How The U.S. News Top 50 B-Schools Rank By Specialization

Time to get granular. As part of its annual MBA ranking, U.S. News & World Report uses peer assessments to rank business schools by specialization. Theoretically, this offers a window into the strengths and weaknesses of MBA programs. Schools are ranked according to their “quant” offerings: Finance, Accounting, Operations, Supply Chain/Logistics, and Information Systems; and by their “poet” programs: Entrepreneurship, International Business, Management, Marketing, and Nonprofit. This year, U.S. News added three new categories: Business Analytics, a quant addition, and Real Estate and Project Management, both poet newcomers.

Besides the trio of new additions, however, this year’s specialization rankings had few surprises.

The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania is once more the top school in Finance. The University of Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business is yet again the No. 1 Accounting school. Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management is the top Marketing destination, Harvard Business School leads all peers in Management, MIT Sloan School of Management dominates in both Production/Operations and Information Systems. The Sloan School also claimed the top spot in both Business Analytics and Project Management, giving it the most No. 1’s of any school in the U.S. News top 50. Wharton, with a No. 1 in Real Estate to go with its customary berth atop Finance, was the only other school with more than one first-place finishes.

No schools in the U.S. News top 50 were ranked in every category; two — Stanford Graduate School of Business and the University of Michigan Ross School of Business — were ranked in all but one. Interestingly, both missed out on the same category: Real Estate. Texas McCombs was only unranked in Nonprofit and Project Management, and Arizona State University Carey School of Business, only in Nonprofit and Real Estate. On the flip side, the highest-ranked school not to be listed in any specialization category was No. 23 Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management.


Unsurprisingly, the M7 schools dominate the U.S. News specialization ranks — and have for as long as the rankings have existed. MIT Sloan’s four No. 1’s give it bragging rights, but they aren’t the school’s only notable achievement: Sloan also notched a No. 2 in Supply Chain/Logistics and a No. 3 in Entrepreneurship. Both were repeat wins. Elsewhere, Wharton had its two top spots in Finance and Real Estate but also landed second in Marketing and third in Accounting. Stanford had no first-places but was second in both Entrepreneurship and Management, repeat performances, as well as second in the new category of Project Management, in which only five total schools were ranked. Besides its No. 1 in Management, Harvard, which notably slipped to its lowest-ever rank in the overall ranking, was second in Nonprofit and International Business but unranked in four categories. Chicago Booth has the distinction of being unranked in the most categories for a M7 school: 8.

See the table above for a complete breakdown of the M7 schools’ specialization rankings. Averaging out all ranks for each school, we find HBS with a rank of 8.5 out of nine categories; Wharton a 5.8 out of 11; Columbia 10.8 out of 10; Chicago Booth 7.2 out of 5; Northwestern Kellogg 12.8 out of 11; Stanford 5.6 out of 12; and MIT Sloan with the lowest mark of all, a 4.4 out of nine categories.

As well as the M7 schools performed once again this year, a handful of smaller schools staved off disappointment once again, keeping their crowns in their fields of expertise.

The University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business has gone from 65th to 74th to 62nd over the last three years in U.S. News’ overall ranking, but all the while managed to maintain its place atop the International Business list, where it has remained for two decades thanks to the prominence of its Sonoco International Business Department. Darla Moore has been in the top three of the International Business ranking for 31 consecutive years. Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business slipped two places to No. 40 in U.S. News‘ overall ranking but still dominated the Supply Chain/Logistics ranking for an eighth consecutive year. MSU offers a bachelor’s and master’s in supply chain management and two related doctoral programs, in logistics as well as operations & sourcing management. Texas-Austin McCombs climbed to 18th place from 19th overall as it took top honors in Accounting for the 14th consecutive year; while Babson College’s Olin Graduate School of Business, 72nd overall, was once again crowned the best destination for the entrepreneurially minded — for the 27th year in a row. Babson also ranked 19th in International Business.


Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business was named the No. 10 school in Finance by U.S. News. Leavey photo

Each year Poets&Quants points out that U.S. News’ specialization rankings are unlike the larger rankings, in that the whole weight of the former lies in peer assessments, a system with obvious flaws. Chief among them is 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: the ongoing bloc-voting effort of a group of unranked Jesuit schools that puts names like Xavier and Fairfield and Marquette beside elite schools — and in some cases, ahead of them.

For example, U.S. News ranks 44 schools in the Accounting specialization, most of any category. Of those, eight are schools that appear nowhere in the main ranking: among them Fairfield University (20th in Accounting), Gonzaga University (tied for 25th), Loyola Marymount (25th), Seattle University (25th), and Saint Louis Chaifetz (40th). The latter school, based in the city whose name it bears, has 17 students in its full-time MBA. In International Business, U.S. News ranks 22 schools, and we find there the Chaifetz School at No. 11, one spot above Yale School of Management and quite a few spots above Stanford, Duke Fuqua, UCLA Anderson, Northwestern Kellogg, and other elites. In Finance, topped of course by The Wharton School, among 35 ranked schools we discover Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business at No. 10, rubbing elbows with the likes of Michigan Ross and UCLA Anderson. We also find Seattle Albers, Xavier Williams, Fairfield Dolan, and others from the ranks of the unranked.

What do these small and unheralded schools all have in common? A Roman Catholic, Jesuit foundation, and apparently a strong fan base among deans and counterpart officials.

Looking across the 12 specializations, one spots these schools again and again. Taking the rankings at face value, Fairfield’s Dolan School of Business in Connecticut, which does not have a full-time MBA, is a great destination for those looking to study Finance (ranked 25th, above Dartmouth Tuck, Washington Olin, and Penn State Smeal), Accounting (20th, tied with Harvard Business School and ahead of Northwestern Kellogg and Cornell Johnson), and Marketing, where the Dolan School is ranked 18th. That’s better than Yale SOM, Virginia Darden, and Wisconsin. Xavier University’s Williams College of Business in Cincinnati, Ohio, with 106 students across all graduate programs, is ranked 28th in Marketing and 26th in Finance. The latter mark is better than Indiana Kelley, Arizona State Carey, Boston Carroll, and Ohio State Fisher. All of the schools used here in comparison are top-50 schools; neither Fairfield nor Xavier found their way onto U.S. News’ overall ranking this year, or last, or the year before. Other unranked schools to make appearances (sometimes repeat appearances) in the specialization rankings: Creighton, Loyola Maryland, Marquette, St. Joseph’s, and Detroit Mercy. All are Jesuit schools.

Is your target school a quant school or a poet school? See the next pages for a complete breakdown of the rankings in 13 specializations for the U.S. News top 50. 


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