2013 Forbes’ MBA Ranking

Graduate School of Business Knight Management Center - Stanford University

Stanford GSB Knight Management Center

For only the second time in 14 years, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business nudged out Harvard Business School and other rivals to become Forbes’ highest ranked business school. The biennial Forbes MBA ranking, published this morning (Oct. 9), shows the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business in second place, with Harvard dropping to third from first in 2011.

Wharton, in fourth place this year, again trails Chicago Booth, which is ahead of Wharton in the Forbes ranking for the third consecutive time. The last Forbes survey in which Wharton topped Chicago was 2007 when Wharton was fifth and Booth was seventh. Rounding out this year’s top five is No. 5 Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, up two spots from 2011. Kellogg’s Top Five placement is its best showing ever in Forbes’ ranking which for many years placed the school ninth or tenth.

Forbes said the median salary today for a Stanford MBA in the Class of 2008–a group of students who graduated just months before the Great Recession hit–is a chart topping $221,000 a year. Those graduates entered the MBA program at Stanford in 2006 with pre-MBA salaries of $80,000. Median salary for both Harvard Business School and Wharton MBAs is just a bit lower at $205,000, while pre-MBA pay was also $80,000. And at No. 2 Chicago Booth, the median salary is $200,000, though pre-MBA pay for Boothies was $76,000.

In the eight different versions of Forbes’ business school rankings since 2000, Harvard Business School has topped the return-on-investment list four times (1999, 2001, 2003, 2011), Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business did it twice (2005 and 2007), and Stanford captured the ROI crown twice, in 2009 and this year.

Forbes, which ranks international schools separately by one-year and two-year MBA programs, reported that IMD again edged out INSEAD in the one-year category. Those two schools were followed by No. 3 SDA Bocconi in Italy, No. 4 IE Business School in Spain, and No. 5 Oxford in Britain. London Business School was another repeat winner, taking first place again in the two-year international category, with the National University of Singapore second (see IMD Named Top International Business School).


Of the five most influential MBA rankings in the world, Forbes is the only one to base its entire methodology on one simple measure: return on investment. The magazine surveys alumni five years out of school and asks them what they’re currently making on the job.  Forbes then compares alumni income at each school to MBAs’ opportunity costs–two years of foregone compensation, tuition and required fees. It calculates a payback period for the degree to earn out.

But the actual ranking is based on the net cumulative amount alums of a school have earned after five years by getting their MBA degrees versus staying in their pre-MBA careers. The magazine adjusts the median five-year MBA gain for cost of living expenses and discounts gains using a rate tied to money market yields. It also reduces tuition to account for students who pay in-state rates and for the non-repayable financial aid that schools dole out. This year Forbes said it surveyed roughly 17,00 alumni from 100 schools. About 27% of the alums responded.

Once all those numbers are crunched by Forbes, it’s clear that a top MBA is well worth the investment. “Students at a our top 10 U.S. schools entered their programs in the fall of 2006 with an average salary of $72,000,” said Forbes. “Five years after getting their degrees, they were banking $185,000 on average. Fewer investment banking jobs result in slower paybacks on the b-school investment, but the degree stills pay off at the best schools.”

  • Becca

    Thank you John!

  • JohnAByrne

    Not really sure about that other than to say it’s the usual suspects. I imagine a school can always approach Forbes and ask to be considered.

  • Becca

    How do they decide which schools to survey? Does the graduating class need to be a certain size?

  • Dips

    Watch out for European schools like INSEAD / LBS as top 1,2 respectively, I will rank INSEAD over LSB anytime ( remember it’s not just for finance but generally) INSEAD is indeed the business school for the world; European schools are not sleeping!

  • alfafa

    It’s not just the GMAT score that go into rankings. Yale has a lot of focus on Non-profit, a field that isn’t as lucrative as consulting or investment backing are. Since the post-MBA salaries are an integral component of ranking methodologies, that’s where Yale gets the blow. But few people know about how generous Yale is in offering scholarships. They also have a loan forgiveness program if you choose to work for a non-profit organization after MBA.

