10 Biggest Surprises & Insights In The Economist’s 2022 MBA Ranking

5) Surprise: MBA Students At These Schools Quit Six-Figure Jobs To Get An MBA But Their Immediate Pay Bumps Were Modest

Even accounting for the often unreliability of The Economist’s data, we were interested to see that the average pre-MBA salaries at a handful of business schools already was in six figures. That is the case for the newest crop of students at Harvard Business School ($112,816), MIT Sloan ($106,637), the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School ($107,221), Stanford Graduate School of Business ($103,513), and even the University of Queensland Business School in Australia ($110,016) (see below table). That’s up from just one school–Harvard–in 2019 when the typical HBS student left a job with an average salary of $108,303.

Because these students left such lucrative paying jobs, they did not realize the largest salary bumps as a result of their MBA degrees. In fact, it may well surprise many that the schools that made the most immediate difference in one's salary are not the highest-ranked business schools. According to The Economist's sample of 100 schools, MBA graduates from the University of Rochester's Simon Business School got the biggest bump, though there are issues with the numbers as you can see in the table below. Other schools providing big increases to students over their pre-MBA salaries were the University of Pittsburgh's Katz Graduate School of Business, Michigan State University's Broad College of Business, Penn State's Smeal College of Business, and HEC Paris Business School. In some cases, the increases were massive, 200% or more.

Washington University's Olin School of Business

Washington University's Olin School of Business

6) A Tale Of Two Programs: Olin & Marshall

Every year, a new business school is trumpeted as “the future.” Yale SOM and Oxford Saïd were eulogized for their commitment to addressing social issues. Washington Foster and Georgetown McDonough boasted great locations and formidable programming. In recent years, USC’s Marshall School of Business has earned the moniker of “It” school in graduate business education. 

Let’s be honest: when you poach Wharton’s dean, you’re going to snag headlines. That was before Marshall’s online MBA programs emerged as one of the world’s best. Plus, Marshall’s pockets are deep and their alumni – dubbed the “Trojan Family – have been hell-bent on opening doors for MBA students for decades.

Still, these advantages didn’t translate to higher rankings for Marshall in 2022. That was foreshadowed in this year’s Financial Times MBA Ranking, where the school slipped from 24th to 25th – well behind #1 Wharton. When The Economist ranking was unveiled this week, the Marshall momentum evaporated…and it was time to crown a new “It” school. 

That’s because USC Marshall finished 33rd, behind programs like EDHEC Business School and the University of Florida. This also represents a 13-spot drop from 2019.  One reason: Marshall only ranked among the Top 15 schools in two measures: Alumni Effectiveness (5th) and Average GMAT (15th). The alumni survey scores were particularly troubling: Faculty Quality (96th), Programme Content (86th), Facilities (90th), and Career Services (69th).

Still, there is always a school waiting in the wings to make a splash. This year, that turned out to be Washington University’s Olin Business School. It cracked the Top 20 at #19 – a major jump over ranking 41st in 2019 (and pinballing between 37th and 48th for the previous six years). The school scored highest in the Personal Development and Educational Experience. Ranking 16th in this dimension, Olin bested programs like Harvard Business School, Michigan Ross, Berkeley Haas, NYU Stern, and Cornell Johnson. Notably, Faculty notched a 4.78 average in the alumni survey. That was good for 4th-best in the world (and a .21 of a point improvement over the alumni’s 2019 score).  Olin’s Programme Content also ranked 4th in the alumni survey – with the average score improving from 4.37 to 4.71 over the past three years. Most impressive of all? The school posted a perfect score and ranked 1st for Range of and Access to Overseas Study Programs.

The latter score is hardly surprising. Three years ago, the school launched its vaunted Global Immersion program. Unlike traditional MBA programs, which make international treks voluntary and reserve many of them for second-years, Olin kicks off their program by sending MBA students overseas. For 38 days, they complete site visits and projects in countries as different as Spain, China, and Peru. Not only does this expose students to varying business practices, but provides an opportunity to build relationships before the core courses start. At the same time, Olin's Entrepreneurship program has ranked #1 globally for three years running. More than that, it has installed an experiential-based, data-driven curriculum that prepares students for what’s next.

In many ways, you could say Marshall and Olin are mirror images of each other. Both maintain undergraduate business programs that rank among the best in the world. While Olin became famous for its Global Immersion, Marshall pioneered the international trek with its PRIME module that sends students overseas for 10 days. Both programs are private and urban too – and their recent curriculum revamps have strongly integrated data-based learning across every corner of the programming.

Even more, both boast bold leaders in Marshall Dean Geoffrey Garrett and Olin Dean Mark Taylor. With Taylor departing at the end of the month, a question arises: Can Olin build on its momentum and take the next step – or will it slip back into the pack like USC Marshall? Chances are, you’ll find the early returns in the next Economist ranking.

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