The Best Business Schools for Career and Personal Growth



Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

Business school is a place to hide out. After getting beaten down in the real world, MBA students – like hippies before them – are just looking to “find themselves.” Back on campus, they can ride out their quarter life crisis. Coddled and insulated, they indulge in bull sessions and beer pong with fellow lost souls. For two years, they won’t fret over the maze or ladder (or whatever metaphor is assigned to work these days). In the end, an MBA is a bittersweet goodbye to all things frivolous…before responsibility and mortality turn these students into their parents.

Sound about right? Maybe…if this was the 1980s!

These days, business school is no place for confused cads or perpetual partiers. For starters, adcoms have grown skilled at weeding out these frauds. At $20K-$60K a year, b-school would be an awfully expensive re-run of early adulthood (even if schools hold proms sometimes). And employers are expecting more from MBAs than ever before. Forget retreat: Employers seek candidates who are charging forward, open and engaged, full of purpose and plans.

And that’s exactly what makes MBAs so attractive. They arrive on campus with a vision for themselves. And they relentlessly pursue those ends for two years. They study the top companies and travel the globe to learn the best practices. More important, they collaborate (and compete) with the best business minds – their classmates. And this forces them to raise their performance every day. By graduation, they’ve learned to manage themselves. And that’s prepared them to manage others.

Financial Times

How The Financial Times Measures Personal and Career Growth

But not all schools are created equal when it comes to grooming students for the next stage of their careers. And that’s why The Financial Times’ 2014 survey results for Aims Achieved and Career Progress are so critical. It shows which schools live up to their promises to students – and prepare them to take on more responsibility once they graduate.

According to The Financial Times’ methodology, “Aims Achieved” reflects “the extent to which alumni fulfilled their stated goals or reasons for doing an MBA.” Similarly, “Career Progress” is based on “changes in the level of seniority and the size of company alumni are working in now, versus before their MBA.”

For both surveys, the results are derived from 10,986 respondents from 153 schools, a 47% response rate. To be ranked, a school must have 20% of their target alumni fill out at least 20 complete surveys. The ranking includes two years of data, with a 60:40 weight given for 2014/2013 data and a 70:30 weight for 2014/2012 surveys. The data was collected in September and October of 2013. The aims and career categories each comprise 3% of a school’s overall ranking.

How truthful are students when asked to fill out a survey that they know will impact their school’s ranking? It’s hard to say. It’s tempting, however, to note that the surprising strength of the British schools in the survey could be attributed to the importance of the FT in the British market. U.K. MBAs may be less willing to diss their alma maters because they are well aware of the newspaper’s influence. U.S. MBAs may not attach as much importance to the survey or the FT. Generally, in student surveys, the few with an axe to grind cancel out the cheerleaders. But bias is clearly a factor worth considering when you look at the results of these FT surveys.

Stanford's Graduate School of Business

Stanford’s Graduate School of Business

Stanford Tops List for Career Growth

The Stanford Graduate School of Business replaced the Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad) as the top school for career growth in 2014. While Stanford alums only ranked #100 for increase in salary (and #99 for value for the money), they scored the highest salaries – $184,566 – within three years of graduation. The school also earned the #2 spot in The Financial Times’ alumni satisfaction survey.

Two Indian Institutes of Management – Ahmedabad and Bangalore – surprisingly ranked #2 and #3 respectively. Both also scored in the top 21 for alumni satisfaction, And Ahmedabad graduates earned the highest salaries after three years ($157,459) among international business schools. The Harvard Business School and Spain’s IESE Business School rounded out the top five (with Harvard ranking #1 in alumni satisfaction).

Overall, schools in the United Kingdom dominated the list for career growth, placing eight schools in the top 25 (led by the Cass Business School at #6). The United States featured seven schools among the top 25, including MIT (Sloan), Babson College (Olin), Yale, Northwestern (Kellogg), and the University of California-San Diego (Rady).