    Furthermore, Yale’s small student body (which I believe is a plus because you get to form very strong bonds with your classmates) is also bit of a disadvantage.

  • valeed

    Yale is not a failure story. It’s just that Yale used to give out Masters in Public Policy Management (MPPM) degree at that time, not MBA. They only started handing out MBA degrees in around 2002-ish. And considering such a short time span, I believe Yale has done really well. And now, with their amazing new Dean, Nobel Prize winning professors, and a remarkable new campus that opening in Jan 2014, I am sure their rankings will take Yale to top 10. (that’s where they truly deserve to be.)

  • AS10

    It has got a lot of replies. See Linkedin. It’s just that generally people prefer to talk about cat videos over Forbes ranking.

  • Elf

    In the real world, ROI matters. You can factor in other parameters to make yourself feel good, but people don’t try for HBS, GSB or Booth just for the brand. They know that their 6-figure salary is a given once they graduate. Now, brand, pay package and network have been interwoven.

  • Roshan

    Hi,Why Thunderbird is not on the list. It’s ranked 1 for international business. Very strange.

  • paula

    That was before. It is changing now, oxford very close to overcome insead for 2nd place. LBS of course the best..

  • Bill P

    only 2 non us schools to consider are london business school and INSEAD. LBS definitely trumps INSEAD. I am for sure biased as I am an HBS grad working at a london PE firm…

  • Kate

    Of course I do not discount the ROIs of schools below rank 3.

  • Kate

    So Stanford, Booth and Harvard – Get in any of these and your life’s made!

  • FStratford

    I am less a fan of Harvard than Stanford as the unsullied business school. At Stanford, you have great living conditions, you have great alimni network, you have smart students, you have Silicon Valley companies to work and network with everyday, and yeah the teaching is not as good as some but hey, you cant win em all!

  • horns

    blount, ziegler, and smith just be killin it

  • horns

    some probably do, but for the most part they don’t. Its not the same comparison. harvard is in its own world and stanford is there too slightly. that’s like comparing dartmouth or MIT to kellogg in the US….Some probably go to dartmouth b/c its an ivy or MIT because its super famous/prestigious and id bet more people on the other side of the world have heard of them than northwestern or kellogg…yet kellogg seems to top them both in most leading rankings each year…

    i think my point is that for the most part, these swaps and switches don’t occur at the HBS Stanford level…you think Booth has a better education and you got into HBS…great 9/10 go to HBS b/c its a globally recognized brand (inside and outside of business communities) that is in its own world…Stanford and wharton are guests in that world.

  • BlueDevil

    whats wrong with this logic?!

  • Ezekiel

    Eff that! Sort the list by 2012 salary. There’s your real top ten. After that payback period ends (most are about the same), everyone making less than you has some serious catching up to do.

  • purpri

    I would opine that the 8 schools you mention are unlike the rest (there may be a few others you could add and Haas may not fit but we are splitting hairs). Those top top MBA’s have more national reach and therefor I excluded them from my previous thought process in terms of regional cost of living/salaries impacting their students starting comp. I probably should have mentioned that. I think ROI is ok but I think access to elite jobs (IB, MBB, VC/PE) is what matters despite what you come into the program making. Many of the schools that have higher ROI ranking compared to their general rank range do not provide access to the elite (e.g. some of those big ten schools including even indiana, byu etc.) jobs. I’d rather go to NYU, GTOWN or Yale and land that elite job regardless of if it cost me more. I’m paying for the access to potential.

    I also agree on your p&q rank point. I personally feel most confident in their ranking due to that smoothing effect.

  • asdf

    H/S will always be on their level, the rest of top 10 is just sharing 3rd

  • JohnAByrne

    Early November. Want to put a little space between the Forbes ranking and our composite list.

