MIT’s Sloan School vs. Harvard Business School

Both Harvard and MIT’s MBA programs boast a general management focus with a lot of additional options. The biggest single difference is in the wealth of offerings at Harvard. With a full-time faculty of 228, HBS offers an unusual breadth and diversity of courses. Harvard lists 130 electives in its course catalog, compared to about 90 at MIT. Sloan, however, offers its students two formal, completely optional tracks: finance and entrepreneurship & innovation. Essentially, it means you can load up on electives in either one of these two areas, often taking the courses with students who are committed to one of these two fields. The 50 or so MBAs in the innovation track do a required trip to Silicon Valley with faculty; the 70-plus students in the finance track do a similar trip to Wall Street. There are also a fair number of track-related activities, including alumni events organized by the school.

If MIT has any advantages over Harvard in terms of specific areas of study, it may well be in such niches as production/operations and information technology. In U.S. News & World Report’s latest survey of B-school deans and directors, MIT beats all schools in both production/operations and information systems where it has a number one rank. Harvard is ninth in production/operations and 15th in information systems. In finance, MIT places sixth and HBS is just behind it at seventh; in entrepreneurship, MIT is ranked third, and HBS fourth. In management, Harvard is first while MIT is 13th; in marketing, Harvard is fifth, while MIT is tied for 14th with the University of Virginia’s Darden School; in non-profit management, Harvard places fifth, while MIT doesn’t even merit a rank, and in international business, Harvard is fifth, while MIT is a distant 22nd. So other than production, MIT tends to trail Harvard or only slightly edges it out (a difference that we believe is statistically insignificant).

A case in point: entrepreneurship. On the surface, given MIT’s more tech focus, you might expect it to have a strong lead over Harvard. It doesn’t. Harvard, for example, has its own building devoted to the subject, the Arthur Rock Center, named after the HBS alum who invested in both Apple and Intel. Harvard boasts 35 faculty members who teach entrepreneurship, the second largest faculty group at the school. All first-year MBAs at Harvard have a required course in entrepreneurship and can choose from nearly two dozen second-year electives on the topic. At MIT, there are about 14 courses. Yet, given these stats, there is another counter-intuitive surprise here: As a percentage, only 3% to 4% of Harvard grads launch companies right out of school. At MIT, possibly because of the technical bent of many of its students, about 10% start entrepreneurial ventures out of Sloan. However, 15 years out of HBS, about half of its grads end up as entrepreneurs. Even more surprisingly, Harvard alums compose nearly 25% of the entire venture capital industry. Clearly, it’s a myth that Harvard is the breeding ground for just corporate chieftains.

Surprisingly, perhaps, the Sloan School discourages students who want to launch their own companies out of the gate. “The faculty advise them not to do it,” says Berechman. “They feel that students who go out and get some real world experience get a chance to build the skills base that they will need to be entrepreneurs later on. It’s really hard to launch right out of school.” That said, about 3% of Sloan grads start their own companies before or immediately after graduation.

On-Campus Recruiting: Whether you’re aiming for a top MBA job at McKinsey, Bain, BCG, or Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley or JPMorganChase, or Amazon, Apple, Cisco, Google, IBM, Intel or Microsoft, the Harvard- or MIT-punched MBA will easily get you in the door. MIT, being just down the street from HBS, attracts as many prestige MBA employers as Harvard. But your access to on-campus recruiters may be slightly better at MIT because you won’t have to compete with hundreds of students for conversations during recruiting events or for slots on an interview schedule. The range of prestige employers at both schools is simply dazzling (see below on who hires for a glimpse of major companies who hire the most Sloan grads).

Alumni Network: Harvard’s alumni network is extraordinary. There is no business school in the world that can boast as many high achieving graduates than Harvard. The most obvious differences between MIT and Harvard is the vast size and scope of the HBS network. Obviously, no school can beat Harvard in the number of grads who hold CEO jobs at the largest public corporations. But Harvard alums are not only in positions of authority around the globe: they are also extremely helpful to each other. Over the years, BusinessWeek surveys of MBA graduates show that Harvard, Stanford and Dartmouth boast the strongest alumni networks of any business schools in the world. With 41,378 living MBA alums, Harvard’s network is larger, more diverse, and more global. The critical mass of that network cannot be overestimated. MIT boasts 25,000 Sloan alums, a number that includes grads of every kind from the Sloan School so it is not directly comparable to the Harvard MBA number. MIT has 75 alumni association clubs around the world.


In every major ranking, including our own, Harvard predictably performs better than MIT.  Harvard is ranked number one by us as well as by U.S. News and World Report, number two by BusinessWeek and number three by Forbes and the Financial Times. The P&Q rank–which factors into consideration all the major rankings weighted by their individual authority–puts Harvard at number one and MIT at number eight, just behind the Kellogg School of Management. The lowest positions awarded MIT by major media brands is The Economist’s ranking of 19th and Forbes’ ranking of 14th, the latter solely on the basis of the return-on-investment grads have achieved after five years (Stanford is first). That makes the gap between MIT and Harvard on these two surveys considerable: HBS has a 14-place lead over MIT in The Economist ranking and an 11-place lead in the Forbes survey. Even BusinessWeek, where one would think MIT would have some advantage in student and recruiter satisfaction, has Harvard ahead by seven places over MIT. MIT’s highest ranking comes from U.S. News & World Report which believes that Sloan is the third best business school in the U.S. These are the up-to-date rankings from each ranking organization.

