U.S. News’ MBA Rankings: The Schools Corporate Recruiters Prefer

Students at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management with "Goldy"

Students at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management with “Goldy”


Overall, recruiters not only generally score lower, but their 11-year average reflects a growing dissatisfaction with schools ranked below the Top 15. Since the 2006 rankings, only four schools ranked in U.S. News’ Top 25 have increased their recruiter score: MIT Sloan (4.4 to 4.6), Berkeley Haas (4.1 to 4.2), New York Stern (4.0 to 4.2), and Yale (4.0 to 4.3), with the improvements at all but Yale coming within the past two years. During that same span, 15 schools in the Top 25 have lost ground among recruiters. The biggest loses were borne by Washington Olin (3.8 to 3.3), Carnegie Mellon (4.1 to 3.6), Virginia Darden (4.3 to 4.0), Michigan Ross (4.2 to 4.0), UCLA Anderson (4.0 to 3.8), Cornell Johnson (4.1 to 3.9), North Carolina Kenan-Flagler (3.8 to 3.6), Indiana Kelley (3.9 to 3.7), and Emory Goizueta (3.6 to 3.4).

And the trend is even more pronounced for schools ranked 26-50, where just one school – Minnesota Carlson (+0.3) reported a higher score today than in the 2006 U.S. News rankings. At the opposite end, 15 schools yielded lower recruiter scores over the same timeframe, including -0.6 (California-Davis); -0.5 (Michigan State Broad, Rochester Simon, and Southern Methodist Cox); -0.4 (Georgia Tech Scheller, Penn State Smeal, Florida Hough, Boston University Questrom, and Pittsburgh Katz); -0.3 (Maryland Smith and Boston College Carroll), and -0.2 (Wisconsin and Illinois). That said, Texas-Dallas Jindal’s recruiter score has risen by 1.0 point since 2009, while such schools as Temple Fox (+0.9), Connecticut (+0.4), and Rutgers (+0.3) have trended up over the past three years.

Of greater importance, however, is whether higher recruiter rankings translate into higher earnings. And the answer is decidedly mixed. The University of Minnesota;s Carlson School is a good place to start. In the 2006 rankings, Carlson grads averaged a $90,879 salary and bonus package. Fast forward 11 years and that number had mushroomed to $112,828, a 24.1% growth rate. Now, compare that to Georgia Tech Scheller, a similarly-ranked program which has lost 0.4 of a point in the last decade. In the 2006 rankings, Scheller grads earned $78,877. In 2016, the number was $115,279 – only $2,500 more than Carlson grads…but 46.1% growth nonetheless. The difference in all probability: The tech boom which may more naturally benefit a school with engineering roots.


In the same breath, starting pay and bonus at Michigan State Broad, which has lost 0.5 of a point over 11 rankings, has only grown by 19.2%. In 2006, Broad grads earned $3,000 less than their peers at Carlson. In 2016, that gap had grown to nearly $8,500. But geography may well be destiny here: It’s well known that the Great Recession nearly put auto companies and their suppliers–the backbone of the Michigan economy–into complete bankruptcy. That had to put downward pressure on wages for everyone, from MBAs on down.

But these aren’t necessarily side-by-side comparisons. For example, Scheller sends more students to higher-paying consulting functions (34% vs. 24%), whereas Carlson more students into less-paying marketing jobs than Scheller. At Broad, by contrast, 37% of its students move into operations and logistics roles that pay, on average, a low $86,700 to start. And just 5% of Broad graduates end up in consulting, where starting salaries average $110K-$111K for both Broad and Carlson graduates.

There’s more. Aside from salaries and industries, disparate pay can also be explained by location, top employers, entrepreneurship rates, high and low salaries, specializations, and even student response rates to school employment report surveys. In other words, any correlation between recruiter rankings and earnings – with the latter basically set by the market – can be flimsy at best. It’s a reminder to applicants to look at the data but to understand exactly what you’re looking at and not take the numbers at face value.