  • James Higgins

    Agreed with Stephan, the US schools (I don’t know I’ll pick HASS and personal growth, nope…not even close, and that’s not even scratching the quantitative disparities) is a complete joke. My undergrad Alma Mater is San Diego State, having the choice of schools for the San Diego area, University of San Diego is not mentioned, nor considered when it comes to business undergrad or MBA.
    I lived in the Bay for a number of years and yes, Stanford is the ish of MBA’s, however, the ethos

  • Mohit

    It doesn’t matter. I work with IITians and IIM graduates in an American MNC and they are not anything special. It depends ultimately on the individual. School can only do so much

  • kojo

    Who cares what the saying in India is….

  • Norbert Weiner

    I’m glad to see Yale finally getting the recognition it deserves!

  • JohnAByrne

    As we pointed out, the Financial Times translates local salaries into U.S. dollars on a purchasing power parity basis. So instead of using exchange rates, the newspaper uses purchasing power parity to adjust the actual numbers provided by alums yet again.

    The Economist, which publishes a Big Mac index based on purchasing power parity, is highly cautious in its use of this translation. “Keep in mind that PPP is a long-term indicator, pointing to where currencies ought to go in the future. It’s also best to use it only to measure currencies between countries that are at a similar stage of development.”

    The point is it’s easier, of course, to have much more significant purchasing power in a country where most people are dirt poor–like India, China, or Mexico. It’s virtually unheard of for a local MBA in mainland China to be pulling down more than $123,000 a year just three years after graduation. Yet, that’s exactly the number reported by the FT this year for the graduates of CEIBS.

    The practical effect of all this hocus pocus? Go back to the FT’s ranking in 2008 when India’s Indian School of Business, then only six years old, debuted on The Financial Times’ list ranked 20th–ahead of such legendary business schools at Northwestern University, Duke University, the University of Virginia, and the University of North Carolina. How sensible was it for a six-year-old school without a diverse group of students or faculty, whose graduates land jobs with salaries that are in actuality only a quarter of the grads from these top schools, to be ranked that high on the FT list?

    One astute commenter on the BusinessWeek forums explains it this way: The PPP conversation index considers each country as a whole. “Since the average Indian is a lot poorer than an average ISB MBA candidate, the index ‘inflates’ the earnings of the MBA relative to the local population, but turns into an advantage as far as global rankings go.”

    None of this is a knock on ISB or IIM, which have both accomplished a great deal in a very short period of time. But it is a knock on the methodology of an influential ranking that is especially followed by many in Europe and Asia. Manipulating the compensation numbers provided by alums may make for a more interesting list of ranked business schools. But it doesn’t make for a credible ranking.

  • Casio

    there is a saying in indian businesses : IIT with IIM is far (yes FAR) better than MIT with HBS. Believe or not! it is the reality when considering career in India.

  • bwanamia

    John, you can’t purport to rank b-schools without adopting a few fundamental tenets of the b-school curriculum. One of those is PPP, which the FT takes seriously. You can be assured that PPP is always a consideration when a business entity or investor uses an overvalued currency to purchase the services of someone who is compensated in an undervalued currency. Saying that “PPP adjustments…call[] into question [the FT’s] deeply flawed methodology…” persuades me that you and the other b-school and university ranking gurus are unqualified for the role. Whether it suits your prejudices or not, the typical IIM grad in the 1st year out of school is prospering much faster than the typical HBS grad.

  • JohnAByrne

    Of course, you’re right about the $157K for IIM grads. That number is the result of the Financial Times’ use of Purchasing Power Parity adjustments which, I believe, tends to distort all of the FT’s calculations and calls into question its deeply flawed methodology for ranking business schools.

  • stephan

    This ranking is a joke. Graduates of IIM A don’t make anything remotely close to $157,000.

  • anon

    Great article. I was just looking at the Aims and Career Progress rankings the other day. Here’s my question, John: I understand the importance of more seniority, but how does company size impact the Career Progress rating? Do people get “extra points” for going from small companies (pre-MBA) to large ones (post-MBA)? Vice versa?

    I don’t really get how that figures in.