U.S. News Best MBA Program in 2018: Chicago Booth

Chicago Booth gains first place in U.S. News’ annual MBA ranking for the first time ever, sharing the top spot with Harvard Business School

For the first time ever, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business came out on top of U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of the best full-time MBA programs in the U.S. Booth, which finished third last year, captured the crown in a tie with Harvard Business School.

Wharton, which had been in the same place as Chicago last year, fell to third, while Stanford’s Graduate School of Business placed fourth and MIT’s Sloan School of Management rounded out the top five. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management finished sixth, down two places from its fourth-place finish in 2017, despite having the second highest average GMAT score of 732 behind only Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

While this is the best Chicago Booth has done in a U. S. News survey, the school is no stranger to rankings wins. From 2006 to 2012, the school’s MBA program was ranked first on consecutive Businessweek lists. It has also placed first in seven of The Economist MBA rankings, including for five straight years from 2012 to 2016.


Booth managed to edge out Wharton for the U.S. News tie by posting slightly better scores in U.S. News’ survey of MBA recruiters (4.5 to 4.4 on a five-point scale) and significantly higher placement stats. Though Wharton MBAs outearned Boothies by nearly $9,000 in average salary and bonus last year ($159,815 vs. Booth’s $151,085), more of Chicago’s MBAs were employed at graduation and three months later than Wharton. Some 88% of Booth MBAs had jobs at graduation, versus 82.3% at Wharton, while 95.3% were employed three months after commencement, compared to 92.6% at Wharton.

It is on such slim and largely inconsequential metrics that allowed Booth to make Wharton’s No. 1 status on the U.S. News’ list so ephemeral. Only last year, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School had fought its way into a first place tie for only the second time in 28 years. The last time Wharton shared first in the U.S. News survey was four years ago when it was in a three-way tie with HBS and Stanford. Despite the drop to third, Wharton’s combined salary and bonus topped every school, including Stanford, according to the magazine’s data.

One thing seems sure: It’s getting tougher for U.S. News to sort out the best MBA programs at the top of its U.S.-centric list. This year, also for the first time, fully half of the schools ranked in the top 20 share their rank with another school. Besides the first-place tie, Berkeley and Michigan are tied for seventh, Duke and Yale are tied for 11th, NYU and Virginia are tied for 13th, Carnegie Mellon and UT-Austin share 17th place, while Emory and the University of Southern California are tied for 20th.


Students at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business

While Booth’s ability to leapfrog Wharton this year is the big news, there was no shortage of surprises in the ranking published today (March 20) (see Ten Biggest Surprises In U.S. News’ 2019 MBA Ranking). The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business was among the biggest winners. Ross not only cracked the Top Ten, as reported earlier by Poets&Quants. The school climbed four places to finish seventh from 11th a year earlier. It was the highest rank achieved by Michigan in the U.S. News ranking since 1999 when it last finished in seventh place.

Ross knocked Yale University’s School of Management out of the top 10 largely on the basis of its pay and placement numbers, which account for 35% of the overall ranking. The average salary and bonus for a Ross MBA graduate last year was $150,052, more than $12,000 over the $137,155 average at SOM which fell two places this year to rank 11th. Yalie pay is the lowest average salary and bonus of the top U.S. News-ranked 18 schools, even below UT-Austin’s $139,406.

Yale’s numbers are dragged down by the 5.2% of its graduating class that took jobs in the non-profit sector where the median base salary was only $67,500, nearly half the SOM class median of $124,900, and where few if any graduates received bonus money. At Ross, so few MBAs go into non-profit jobs that the employment report doesn’t even list the category. So depending on your point of view, those graduates add valuable perspective and diversity to SOM’s class or they hurt the school in rankings.

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