Wharton Tops Forbes’ Ranking For First Time

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Outside the Wharton School on the University of Pennsylvania campus – Ethan Baron photo


Based on those self-reported numbers, however, Forbes said the graduates of several of Wharton’s peer schools reported lower compensation this time around. While annual income five years out of school were up $18,000 for 2012 Wharton grads compared to their classmates two years prior, the MBAS from many other top schools witnessed a decline. Stanford’s total comp was off by $40,000 and Harvard dropped $28,000 to $212,000. Columbia and Chicago (Booth) had smaller decreases, according to Forbes. in all, the magazines places numerical ranks on 70 different U.S. MBA programs.

Among the closely watched Top 25 U.S. schools, the big winners besides Wharton were the University of Virgina’s Darden School of Business and Wisconsin Business School. Both schools rose five places, allowing Darden to finish 11th from 16th and Wisconsin to rank 24th from 29th. The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and Texas A&M’s Mays School also showed significant improvement. Ross advanced three spots to rank 12th this year, while Mays climbed four positions to finish in 20th place.

The schools among the Top 25 that lost ground? Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business dropped five places to rank 25th. Falling three places each this year were UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, now ranked 16th, the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business, now at 17th, and NYU Stern, which fell to 21st from 18th. Michigan State University’s Broad School fell out of the Top 25 after declining three spots to finish in 26th place, from 23rd.


There were more dramatic lifts and drops further down the list. The University of Georgia’s Terry School, for example, plunged 13 spaces to a rank of 49th from 36th, the steepest fall of any Top 50 MBA program. Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management lost nine positions to finish 48th, from 39th two years ago. The University of Iowa’s Tippie School of Business, which recently disclosed that it is ending its two-year, full-time MBA program, dropped eight positions to rank 34th from 26th.

Meantime, Rollins College’s business school in Florida jumped nine places to rank 43rd from 53rd. Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business and the University of Rochester’s Simon School both gained seven places to rank 32nd and 37th, respectively. Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business also rose seven places to place 40th, even though its new tuition free program has yet to figure into Forbes calculations, a change that will make that school’s MBA skyrocket into the Top 25.

But clearly the big news was Wharton’s six-place jump to the top. Forbes noted that the top employer for the 2012 class was consulting firm McKinsey, which employed 53 out of 805 Wharton graduates. Other major employers: Boston Consulting Group, Bain, Deloitte and Goldman Sachs. The biggest employers for the most recent class, noted Forbes, were the same outside of Amazon.com replacing Goldman Sachs.


Forbes found that the average payback period for graduates of Top 25 schools on their investment in an MBA (tuition and forgone salary) was 3.9 years, similar to the 4-year payback period of two years ago. Still, both are off substantially from the pre-financial crisis classes of the late 1990s, for whom the payback period averaged just 2.7 years. At the Top 25 schools, the longest payback period was 4.2 years for Stanford MBA graduates, while the shortest payback timeframe was just 3.6 years for Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business.

Interestingly enough, the estimated payback periods for schools outside the Top 25 were not all that different. What did change, rather dramatically, were the current compensation packages for MBA grads. At Rollins College, ranked 43rd, the payback timeframe of 3.7 was just a shade better than Wharton’s 3.8. That’s largely because incoming students at Rollins earned much less ($26,000) than Wharton students ($82,000) when entering the program. But five years after graduation, Wharton MBAs, not surprisingly, are making 3.7 times the compensation of Rollins graduates, $225,000 a year versus $85,000.

Indeed, the salaries being left behind by incoming students at the top business schools is another fascinating data point. At UC-Berkeley’s Haas School, graduates claimed they left jobs paying $93,000 a year. At Harvard, Stanford and Kellogg, pre-MBA salaries were all $80,000 a year. At MIT Sloan and Chicago Booth, pre-MBA pay averaged a hefty $81,000. Those numbers suggest that incoming students are already a pretty successful bunch.

This is the third in the five most influential MBA rankings to come out this year. Preceding Forbes was The Financial Times and U.S. News & World Report. Next month, The Economist will publish its updated annual rankings and finally, in November, Bloomberg Businessweek will come out with its now annual ranking of the best MBA programs. Shortly following the publication of the full set of these rankings, Poets&Quants will release its composite ranking for the year.

(See following pages for detailed rankings and comparison data)