2017.

LBS has held the top spot in the Forbes ranking seven consecutive times out of the ranking’s 11 publications. The median salary for the LBS Class of 2014 when it entered was $65,000, and total compensation five years out was $145,000. HEC Paris followed at No. 2, with a five-year gain of $79,800. Next up was IESE, with a five-year gain of $71,600.  China’s CEIBS took fourth (five-year gain, $70,900), and Spain’s ESADE Business School rounded out the top five (five-year gain, $60,000).

Leading the way among international one-year MBA programs was Switzerland’s IMD, with a whopping five-year gain of $168,900. Of course, the opportunity cost associated with attending a one-year program is significantly lower than a two-year program given that tuition is less and lost income is also minimized by less time out of the workforce. Second among international one-year programs was France’s INSEAD, with a five-year gain of $154,700, followed by Cambridge University’s Judge Business School (five-year gain, $153,000), and Italy’s SDA Bocconi, with a five-year gain of $133,500.  Oxford University’s Saïd Business School rounded out the top five with gains of $127,300.

As always, those of us here at Clear Admit encourage prospective applicants to use rankings as just one of many resources when trying to determine the right business school to meet their individual needs and goals.

For the Forbes 2019 ranking of U.S. business school programs, click here.

For the Forbes ranking of international two-year business school programs, click here.

For the Forbes 2019 ranking of international one-year business school programs, click here.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.