Best B-Schools for Getting a Job

You’d never guess which U.S. business school was most successful at placing its graduates into jobs by the time they wore their caps and gowns to commencement last year. If what pops into your mind is Harvard, Stanford, Chicago or Columbia, forget it.

How about the University of Arkansas’ Walton School of Business? Last year, 82.6% of Walton’s graduating MBAs landed jobs, the highest placement rate of any business school in the U.S. Equally surprising is who came in second? Pace University’s Lubin School of Business in New York.

Of course, the last couple of years have been difficult ones for the Career Service staffs at business schools who help to match graduating students with job offers. The severe recession that hit two years ago wrecked havoc with MBA job placement. Even though the market improved for the Class of 2010, it was still no walk in the park. So how did Walton in Fayetteville, Arkansas, of all places, manage to get jobs for more than eight of ten of its MBAs by graduation?

Truth is, as a Walton spokesperson points out, the school only graduates 30 to 35 MBAs a year. So placing them into jobs may be a lot easier than it is finding jobs for the 910 graduates at Harvard or the 650 or so at Northwestern’s Kellogg School. And you also can’t ignore the much higher pay. At Arkansas, starting pay totalled $64,993, compared to Harvard’s $131,759. As it turns out, three months after commencement, grads at the elite schools more than catch up. At Stanford, for example, 92.4% landed jobs, compared to Arkansas’ 87%.

So if you put Arkansas and Pace aside as anomalies, the list of schools that did the best job of getting jobs for their graduates becomes much more familiar. Of the highly ranked, prestige schools, Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business comes in first with an 80% placement rate by graduation. Harvard Business School is not far behind with 78.6%. Among the other top elites are Chicago’s Booth and Stanford (both at 75.8%), MIT Sloan (75.6%), and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management (75.2%).

First, some advice on how to both read and interpret these numbers. Getting MBAs placed into last year’s job market was no cake walk. Only four U.S. schools in the top 25–Dartmouth, Washington University, Stanford and Harvard–were even able to get  90% or more of their graduates into jobs three months after graduation.

And even then, some grads accepted jobs they didn’t exactly prefer or want–but because there the “dream job” was unavailable, they had sign up for something to get a paycheck. Obviously, these numbers don’t reflect that dynamic.

Neither do they reflect the much smaller percentage of grads at each school who may hold out for something better, regardless of the job market. They have a job offer or two, but refuse to bite. Perhaps, they may be lucky enough to have a mom or dad who can finance a longer job search. So the fact that they’re unemployed–even three months after graduation–may be less a reflection on the school than it is on their determination to only accept a job they really want.

Most business schools are now only weeks away from graduating the Class of 2011 and all indications are that the market for MBAs is almost back to normal. So all these numbers should show significant improvement this year, particularly for MBAs with jobs at graduation.

SchoolEmployment at GraduationEmployment 3 Months LaterAverage Salary & Bonus
1. Arkansas (Walton)82.6%87.0%$64,993
2. Pace University80.3%85.9%$69,600
3. Dartmouth (Tuck)80.0%93.3%$128,013
4. Harvard Business School78.6%90.1%$131,759
5. Howard University76.3%89.5%$92,105
6. Chicago (Booth)75.8%88.6%$126,779
6. Stanford75.8%92.4%$131,949
8. MIT (Sloan)75.6%88.9%$125,905
9. Northwestern (Kellogg)75.2%86.5%$123,996
10. University of Cincinnati75.0%92.9%$62,484
10. Tulane (Freeman)75.0%93.3%$78,443
12. Iowa State74.1%96.3%$60,530
13. New York (Stern)73.7%86.4%$121,867
14. UPenn (Wharton)72.5%84.2%$132,579
15. Abilene Christian71.4%97.1%$46,600
16. Indiana (Kelley)70.1%83.8%$101,206
17. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)69.7%88.9%$106,066
18. Virginia (Darden)69.0%82.7%$119,278
19. Worcester Polytechnic68.4%76.3%$77,100
19. Iowa (Tippie)68.4%94.7%$92,802
19. Boston University68.4%86.0%$90,157
22. Oklahoma State (Spears)67.7%96.8%$53,330
22. Georgia Institute of Tech67.7%95.2%$92,282
24. California-Davis67.4%93.0%$96,295
25. Columbia Business School67.2%89.6%$123,486
26. Cornell (Johnson)66.8%85.9%$112,039
27. Boston College (Carroll)66.7%88.5%$91,282
28. California-Berkeley (Haas)64.9%87.0%$120,164
29. Texas-Austin (McCombs)64.8%89.7%$108,886
30. Rutgers64.6%87.5%$84,827

Source: Data reported by business schools to U.S. News & World Report for the Class of 2010.


  • Raj

    John,thanks for the list. If you can post international student placement stats for top b schools,it will be great.

    I am an international student,so while applying for schools,I am also looking at this important factor since US Work Authorization is hard to come by in these times.