  • watchDOG

    It is a bit surprising this time the forbes ranking didn’t get that much of reactions as usual, not that much of comments or spread in other social media? It looks like the “big boys” aren’t so amused by the results 🙂

  • P&Qreader

    John, the list is now complete, when will the new P&Q ranking be released?

  • avivalasvegas

    oh wow!

  • PlayandPlay

    if they did it before Duke, Duke do it better. Remember, Toyota came decades after many other companies in car making 😉

  • avivalasvegas

    There are higher ranked programs that have been doing that for decades. Tuck and Kellogg for instance. They pioneered what you claim Duke is emulating.

  • CreepCat

    Purpri, nice points, but, they may or may not have actual significance/impact on the data. Because conversely, there are plenty of urban/major metro area schools that fared well – really well, as a matter of fact. Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, Wharton, MIT, Haas, and Kellogg as examples – where pre-MBA salaries may have been higher than at UNC, Duke, Cornell Johnson, Dartmouth Tuck, or Michigan Ross, which are generally more rural schools, that also performed very well. At the end of the day ROI is a pure-play comparison that I think is superior and gives all schools a shot at performing well, by the performance of their graduates. But it is one that I admit is NOT perfect, but it is close in my mind. USN, BW and others all have merit too, but ROI is key to me. The P&Q rankings are great because they smooth out the variances, which I like. USN by itself, is very useful, but I am not picking an MBA program because Billy or Paul earned 10 or 15 points more on their GMATs over at xyz school. Ultimately, I want to pick an MBA because Billy or Paul earned a superior rate of return and salary.

  • purpru

    100% spot on

  • purpri

    I think we all need to understand that a large component of this has to do with the salaries of students coming into the program. Just a quick look at this and I notice 3 schools that underperform in ROI compared to their typical rank level – NYU, Yale and Gtown. The common theme I see here is that we have a school in close proximity to major metropolitan area where salaries are inflated compared to other areas of the country due to cost of living. Because of this tilt on the students in these schools, you will see typically higher preMBA starting salaries. While this happens to many schools that reside in areas of $$$ cost of living, the 3 schools mentioned don’t bring in the same salaries of their perceived peer groups. NYU has many locals with already good salaries going back into similar industries (finance) with relatively lower increases. A 28 year old middle office wall st guy makes 80 base and comes out of NYU with a 100 base in IB. Georgetown pulls mostly from ny and dc which again drives up those pre mba numbers. Yale closely resembles georgetown in pulling applicants from multiple major cities and I would add that both these schools have either a social or government twist to their post mba careers. On the contrary, many will point out UNC success in this ranking. Well generally speaking, the southeast corridor of the US has incredibly low cost of living which of course impacts the pre mba salaries. UNC (Duke also follows this thought) has relatively good placement into finance and consulting gigs outside of the southeast. I think you all see where I’m going with this.

    Ultimately, you can make some form of this argument really across most of the ROI vs. usual rank variances. I don’t think its a fair way to rank schools quality but provides a decent point of reference as long as users understand the flaws.

  • westCost

    UC Davis is just one of many UC business schools that did well. I hope this site pay more attention to them.

  • avivalasvegas

    Looks like Tuck and Columbia fell and Kellogg shot up. Very surprising to me – I’m not sure whats happening at Kellogg that’s leading to this slide reversal but I’m very curious.

  • Elliott Castillo

    Yea, but the Forbes data set didn’t properly factor in VATs or higher cost of living that wipes out the couple of thousand extras you make. I hate to point the obvious, but the tax rate in some of those countries are obscenely high (France, Britain). Also lets not forget the currency issue. Euro and GBP are “worth” more then the dollar so if the salary is being presented as US equivalent, it could inflate the number…just my two cents…

  • Adam_Smith

    What Duke does incredibly well (this is from my own experience working with Fuqua grads) is grooming students to be team players and work in a collaborative environment. Almost all the Fuqua grads I’ve met have been nice, friendly people. The kind of people you find yourself rooting for.

