The Complete Methodology Behind P&Q’s 2024 Online MBA Ranking

Kelley Direct online MBA students from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business on a global immersion in Athens, Greece. Courtesy photo

We at Poets&Quants have said it time and time again: No ranking is perfect. But, since our first ranking of the best online MBA programs in the U.S. seven years ago, we’ve worked to constantly improve ours. We’ve consulted with deans and directors for suggestions and adjusted our approach when merited.

Throughout, our basic framework has remained the same: An online MBA ranking centered around three equally-weighted categories – admission standards, academic experience and career outcomes. While specific criteria and weights have changed slightly over the years, this year’s methodology is largely similar to last year’s. (See 2024’s ranking of the best online MBA programs here.)

Admission standards are reported by the schools in our institutional survey. It includes metrics such as average undergraduate GPA and average years of student work experience.

Academic experience and career outcomes are collected through an alumni survey sent to the most recent graduates. This year, we surveyed alumni from the Class of 2023, those graduating between July 1, 2022 and June 30, 2023. We require a minimum response rate of 10%, and schools that don’t meet that threshold do not get full credit for their alumni data. For example, a school that earns a 9.5% response rate gets 95% of their alumni averages counted in our methodology, schools that earn an 8.5% rate get 85% of alumni averages. This year, all but one school – University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business – met the minimum response rate.

As we did last year, we included alumni survey data from previous alumni classes when available. This year, we included the previous two classes instead of just one. The most recent data was weighted 50% of the alumni scores while data from the Classes of 2022 and 2021 were weighted 25% each. (Schools that did not participate last year and, hence, did not have alumni data, were given the same scores for all three years.)

While beneficial to our readers and the ranking itself, we’ve noticed the alumni survey can create yearly wild swings that can occur if a single class of graduates was happy or unhappy. While there are still swings from the alumni survey, it helps cut down on most dramatic swings.

This year, 51 schools participated in the ranking, up one from last year. This includes three schools that did not participate last year: Bowling Green State University, University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and San Jose State University Lucas Graduate School of Business. In all, the survey was sent to 9,080 eligible alumni with 1,512 returned surveys. That’s a 17% response rate, down slightly from the 18% achieved the past two years.

Our full 2024 OMBA Ranking methodology is outlined below. You can compare it to 2023’s methodology here. And be sure to check out our full ranking of the Best Online MBA Programs for 2024.


Two years ago, we reduced the weight of the average adjusted GMAT score from 50% of the total admissions score down to 20%. In the years since the pandemic, several schools have introduced generous test waivers for work experience and other attributes, and others have gone completely test optional.

To calculate our adjusted GMAT average, we multiply the school’s average GMAT score with the percentage of students who reported GMAT scores plus the percentage of students who had the test waived because of 10 or more years of work experience. We still consider GMAT a robust measure of admission standards and so our methodology rewards schools that report GMAT stats.

Admission standards metrics (100 possible points):

  • Average undergraduate GPA (30%)
  • Average years of work experience (30%)
  • Acceptance rate (20%)
  • Adjusted Average GMAT (20%)


The bulk of this category (80%) comes from the average score of 15 questions from our alumni survey measured on a ten-point scale.

These questions cover a wide range of aspects of an online MBA program. Graduates are asked how likely they would be to recommend the OMBA program, how accessible and helpful professors were, and their ability to create meaningful connections with fellow classmates and faculty.

The remaining 20% comes from the average rating alumni gave their schools based on their ability to participate in student-run clubs and organizations or work on consulting projects with outside organizations.

Academic experience metrics (100 possible points):

  • The average score of 15 one-to-10 scaled questions (80%)
  • The average percentage of questions on student clubs and organizations, and completing a consulting project (20%)


Like the academic experience category, career outcomes data is collected from responses to the alumni survey.

The most weight is given to the percentage of graduates reporting a promotion and/or salary increase directly because of the OMBA program. This gets a 40% weight in the category as it most closely aligns with most students’ reasons for pursuing the degree.

The remaining 60% of the category is split between respondents’ average rating given to the schools’ career advising office, the average percentage of students saying their primary and secondary career goals were met because of their online MBA, and the strength of their professional networks connected to the degree.

Career outcomes metrics (100 possible points):

  • Average reporting a salary increase or promotion (40%)
  • Average rating of career coach/mentor and career advising office (20%)
  • Average of primary career goal being met (20%)
  • Average of secondary career goal being met (10%)
  • Average rating of ability to build a professional network (5%)
  • Average rating of satisfaction of that professional network (5%)


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