Ten Biggest Surprises In Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2017 MBA Ranking


5) Where Did The Roller-Coaster Ranking Go?

One of the biggest surprises in this year’s Bloomberg Businessweek was how little many of the ranks changed. Sure, 18 of the top 20 MBA programs experienced a change in rank but in most cases they were minor adjustments, up or down. That is a big change from the magazine’s list a year ago when one school North Carolina State’s Jenkins School, actually plunged 40 places to rank 69th from 29th and another, the University of Iowa’s Tippie School, jumped by 20 places to finish at a rank of 35.

Not including the newcomers on the list or schools that fell off entirely, there were only six schools that had double-digit changes this year, with the largest shifts being a 12-place gain by Penn State’s Smeal College of Business and a 14-position drop by George Washington University’s business school. That is a big improvement on last year’s list when 18 of the ranked schools experienced double-digit increases or decreases.

The more volatile a ranking, the less credible it is. MBA programs don’t change all that much in a single year so rankings with wild, often unexplainable swings are highly suspect. How did Bloomberg Businessweek smooth out the roller-coaster ride many schools have felt in recent years? For one thing, the magazine didn’t change its methodology for ranking MBA programs. In the previous four years, the editors tweaked their approach three different times. That led to more dramatic year-over-year changes.

Secondly, there is a curious and mysterious line in the magazine’s explanation of its methodology that would help to limit the bigger jumps and dives:  “Data from the 2016 ranking were added to the survey components to diversify feedback.” By adding in data from last year’s ranking, you would naturally be doing a lot more than diversifying “feedback.” You are dampening whatever changes occurred in the crunch on your new data. The result: Both the employer and alumni portions of this ranking are remarkably similar to the previous year’s results. In fact, all top ten schools in the employer survey last year are exactly in the same order this year. The same is true for the top nine programs in the alumni survey.

Whatever the case, the lessened volatility in the ranking is a real positive.

The new $60 million Connie & Kevin Chou Hall on UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business

6) The MBAs Who Quit The Highest Paying Jobs To Go Back To School

Guess which school’s students left the highest paying jobs to return to a campus for an MBA?

If you guessed Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB or Wharton, that’s understandable. Many already successful young professionals who go to an elite school are bringing in some impressive cash in their mid-to-late twenties and a disproportionate share of them tend to go to HSW.

According to Businessweek data, however, the students who left the most lucrative jobs to pursue an MBA are those at UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. The median pre-MBA compensation for a Haas student was $86,250, just a bit more than the $85,000 median at Harvard, Stanford and Wharton (see table below).

And this brings us to another point about this and any other ranking: One of the advantages of a ranking is the wealth of revealing data it unleashes. Schools do not disclose pre-MBA pay nor do they have a handle on how much money their alums make. Businessweek collects this data in its surveys of students and alumni and it makes for some fascinating reading.

For MBAs who are six to eight years removed from their schools, the reported compensation is pretty impressive, including highs of $280,000 for Harvard MBAs and $262,500 for graduates of Wharton. While those sums are partly a reflection of the brand value of an MBA, they also reflect industry choices and location. In any case, 14 schools have alums from 2008 to 2010 earning more than $200K a year.


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.