HEC Paris & London Top FT’s Master Of Finance Rankings

Inside HEC Paris

For the fourth time in five years, HEC Paris topped the Financial Times ranking of the world’s best master’s programs in finance for students with little to no experience in the field. London Business School, meantime, won top honors for having the best master’s in finance for those with financial experience on their resumes.

The highest-ranked U.S. specialty master’s program in finance was again MIT’s Sloan School of Management which came in eighth place, its lowest rank in five years. In 2016 and 2017, MIT’s program ranked fifth. In fact, MIT was the only U.S. program in the top 40 of the pre-experience degree programs. Sloan dropped one place from the FT‘s 2018 ranking. Sloan finance alums averaged a salary of $142,876, the highest weighted salary among the U.S. schools on the list. 

Rounding out the top five in the pre-experience category were No. 2 ESCP Business School, No. 3 Skema Business School, No. 4 Essec Business School in France, and No. 5 Edhec Business School, also in France. The new 2020 Master of Finance rankings appears after the FT failed to publish these rankings last year.

While the FT places numerical ranks on 56 separate pre-experience finance master’s programs, the post-experience ranking boasts just three schools. Besides HEC Paris, the University of Cambridge Judge Business School was second and Singapore Management University was third.


U.S. schools grabbed only eight of the positions in the FT‘s pre-experience ranking. They included No. 42 Bentley University, No. 44 University of Rochester, No. 45 University of Maryland, No. 46 Brandeis International Business School, No. 48 University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business, No. 53 University of Utah, and No. 54 Ohio State University.

The FT‘s Europe-centric ranking excludes some of the best business schools in the U.S. that offer master’s of finance programs, including Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, Washington University’s Olin School of Business, the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. However, many of the U.S. schools best known for finance, including Wharton, Columbia, and Chicago Booth, do not offer specialized master’s programs in the subject (see The P&Q Directory of Specialized Master’s Programs).

As rankings go, this is one of the more curious and quirky exercises by The Financial Times. The pre-experience ranking often has many schools with little reputational capital or standing beating out other more established business schools with brands that extend beyond a region or country. Outside the top participating players, there are some funky outcomes. Esade Business School in Spain, for example, ranked second only five years ago. This year, its master of finance program placed 18th. Meantime, Neoma Business School in France is among the top 25, above such better-known business schools as EMLyon (27), Rotterdam (35), and University College Dublin (41).


According to the FT, HEC Paris has topped its ranking for every year since the start in 2011 with only one exception: in 2017 when Edhec nudged it aside for the top position. “Its success is explained by the financial uplift that its alumni enjoy: the highest weighted average salary, at $149,750 this year, and the highest salary percentage increase three years after graduation,” according to the FT. “The school is also the best for career progress.

“HEC’s salary performance is not typical of European schools, according to the newspaper. “Analysis of the pre-experience programs shows that alumni of Asian schools have higher salaries and raises three years after graduation when adjusted for purchasing power parity between countries.  Alumni from US and European schools, however, report greater success in achieving their overall aims in studying a MiF. Survey respondents say their main reasons for taking a MiF are better career opportunities and personal development, followed by improving earnings and acquiring specialized skills.”

As is often the case in business school rankings, salary looms large, accounting for nearly a third of the FT’s methodology. The newspaper puts a 20% weight on the average salaries reported by alums three years after graduation, adjusting the numbers of purchasing power parity. Another 10% of the weight is devoted to the average increase in salary between graduation and pre-program pay. All told, there are 17 metrics that make up the ranking, ranging from the percentage of women in a program to the mobility of international students, but none are given as much importance as the two salary measurements.


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