  • Venki

    Rutgers has a great value and a great location, only competition for it is from Columbia and NYU bschools. NJ is one of the richest states in US along with CT a lot of small to mid size private/public firms which hire from best school in NJ Rutgers. I heard there is a new dean for the business school with a new second campus coming up. Also if you are also looking for pharma speciality NJ is the place to be Rutgers is where all the big pharma hires from.

  • paras

    why top 5 mba schools do not have 100% placement…??….does every student get offer??…whats the average offer per student in top b schools?

  • Kim

    I’m having this argument right now with someone who already has a job at one of the largest healthcare institutions in the country and is getting his MBA paid for at Wash U. Somehow this doesn’t or shouldn’t count in the stats.

    That makes these numbers skewed. I would say whoever mentioned people already having jobs and their employer paying for their continuing education and them having jobs when they get out makes a big difference especially for some of the more elite schools.

    When you have someone (note most of) who is looking to improve his or her lot in life and has to choose a school they may have to pay for, especially in this climate these stats may not be telling them the whole story.

    No matter what somebody should reach for the stars. Today I espouse uprooting family to go to school to follow the money and be where the jobs are. There is no point in wasting your time. If a state has low unemployment it’s going to be tough. Even if you have an MBA from Harvard, are you going to take a job where there are no jobs? You’ll have a pick of places of where you want to go and it should be someplace where overall commerce may be booming or your industry is so if you do lose your job or want another or want to move up, that industry is right there. Then again, with a great MBA it wouldn’t matter. You could always move anywhere assuming you are a good candidate as well.

    Do tell what are the reputations of the people who come out of those schools. While Harvard may be one of the top ones, they don’t rank high for character.

  • Vineesh,
    The simple answer is that not all business schools break out these numbers so the data isn’t available across the board.

  • Vineesh

    Hi John,

    Came across this website today and I have to say, I am really impressed with your posts. I have a question for you.

    Why dont any rankings show International student placement details or use that as a criteria? As an international student, that is the one important criteria for me that will help me choose a business school. I would like to know whether the school is a good choice for me as an international student. Or is it that jobs for international students is no more difficult than jobs for domestic students?

    Thanks and regards!

  • Reeta

    Assuming Duke didn’t report our placement percentages to US News, because I know they’re high enough to make this ranking, if not last year…definitely in the Class of 2011…

    Wanted to comment though on the cost of living calculations. While they have SOME merit, it’s erroneous to calculate changes in the cost of living based on the where the school is located unless the majority of students will be staying in that area. Maybe all 35 graduates from Arkansas will stay in Fayetteville, but I doubt it. I also know for a fact that all the graduates of Wharton, Harvard & Stanford are going to be staying in Philadelphia, Boston & Palo Alto. So while adjusting for COL is on the right track, there’s no way to effectively do that without knowing where these grads are actually going to be living. May be a H/W/S grad that ends up in Arkansas at that little company in Bentonville…

  • Where is william and mary here?

    Another great school (second to harvard in creation and no where to be seen in the so called ranking list( tuition as usual high with the best!)

  • Mike Johns

    John, please pay attention to Howard University. The school has been included in nearly every discussion and it still has no profile. The school recently received a Top 10 1-year ROI accolade from US News. This school is making tremendous strides. Also, I have to refute the notion that a small school has a job placement advantage. The problem with the larger schools is that the bulk of the students chase the same jobs/dreams (i-banking, consulting, brand management, etc.) We call is groupthink. I like schools with independent spirits ands students who are confidant with pursuing the non-traditional paths.

  • Jordan

    John can you clarify something?
    You show that Washington is part of the only 4 MBA programs that had a 90% or more employment rate 3 month out.
    That’s Washington University in St Louis correct?
    And, if so, why is it not on the list then?

  • b-school guy
  • b-school guy
  • Important questions to ask when evaluating the value of an MBA? How many of these MBAs went back to their old jobs after business school? Or took a new position after business school that was not a step up on the career ladder in terms of money or responsibility/exposure? Without pre-MBA job status and salary, these stats mean nothing. Remember, MBA students are usually pretty well-qualified already, particularly at the top business schools. Many of them already have high-paying jobs before entering an MBA program.

    A proper evaluation of MBA programs would include a pre-MBA vs. post-MBA snapshot. Business schools have not, to my knowledge, ever released such info. Perhaps someone has that data out there in internet land?

  • Bruce Vann

    You raise a good point about Tuck. I completely agree. The top four IMO are HBS, Stanford, Wharton and Tuck not necessarily in that order.

  • b-school guy

    Also, this was complied by payscale not too long ago:

    According to data compiled for Bloomberg BusinessWeek by PayScale, a Wharton MBA has 90 percent of the value of a Harvard MBA. University of Chicago, 76 percent. University of Iowa? Forty-eight percent.

    On average, graduates from top MBA programs—Bloomberg Businessweek’s Top 30 U.S. full-time programs and 15 second-tier B-schools—on average earned about $2.6 million each over the past 20 years, or $128,267 a year. But as with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Graduates of the top 10 programs earned an average of $3.1 million apiece, or $157,397 a year, compared with $2.4 million, or $119,944 a year, for the remaining 35 schools—a pay premium of more than 30 percent.