  • poolandpull

    and btw, the world is not 6.5 billion anymore, it is 7.0 billion now and increasing ! update your system please 😉

  • Cantabrigian

    Yale is a failure story because they started almost in the same time with Duke Fuqua (1976 and 1970). Why duke did it and clearly became a core school for MBA and broke into top 10 while yale didn’t?!, as for Oxbridge, yes, the brand alone will not help but combine it with great performance then you will get an ultra elite programme. Sorbonne is totally different because it is a “francophone” university while the MBA is basically an english product. even schools in non-english countries teach in english language because it is the language of the business. I’d argue about say Princeton for example, yes, if they launch an aMBA programme tomorrow, I strongly believe that will become an ultra elite in e very short time.

  • Orange1

    Actually Duke was in the top ten of USN for a while until dropping out in 2004. But I know there are a lot of fans on here. And as a big lacrosse fan, respect the entire unviersity on many levels!

  • Orange1

    So using your logic, if the Sorbonne opened a business school, it would probably join the ultra elite also? Then why has Yale not risen on the US side? The way I look at it, in a world of 6.5 billion people, there should be enough professors and students to stock 30 really good business schools.

  • Norbert Weiner

    Sorry, but NYU Stern is not the 23rd rank B school in the country and Yale is not 18th. I would think both went down because of issues in the financial industry. And UNC higher than Haas? Please. No matter how you slice it, US News, for all its flaws, is the closest representation to what most people actually think the ranking should be.

  • Orange 1

    Creep, respect your opinion, but using one data point, like ROI seems risky as it is easier to manipulate . US News also looks at salaries, among other things (what I can never understand is how USN and BW both poll recruiters yet come up with different results for the same metric).
    Anyway, a lot of NYU Stern and Yale students probably are from high cost-of-living/salary areas before they get there so that would put their ROI ranking at a disadvantage while a place like Brigham Young (low cost-of-living) would have an advantage. The interesting thing is oncve you get out of top five or seven , different ratings for the next seven or eight schools bounce around all over the place.

  • Chipmunk123

    Stern will perform more strongly next time, it is a great school. Remember this ranking measures a 5 year time frame, and NYC and finance got tagged, so no surprise that NYU felt it this round. However, I do believe as others have mentioned, that Yale’s focus on GMAT/GPA is not helping it’s case. All top 20 business schools have great students, and so higher GMAT scores will not elevatethe school. What elevates a school is the success of its graduates in the business community – jobs and salary performance. For this reason, I agree with CreepCat that USN is not nearly as useful, as Forbes in truly measuring business school performance. I want a great job and pay. That has far more value than pointing to USN and telling people that my GPA and/or GMAT is a bit higher.

  • deferent

    Duke did it 🙂

  • ghalier

    true, and that explain why most of harvard mba students are 26 or less !!

  • bundlemore

    OK, you are right and this is exactly the problem with using only numbers to judge things. The mba (and many things that could be ranked) should not merely rely on numbers. This message must be read by Yale admission staff 🙂

  • CreepCat

    Valid points, but I really do NOT care what people actually think a ranking should be, I care about the ROI on the investment, which is the ultimate and real measure of MBA value and prestige IMO.
    So, while I appreciate USN as valuable and important, it is not what I view to be the most credible. It is kind of a College Confidential resource where folks can compare and claim superiority based uppon a 5-15 point GMAT spread. Kind of silly when ROI can truthfully answer the question.

  • Orange1

    Take a look at the rankings over the last 20 or even 10-12 years. No school has broken the top 10 except for Haas. And in 20 years, if any of us even care about this, it will just be shuffling at the top.

  • Orange1

    Sorry, but NYU Stern is not the 23rd rank B school in the country and Yale is not 18th. I would think both went down because of issues in the financial industry. And UNC higher than Haas? Please. No matter how you slice it, US News, for all its flaws, is the closest representation to what most people actually think the ranking should be.

  • RankingsGuru

    I wouldn’t say that, but I am saying that, based on Forbes data, NUS has a higher 5-year MBA gain in US$ than Harvard.

