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).