MBA Rankings MIT Harvard
Poets&Quants 8 1
BusinessWeek 9 2
Forbes 14 3
U.S. News & World Report 3 1
Financial Times 8 3
The Economist 19 5


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  • GoldmanBoy

    It’s like comparing a C-Class Mercedes Benz to a Bugatti Veyron as far as the MBA world is concerned. Bugatti is HBS.

  • George Bush

    What the hell where you thinking Harvard? The worlds biggest idiot responsible for the mess in middle east which includes ISIS as your most famous alumni?!?

  • Bog

    Regarding networking, I agree! However, history
    seems to disagree with you regarding who is hiring who… MIT produces entrepeneurs, HBS produces CEOs.

  • CJ

    I noticed that, too. When I hear “entrepeneurial venture” I think “fancy word for company”. But maybe this is not the case.

  • Excellent article on MIT vs. Harvard comparison. I was lucky to attend both, getting my Masters at MIT and my doctorate at HBS. Having been at both schools almost seven years ( five for the doctorate) I can validate most of what the article mentions. Some additional considerations:
    • The teaching at both schools is simply outstanding, HBS of course, mastering the case method and MIT having excellent lecturers. Many Harvard doctoral students (myself included) preferred to take some required non-case courses at MIT.
    • The MIT culture is much more casual and open.For example, I was allowed to take graduate economics and political science courses as electives in the second year. Harvard cannot be beat in facilities and networking.
    • In some fields at times MIT has dominated Harvard. In Finance for example, at one point MIT had several future Nobel Prize Winners and superstars doing work in Finance ( Merton, Samuelson, Scholes, Modigliani, Black, Myers). Its only real competition at the time in Finance was Chicago. Most of what is taught in the field now was developed at MIT.
    In summary, you cannot go wrong with these two schools!!

  • Alex

    I like the statement from MIT that they don’t want fresh grads to rush out and start companies. I entirely agree having done that mistake. So the numbers some times don’t tell a full story. I think MIT should not dilute themselves just to get the stats up and so should HBS.

  • Htun Naing

    Hello John,
    I want to know about Harvard’s admitted percent of international students. Do international students compete with US students for seats or is there any quota for international students? Thanks for wonderful article MIT vs Harvard.

  • Bruce Vann

    Can’t you do that without a degree?

  • kindergartenteacher

    Oh my I wish I had a degree from either so that I could poke fun at the intelligence of either Sloanies or HBS folk in the future, and do it with a straight face

  • Ken

    To Spencer Maxwell. I would much rather have access to an “only-HBS” alumni network rather than to a Berkeley-MIT-Caltech “full-network”. Those HBS alumni will help you get into VC/PE, then help you establish your own company and once you are there you can eventually hire a bunch of “Sloanies” to do the grunt work nobody wants to do.

  • Jon

    Can we reconcile the apparent discrepancy between those two statements?
    “At MIT, possibly because of the technical bent of many of its students, about 10% start entrepreneurial ventures out of Sloan.”
    “about 3% of Sloan grads start their own companies before or immediately after graduation.”

  • Brentwood

    To Spencer Maxwell… HBS grads do have access to the entire Harvard alumni… you posted incorrect info.

    We use the general Harvard alumni website in addition to the HBS alumni website.

  • amitabishnoi

    very good comparative study of both. it gives a very clear picture of colleges with their plus and minus points ………….

  • Kumar

    Very nice article on MIT Vs Harvard. Provides a good perspective into their 2-year programs. Are there any rankings for business schools that offer a 1-year full-time program?.

  • Spencer Maxwell

    on alumni networks

    mit grads have access to the entire mit database of alums

    hbs grads only have access to the business schools alums

  • I graduated from Sloan in 2004, and can attest that the core, or the first semester there, is as “militarily” focused as can be–when I worked at the Cap Group (i.e., in investment management) in California over the summer after my first year at Sloan, I actually had to explain the minutiae of cash flow projections and analyses for a fellow Harvard MBA who also was doing her summer internship at this company with me, and who had been a 3-year analyst at Morgan Stanley. The bottom line is that Sloan is extremely challenging from a technical standpoint, independent of your previous academic background (I had an MIT Masters of Engineering degree before attending Sloan), and the school ensures that in order to graduate from it, you must be grounded in the fundamentals of business boot camp–I would say more so than any other of the top B-schools. Basically all Sloanies, without exception, are extremely well versed with numbers as well as with concepts and qualitative issues. When Sloan lets a “poet” in, the school makes sure that his or her quantitative GMAT score is very high, so that this person will be well adjusted in Sloan’s quantitative environment; I also was surprised to find out that many of my Sloan cohorts had Master’s degrees (as in my case) and even PhD’s, primarily from top schools.

  • MIT is a sensational school. I can understand why you’d want to know a lot more. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing a lot more information on all the top schools, including in-depth profiles of individual schools such as MIT.

  • Good Analysis…Want to know more,more and more about MIT as I’m from Engineering background and I always consider MIT as my ‘Theater of Dreams’.

  • s g

    Very useful article. Most articles about B-schools (especially the ones published by the schools themselves) are full of words like “innovative”, “ethics”, “leadership”, and “transformative”. In other words, you have no idea what a school is going to be like. This article has enough detail (grading policies, class size, etc) to let me know what Harvard or MIT would really be like.

    Looking forward to more articles like this one.

  • J Asalde

    Incredible article. Congratulations!

  • Varun

    Amazing analysis and loads of interesting information about the schools. Nice work here.