Asian Business Schools: Highest Pay, Placement & Satisfaction

Large populations and diverse economies.

That’s the Asia of the 21st Century: a wealth of natural resources and swelling middle classes. The region is already the 2nd-largest consumer market. In a 2020 study, the Brookings Institution projects that 1.2 billion Chinese people will reach middle class status in five years. Among the billion people expected to enter the consumer class this decade, Brookings writes, 4-in-10 will hail from India, Pakistan, or Bangladesh.

That means opportunity for business professionals – and demand for graduate business education.

From the tech hubs of Beijing and Bangalore to the shipping centers in Shenzhen and Singapore, Asian MBAs are integrating best practices, driving growth, and making an impact. Question is, which Asian programs are delivering the best return and experience? That’s exactly what the Financial Times MBA ranking is designed to tell applicants and graduates alike. And let’s just say the results were quite inconsistent, as different Asian schools boasted different strengths – and none really stood out from the pack.

Meet The CEIBS MBA Class Of 2024

CEIBS MBA Class of 2024 celebrates Chinese New Year. Courtesy photo


In the 2023 ranking, you’ll find 16 Asian programs ranked among the Financial Times Top 100, down from 17 last year. This year, CEIBS ranks highest among Asian programs at 20th, edging out the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (23rd) and the National University of Singapore (25th). However, CEIBS and the National University of Singapore actually lost four spots each this year. Even more, four Chinese institutions tumbled out of the 2023 FT ranking, including Tongji University, Tsinghua University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and Peking University’s Guanghau School of Management – all programs that ranked from 32nd to 65th last year.

How does that compare to other regions? Consider this: 46 American schools dot the Financial Times ranking. That’s nearly three times more than the entire Asian continent. As a whole, Europe accounts for 32 programs in FT’s Top 100, including 10 in the United Kingdom and 7 in France. Rankings may be imprecise instruments, but they reflect the 3 R’s: reputation, resources, and reach. In those areas, Asian MBA programs are still playing catch up.

Take MBA pay. The Financial Times measures “Weighted Salary” – which it defines as “average alumni salary three years after completion using U.S. dollars.” In this measure, the highest-ranked school is IIM Ahmedabad. Here, MBAs are earning $186,420 within three years of graduation. That’s good for 18th place – and better than higher-ranked programs like IESE Business School and London Business School (which rank 3rd and 18th overall respectively). At the same, graduates from the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics ad CEIBS were clustered near IIM Ahmedabad, pulling in $181,274 and $177,132 respectively. By the same token, the National University of Singapore ($161,506) and the Indian School of Business ($161,331) also broke the $160K mark, which placed them alongside American programs like Washington University’s Olin School and the University of Rochester’s Simon School. In contrast, MBA graduates from six full-time Asian MBA programs averaged less than $140,000 within three years of graduation. The lowest performers were the Singapore Management University ($127,513)  and the Chinese University of Hong Kong ($132,346).

That said, one number did stand out when comparing 2023 pay against numbers reported in 2021. Shanghai University of Finance and Economics experienced a major pay jump over two years. It rose from $105,648 to $181,274 over that period. Fudan University and Nanyang University graduates experienced improvements of $16,889 and $15,932 in base pay over that time too. Still, several programs also saw pay drop over the past two years, including IIM Bangalore (-$14,389) and IIM Indore (-$12,279).

If you treat the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics’ epic pay bump as an anomaly, Asia lags behind Western business schools in post-MBA pay within a three-year range. Exhibit A: IIM Ahmedabad, which graduated the highest-paid Asian MBAs at $186,420. Two years ago, their grads received base pay of $192,390, a decrease of $5,970. Compare those totals to the 2023 and 2021 bases of graduates nearest to IIM Ahmedabad: Michigan Ross ($186,829 vs. $167,336), Georgetown McDonough ($185,936 vs. $161,512), Rice Jones ($183,332 vs. $161,156), and London Business School ($182,254 vs. $177,234). Translation: Non-Asian MBA alumni generally collect bigger pay bumps within three years of graduation.

The library on the IIM-Ahmedabad campus -- Courtesy photo from IIM


However, Asian grads enjoy a significant advantage in job placement. 14 of 16 Asian full-time programs ranked by the Financial Times achieved 92% placement or above within three months of graduation – a testament to the demand for MBAs to manage growth in the region. In fact, 7 of the 16 Asian full-time MBA programs reported 100% placement. However, such numbers must be met with a degree of skepticism. After all, there were just 9 programs surveyed by the Financial Times that hit the 100% mark. More suspicious, IIM Calcutta and the Indian School of Business have reported 100% placement for three consecutive years. Still, you’ll find another 10 programs that reached 97%-99% placement in the 2023 ranking, which puts Asian MBA placement numbers within possibility.

Of course, pay and placement are just two data points measured by the Financial Times. The ranking also integrates survey responses on alumni networks. Here, student survey respondents evaluate their alumni’s effectiveness in areas like “career opportunities, starting companies, gaining new ideas, recruiting staff and giving event information (such as career-related talks).” In this dimension, 4 Asian MBA programs ranked among the 15-most effective, led by the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and the Indian School of Business. In fact, these schools ranked their alumni higher than their counterparts at INSEAD, Harvard Business School and even Columbia Business School (which ranked #1 overall in the Financial Times’ 2023 ranking).

That said, Asian programs ranked lower in two areas: career services and research. When alumni were surveyed over the effectiveness of their schools’ “career counseling, personal development, networking events, internship search, and recruiting, just Fudan University ranked among the 15-best – and 15th at that. When it comes to research – calculated by faculty publication in 50 leading academic journals from January 2020 to July 2022 –the highest performers came in at 27th (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) and 28th (National University of Singapore). In contrast, IIM Indore and IIM Calcutta tied at 98th for research, followed by IIM Lucknow at 100th.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.