  • Cantabrigian

    First, I must declare that I am a big fan of Oxbridge. Second, we all know that Oxford and Cambridge are a newcomer to the MBA world. Nevertheless, I see them doing extremely well in a very short time compared to the other well-established and mature programmes. In less than 20 years, both universities succeeded to place themselves as major and top MBA provider worldwide. When MBA specialists mention the top MBA programmes worldwide, they most likely won’t be missing Oxford or Cambridge. So, I strongly believe that both programmes will be competing to be among the ultra elite in ten years or so, giving that they have something very special and hard to find somewhere else, the golden brand and the belong to two of the world’s most prestigious academic institutions. I see Oxbridge as the main threat for IMD, London, and Insead in the near future. and for me, I’d choose Oxbridge over any other programmes except Harvard and Stanford.

  • PAPPAJohnz

    based on this top 10 you have just produced, you should seriously consider applying to Economist MBA ranking unit. they will love to have you there…

  • bundlemore

    are you saying that NUS is better than harvard worldwide?

  • RankingsGuru

    The US schools have done well this year. One has even made it into the real top ten, which you get when you combine the lists. Using Forbes own data, the top ten is:

    1) IMD
    2) INSEAD
    3) Bocconi
    4) LBS (top 2 year programme)
    5) IE
    6) Oxford
    7) Warwick
    8) Stanford (top US programme)
    9) Cambridge
    10) NUS

  • TruthANDreality

    so, you say that people mostly prefer harvard or wharton for prestige thing despite in “true business measurement”, Chicago is on the lead?! if that the case why noone would choose Oxford over IMD for example?!

  • horns

    its not a delusion. they’re simply just more prestigious and globally recognized bottom line. and to that point, HBS is more prestigious/recognized than all of them.

    also, wharton is still wharton from that same angle…the day that people, media, and culture are namedropping booth more than wharton to the general public or when talking about business education, i’ll be shocked or not alive.

    didn’t go to HBS, didn’t get in – also not applying Stanf or Wharton – Booth is my top choice…so this isn’t biased…just realistic.

  • Radon

    The employment stats have changed at LBS. Prior to the financial crisis, 45% of grads went into finance and finance firms dominate campus recruitment. Now the even split is 1/3 finance, consulting and industry. Incidentally, as 90% of students are non UK, grads explore opportunities abroad in Europe, Asia. The LBS career office has adjusted with various country and sector treks to soften the finance blow. LBS has also a smaller class at 320 compared to Booth, Stern or Wharton.

  • sami

    yale is and will remain around 15 to 20 rank! with their current superficial admission policy, they will never ever break into top 10 or even come close.

  • CreepCat

    I realize that all rankings have flaws – they really do, but I do appreciate the pureness of Forbes. I also happen to wish my MBA school would crack their top 5, instead of the top 10. While GMAT and GPA/high entry standards are very important, any top 15-20 school will have high quality folks, so why choose a school based upon highest GMAT? The real reason folks want to attend business school and earn an MBA is for better opportunity and mone – so ROI – and Forbes with all its flaws, does this best.

  • GUPTA10

    giving the recent fall of wharton, I think it is safe now to say that it is Harvard Stanford Chicago istead of HWS,

  • TruthANDreality

    almost, in most of rankings, Chicago Booth is obviously the best business school in America, however, majority of MBA aspirants still trapped by the delusion of Harvard or Stanford!! why is that?!

  • LordofRings

    if you look into the London Graduate salary in 2012, you will notice that it is only behind Stanford and ahead of all the other. This is a bit interesting since london is famous of being a “Finance” School, yet, it looks that they haven’t been affected by the crisis!!

  • merana

    Yale must learn that going for numbers of GPA and GMAT won’t help them rise on the ranking! just see the amazing job of Duke 8th place (with gmat 695) and compare it with the desperate of Yale (gmat 720) which landed 18th place!