  • b-school guy

    Arthur, that’s a very short sighted approach. Think about the long term earning potential of an average individual that goes to Arkansas and earns $65K out of b-school versus an average individual at a top 5 school and starts at $130K.

    Estimated career pay for an HBS alum is $3.9M which is twice as high as most schools in the top 50. People don’t go to HBS/W,/ Stanford to earn $135K – they go for the long term ROI.

    If you want life satisfaction so early on – you probably don’t value earning potential. That’s okay but not what a majority of individuals at top 10 business school’s are after.

  • Arthur Dullsworthy

    Revised calc for Fayettville, Arkansas: $64,993 * 2.32 = $149,266.48

    The average HBS grad earns $131,759.
    The average Wharton grad earns $132,579.
    The average GSB grad earns $131,949.

    If you don’t adjust for COL, it’s as if you haven’t gone to b-school or you shouldn’t go. University of Arkansas has a decided advantage over all the fancy schools (13%>HBS, GSB and Wharton).

    Has anyone looked at the admissions profile at Arkansas? The average GPA is 3.35 and the GMAT range (25%-75%) is 560-650. Is that bad? NO! Life shouldn’t have to be so hard. Instead of the impossible dream, go to Arksansas and finish with a nearly ONE HUNDRED PERCENT certainty of finding employment worth 13% more than the average GSB, HBS or Wharton grad could hope for.

    John, this is the sweet spot. The meaning of life. Life as it should be.

  • UA Grad

    Just to note, the U of Arkansas is in Fayetteville, not Little Rock.

    Little Rock has a COL index of 97, above the state average of 90 and below the national average of, of course, 100. Fayetteville, in comparison, had a COL of 85 — significantly lower.

    That’s important to note because I’m sure a lot of the MBA graduates from the U of A stay in the area. Part of the advantage of being in NWA for business grads (and I was a liberal arts student, so I saw no such benefit) is that the area is home to the HQ of Wal-Mart (and in turn Sam’s Club as well as teams from the various companies wanting to supply those two companies), Tyson Foods and J.B. Hunt (trucking) just to name a few.

  • Jane

    Well done Aurthur!

    However, H/S/W is very much about the brand, and there’s nothing you nor I can do about it 🙁

  • Arthur Dullsworthy

    @John, I just looked in payscale to compare cost of living in Little Rock, Arkansas with COL in NYC. NYC exceeds LIttle Rock by … 126%! If I take the number in your first row, the average salary of a Walton School grad, and scale it up by 126%, I get $64,993 * 2.226 = $144,674.42

    Seriously, John, I’d like to know why people bother going to Harvard, Wharton and Stanford.

  • Arthur Dullsworthy

    Erica, most of those people who are “starting their own business” are unemployed. Same with those pathetic souls who are holding out for $400K/year PE jobs.

  • Darden 2013,

    Not to worry. You’re going to a superb business school. These numbers also were impacted by a still improving–but not entirely improved–job market due to the recession.

  • Erica Jayne

    How do graduates who start their own businesses post graduation factor in? Are they counted as ’employed’ even though its not traditional and they may not earn a salary?

  • Arthur Dullsworthy

    Two points:

    1) It looks to me that when people talk about adding other schools to the triumvirate of Harvard, Wharton and Stanford, they should include Tuck, not Chicago, Kellogg or MIT because of average salary + bonus in the vicinity of $130K and extremely high placement rate (+90%). In fact, Tuck may be the winner.

    2) Arkansas (Walton) proves that the sensible decision for most MBA aspirants from the state of Arkansas would be to go to the state U and to remain in state. Also, I’d like to see these average salaries adjusted for cost of living where graduates work. Incomes of Stanford and Wharton people, likely concentrated in the two most expensive places in the US, probably wouldn’t scale well after COL adjustment.

  • Darden 2013

    I’m going to Darden this fall and I was encouraged that we were somewhere near the middle of the pack. Then I sorted the list by employment three months after graduation. 🙁 We were second to last. Sheesh!!

  • Methodology Sucks,

    I wouldn’t say they are worthless. It’s hard data and it is helpful to see it. But as the story explains there are a lot of factors that impact these numbers. It’s important to know that in assessing the meaningfulness of the stats. This is true of all numbers, regardless of what they measure.

  • Methodology Sucks

    Job placement statistics are worthless. Yes, worthless. As you note, it doesn’t distinguish between people who can’t get jobs, and people who won’t settle for jobs they may have offers for. It also doesn’t distinguish between the quality of jobs, and whether people got jobs that they want (such as someone trying to break into Private Equity), which is different from my prior point. I’m pretty sure that 100% of the people at Stanford could have a job at graduation, if they cared to.

  • Todd,

    These are average salary and bonus numbers. All of them are reported by the business schools to U.S. News as the source note indicates.

  • Todd

    Where do the avg salary figures come from?