How The Leading Schools Rank By Specialization

Business schools do a lot to give the impression that they are good at — and should be known for — more than one thing. Yes, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management is a marketing powerhouse — but talk to the school’s officers and they’ll tell you that in fact Kellogg is a great place to study operations, supply chain, nonprofits, general management, and more. Wharton is the top destination for finance, agreed; but don’t overlook the school’s prowess in the other quant pursuits — accounting, information systems, production and operations — not to mention its marketing and entrepreneurship chops.

As part of its annual MBA ranking, U.S. News uses peer assessments to rank 10 specializations: the “quants,” Finance, Accounting, Operations, Supply Chain/Logistics, and Information Systems; and the “poets,” Entrepreneurship, International Business, Management, Marketing, and Nonprofit. Once again in 2019, it’s clear from these specialized lists that schools are correct in boasting of a diverse portfolio of excellence. What is also clear is that there are few surprises year to year in who gets a pat on the head: Wharton is once more the top school in Finance, with Chicago Booth second; Kellogg is the top Marketing school, followed by Duke Fuqua, Michigan Ross, and Wharton all tied for second; Harvard Business School again takes top honors in Management, while MIT’s Sloan School is the king of Production/Operations.

For the second year in a row, MIT Sloan was the only school to earn more than one No. 1, once again in Information Systems and Operations. Harvard had two No. 2’s, in International Business and Nonprofit (same as last year), and Stanford also was runner-up in two categories: Entrepreneurship and Management. In no category did Stanford rank lower than ninth (Logistics), same as last year, making it the clear top school in specialization terms once again, though it did drop two places in the Nonprofit category after ranking second there last year. Two schools earned a rank in each of the 10 categories: the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, which also ranked 10th overall; and UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, the No. 6 school overall this year. Everyone else had at least one “NR” to its name. Three schools in P&Q‘s top 50 — SMU’s Cox School of Business, the University of Pittsburgh Katz Graduate School of Business, and UC-Davis’ Graduate School of Management — were not ranked in any category.

A few smaller schools, meanwhile, kept their crowns in a chosen field. The University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business sank from 65th to 74th in U.S. News‘ overall ranking but managed to maintain its place atop the International Business list, where it has remained for nearly two decades thanks to the esteem of its Sonoco International Business Department. Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business slipped one place to No. 38 in the overall ranking but still found itself atop the Supply Chain/Logistics rankings for a seventh consecutive year. MSU offers a bachelor’s and master’s in supply chain management and two distinct doctoral programs, in logistics and operations & sourcing management. The University of Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business took top honors in Accounting for the 13th consecutive year, while Babson College’s Olin Graduate School of Business was once again crowned the best destination for the entrepreneurially minded — for the 26th year in a row.


Babson Dean Keith Rollag. Babson photo

What’s Babson’s secret? How did the school stay atop the U.S. News Entrepreneurship ranking for a 26th year? It may have had something to do with the college opening a new campus in Miami, Florida last fall, part of an effort to strengthen the school’s connections with Latin America. This year, Babson celebrates its centennial and continues the process of “reimagining” its MBA to “make it more entrepreneurial, more relevant, more adaptable for the future,” Dean Keith Rollag told Poets&Quants last spring. “As the market for graduate education is evolving, we’ll make sure that our MBA is evolving with it.” That include strengthening the school’s focus on family entrepreneurship, including hiring more faculty and expanding into the Babson Institute For Family Entrepreneurship.

“We’re known for training entrepreneurship educators and being at the center of a lot of the scholarship that happens with entrepreneurship as well,” Rollag said.

UC-Berkeley’s Haas School is also an entrepreneurship hub, ranking 5th (as it did last year). But the somewhat bigger news for Haas is that after missing a ranking in just one category list year — Information Systems — this year it landed 14th, making it just one of two schools to be ranked in all 10 categories.

Peter Johnson, assistant dean for the full-time MBA program and admissions at Haas, told P&Q last year that Berkeley, ranked No. 6 overall by U.S. News, is a general management program at its core. But, he added, it’s also a maverick program that blazes its own trail in most specializations, with an emphasis on the experiential. In the three areas where Berkeley ranked highest — Entrepreneurship, International Business, and Nonprofit — that experiential learning comes via a trio of vehicles: Haas’ Applied Innovation electives, the International Business Development program, and the Social Sector Solutions program, respectively.

“The rankings are a reflection of our sustained commitment to these areas over time, and the success of our students in them,” Johnson said. “That has generated the level of awareness that leads peer schools to vote for us in this particular set of rankings. In each of those specific areas (International, Nonprofit, Entrepreneurship) we have a lot of opportunities for students, and those three areas are areas where I think we are particularly strong in experiential learning opportunities.”


U.S. News‘ specialization rankings are unlike the greater rankings in that the whole weight of the ranking lies in peer assessments. This has obvious flaws, among them that business school deans and directors of accredited MBA programs can nominate up to 10 schools for inclusion in each of the specializations — making the whole exercise a bit of a popularity contest. One result of this has been the apparent ongoing bloc-voting effort of a group of unranked Jesuit schools that puts names like Xavier and Fairfield and Rockhurst beside elite schools — and in some cases, ahead of them.

For example, U.S. News ranks 47 schools in the Accounting specialization, most of any category. Of those, 11 are schools that appear nowhere in the main ranking: schools like Gonzaga University (18th in Accounting), Loyola Marymount (20th), Fairfield University (20th), Seattle University (24th), and Marquette (35th). What do these schools all have in common? A Roman Catholic, Jesuit foundation, and apparently a strong fan base among deans and counterpart officials.

In fact, some of these unknown schools pop up in several of the specializations. If you take the U.S. News specialization rankings at face value, Fairfield’s Dolan School of Business in Connecticut, with 51 enrolled students across all programs, is a great destination for those looking to study Finance (ranked 19th, above Cornell Johnson, Dartmouth Tuck, and Virginia Darden) and Marketing (14th, above UNC Kenan-Flagler, Florida Warrington, and Arizona State Carey). Xavier University’s Williams College of Business in Cincinnati, Ohio is ranked in five categories: Accounting (41st), Marketing (25th), Entrepreneurship (22nd), Management (26th), and Finance, where its No. 21 showing is better than Cornell, Dartmouth, Virginia, UNC, and other notables. Neither Fairfield nor Xavier found their way onto U.S. News‘ overall ranking this year. Other unranked schools to make appearances in the specialization rankings: Loyola Marymount, St. Joseph’s, Fordham, Rockhurst, Saint Louis, Detroit Mercy, and Seattle. All are Jesuit schools.

See the next pages for a full list of specialization ranks for the Poets&Quants top 50 U.S. schools.

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