Forbes’ 2009 MBA Ranking

by John A. Byrne on

This is the sixth biennial list compiled by Forbes based on a simple but important formula: the return on investment graduates have achieved after five years. The Forbes study—based on a survey of 4,080 responding alums from 103 schools–shows that alumni of the top five MBA programs typically earn more than $200,000 five years out of school.  Stanford topped the latest Forbes ranking because the median salary of an MBA from the class of 2004 was $225,000, highest among all U.S. rivals. Forbes figures that the typical Stanford student graduating in 2004 paid $235,000 for the MBA, a sum including two years of forgone salary (at Stanford the average MBA had a median salary of $82,000 before entering school).

Forbes ranks Stanford's Graduate School of Business number one in return-on-investment.

Pro: It’s simple and elegant and doesn’t pretend to measure the quality of the MBA experience or the actual education you receive. It’s all about dollars and cents, measuring the worth of a degree five years after graduation.

Con: Forbes ranking is U.S.-centric, though Forbes does separate lists of non-U.S. institutions that award MBAs in one year and in two-year programs. The biggest problem is that the ranking only measures compensation versus the cost of getting the MBA. Return on investment, while interesting and important, is hardly a measure of the quality of the education or the experience you’ll have. Forbes also gets this data from alums so there could also be sampling bias (alums who are not making much money would probably be less likely to return the survey than those who are doing well). And because alums know that their answers result in an immediate ranking, they may want to inflate their compensation to improve the rank of their school.

Forbes Rank & School P&Q BW U.S. News FT Economist
1.  Stanford School of Business 2 6 1 4 7
2.  Dartmouth College (Tuck) 5 12 7 14 6
3.  Harvard Business School 1 2 1 3 5
4.  Chicago (Booth) 3 1 5 9 4
5.  Pennsylvania (Wharton) 4 4 5 2 9
6.  Columbia Business School 6 7 9 6 20
7.  Cornell (Johnson) 14 11 18 36 32
8.  Northwestern (Kellogg) 7 3 4 22 15
9.  Univ of Virginia (Darden) 13 16 13 31 24
10. Yale School of Management 15 24 11 16 27
11. Univ. of Texas-Austin 19 21 16 52 49
12. California-Berkeley (Haas) 9 10 7 28 3
13. Duke (Fuqua) 11 8 14 20 28
14. MIT (Sloan) 8 9 3 8 19
15. North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler) 18 17 21 46 39
16. Brigham Young (Marriott) 22 22 33 83 NR
17. New York University (Stern) 10 13 9 13 13
18. Michigan (Ross) 12 5 12 28 25
19. UCLA (Anderson) 16 14 15 33 50
20. University of Iowa (Tippie) 33 ST 42 64 61
21. Michigan State (Broad) 35 ST 46 65 NR
22. Emory (Goizueta) 21 23 27 34 52
23. Carnegie Mellon 17 19 16 34 33
24. Texas A&M (Mays) 37 NR 33 54 NR
25. Indiana-Bloomington (Kelley) 20 15 23 57 46
26. Univ. of Minnesota (Carlson) 31 ST 24 75 62
27. Univ. of Connecticut (Storrs) 38 ST 79 NR NR
28. Penn State Univ. (Smeal) 43 NR 48 NR 58
29. Maryland-College Park (Smith) 27 26 45 43 51
30. Vanderbilt (Owen) 30 30 36 57 64
31. Georgetown (McDonough) 24 ST 24 38 48
32. Southern California (Marshall) 23 25 20 57 36
33. Southern Methodist (Cox) 29 18 49 96 88
34. Wake Forest (Babcock) 45 NR 46 NR 77
35. Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison 39 NR 27 67 54
36. Rollins College (Crummer) NR NR NR NR NR
37. Univ. of Rochester (Simon) 36 ST 27 48 NR
38. Notre Dame (Mendoza) 25 20 31 71 34
39. Ohio State (Fisher) 34 ST 21 67 45
40. Univ. of Washington (Foster) 28 27 33 78 31
41. Washington Univ. (Olin) 26 28 19 50 65
42. Univ. of Tennessee-Knoxville NR NR NR NR NR
43. Univ. of Miami-Coral Gables NR NR 89 83 NR
44. Georgia Institute of Technology 32 29 26 NR NR
45. Purdue (Krannert) 41 ST 36 54 NR
46. Boston College (Carroll) 47 NR 39 47 NR
47. Rice University (Jones) 46 NR 39 44 77
48. SUNY-Buffalo NR NR 70 NR NR
49. William & Mary (Mason) NR NR 75 NR NR
50. Univ. of Georgia (Terry) NR NR 59 NR NR

.

Footnotes:

NR means not rated by the publication.

ST means “second tier,” the rating given to 15 schools by BusinessWeek after it ranks the top 30.

Source: Forbes, 2009 ranking

  • Peter Githinji

    Why are European and Asian schools not in the ranking?

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Forbes does a separate ranking for non-U.S. schools. If you’d like to see where some of those schools stand, you can check out our list of the best schools outside the U.S. which also tells you where various surveys placed these MBA programs. http://bit.ly/arUQyY

  • Bruce Vann

    It’s crazy to me that Johnson < Darden in this ranking. I guess saying that you have an Ivy league MBA does help in your return on investment.

  • Arthur Featherstonehaugh Dullsworthy

    Dowagers rating debutantes at a cotillion.

    More seriously, I question the accuracy of self-reported numbers and I question whether there was a sufficient response to produce a representative picture of “returns.”

  • Bruce Vann

    Well, just like in real life you make the best decision that you can with the info that you have. We see through foggy glass on this one.

  • Arthur Featherstonehaugh Dullsworthy

    “Through a glass darkly”?

    My point is, Bruce, that you don’t need no stinkin’ survey in Forbes to tell you that Darden is preferred to Johnson.

Partner Sites: C-Change Media | Poets & Quants for Execs | Tipping the Scales | Poets & Quants for Undergrads