If anything, recruiter scores slap a cold, yet succinct, seal on how recruiters really feel about schools and their end products (students). While top-tier schools will always draw the most attention, recruiter scores also point to schools where you may get more attention – or have more doors open for you – regardless of rank.

And that’s what makes recent rankings so informative. While one year’s score may be tilted, one way or another, by the quality of a recent class, they are a harbinger for potential issues with curriculum, recruiting, or even culture. For example, only one school in U.S. News’ Top 25 – the University of Washington (Foster) – experienced a score change of 0.2 of a point or more (slipping from 3.4 to 3.2 in the past year). In other words, among top schools, recruiter scores may swing, but they tend to follow a pendulum – with scores generally returning to their normal range over time. It’s important to note that if a major recruiter or two for a given school, say Microsoft at Foster, declined to participate in the U.S. News survey, it could significantly reduce a school’s standing in the magazine’s ranking.

UT at Dallas' School of Management is ranked 78th among the top business schools in the U.S. by Poets&Quants.

UT at Dallas’ Jindal School of Management

Get below the Top 25 and you’ll find an undertow tugging at programs. Among schools ranked between 26-50, 17 lost 0.1 of a point or more – with Wisconsin, Pittsburgh Katz, and Connecticut each falling 0.2 of a point. To the contrary, just four schools gained 0.1 or more, including Texas-Dallas Jindal (+0.2) and Illinois (+0.3). Similarly, in the next 42 spots (U.S. News only ranked 94 full-time MBA programs in its 2016 rankings), another 24 programs lost 0.1 of a point or more, with only three programs (George Washington, Iowa State, and North Carolina Jenkins) making any gains among recruiters this past year. In other words, any gains among recruiters, however short-lived, often could suggest that something special is happening at a particular school.


Nevertheless, lower scores are socking higher-tiered programs harder than their lower-ranked counterparts – in prestige, at least. Not surprisingly, the big seven –Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, Chicago Booth, MIT Sloan, Northwestern Kellogg, and Columbia – comprise seven of the eight-highest ranked programs reflecting that their production truly matches their reputation. Yale (penalized by U.S. News’ rubrics for lower starting salaries tied to its robust non-profit and public sector hiring) and Columbia (a banking bastion) also make the Top 10.

After that, everything goes askew. The University of Texas-Dallas, ranked 33rd overall, actually rounds out the Top 10 among recruiters, scoring a 4.2 – higher than Fuqua, Tuck, Stern, and Darden. That’s an eye-brow raising result for sure. So what’s behind Jindal’s big move, being it was a 2.6 afterthought among recruiters just six years ago? It is certainly hard to dig that out with the numbers. The program’s acceptance rate (26.2%), average GMAT (673), average GPA (3.5), and placement (90.2% within three months of graduation) are generally higher than similarly-ranked programs like Rice, Brigham Young, and Ohio State. However, Jindal grads are a bargain, earning total packages of only $83,901 to start – well-below graduates of in-state rivals such as Texas Christian Neeley ($90,117) or Southern Methodist Cox ($112,701). Ironically, that lower pay comes despite nearly half of Jindal graduates moving into the tech field, with top employers including A&T, Alcatel Lucent, Ericsson, Verizon, Texas Instruments, and Sabre Holdings (headed by Jindal grad Sam Gilliland).

Lisa Shatz, assistant dean and director of MBA programs, tells Poets&Quants that one of Jindal’s secrets is the technical background of its students. “Intuitively, I think it comes down to a couple of things,” Shatz notes. “Number one, our students are very smart. Even though the recruiter piece is a bit of an outlier, our GMAT scores are high. The students are also highly technical. If you look at UT-Dallas as a whole, we’re not known for music, theater or literature. We really known for the sciences, engineering, and technology. And our business school follows that model. So a lot of our students have these really heavy duty technical skills that they use in combination with their business skills. And that’s really what employers are looking for right now.”