10 Business Schools To Watch In 2024

Columbia Business School Manhattanville Campus

Columbia Business School

The World Cup. The Super Bowl. The Olympics.

The Pulitzer. The Nobel Prize. The Golden Globes.

Be it head-to-head competition or voting, each recognizes excellence, execution, and innovation. In education, rankings often substitute for lavish spectacles. When it comes to business schools, some argue that The Financial Times is the ranking to watch. After all, it is the only major ranking that compares MBA programs globally against each other using the same criteria.

Most deans will claim that rankings really don’t matter. They’re biased and dated, measuring the wrong dimensions in the wrong amounts. Of course, their marketing materials and sales pitches say otherwise. Rankings may not rack up bull’s eyes, but they grab attention from educators, students, alumni, and employers. They make applicants think and administrators act.

Columbia Business School certainly made headlines in 2023, notching the top spot in The Financial Times’ Global MBA Ranking. Let’s just say it has been a long time coming. CBS was the runner-up in the 1999, 2007, and 2022 full-time rankings. And the school has made the FT’s Top 5 in 17 out of the 25 years that the FT has ranked business schools. One reason: High pay. Looking over graduate pay within three years of graduation, Columbia MBAs earned $226,359, behind only the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Harvard Business School. The school also finished 2nd for the volume and quality of faculty research. CBS Graduates also performed well in job placement and pre-MBA pay increases. At the same time, alumni satisfaction hit 9.51 on a 10-point scale,

“These factors suggest that graduates are enjoying high-level returns on investment in an increasingly unpredictable market,” says Michael Malone, the former associate dean of admissions at CBS. “Columbia has added to its traditional strengths in consulting and financial services by building stronger employment relationships in areas including e-commerce, fintech, and real estate. By diversifying career opportunities, Columbia can provide its graduates with what every MBA student wants most: choices.”

Choices. Opportunities. Investments. That’s the real appeal of Columbia Business School.  While CBS reached the proverbial top of the mountain, the school is taking pains to make the move permanent. That starts with the school’s Digital Future Initiative, which it launched in 2022. Call it a means to help students keep pace with the breakneck speed of the digital economy. To do this, CBS developed four research labs and programming that connect MBA students with leading business practitioners and CBS faculty to harness these advances. The four labs cover digital financial markets, algorithmic decision-making, human-centered technology, and media and entertainment technology. In the digital financial markets lab, for example, students will complete projects involving blockchains, decentralized market microstructure, and mechanisms for decentralized organization and governance mechanisms, says Clare Norton, the school’s senior associate dean of enrollment management. In contrast, Norton notes the human-centered lab will provide hands-on experience in areas ranging from workforce composition to reimagined workplaces to best automation practices.

“These labs operate in synergy with a diverse and comprehensive team comprising research scientists, industry fellows, and student researchers, Norton adds in a 2023 interview. “Notably, the labs capitalize on Columbia Business School’s rich tradition of interdisciplinary collaboration, tapping into the reservoir of knowledge spanning engineering, law, policy, and medicine across Columbia University. This multifaceted approach amplifies the labs’ potential and fosters the advancement of ambitious projects, seamlessly knitting academia, industry, and society into a tapestry of progress.”

Financial Times 2023 MBA ranking

Columbia Business School takes first place in the Financial Times 2023 MBA ranking

CBS has been equally ambitious in other aspects of its curriculum. Norton notes that a decade ago, the school began to expand its programming in areas like machine learning and coding. What’s more, faculty has devoted intensive focus on cutting-edge areas like integrating health care and machine learning and labor force automation. At the same time, the school has been busy adding new courses that address the future of business and work in various fields. These range from Real Estate Analytics to Legal Matters in Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies and Digital Assets.

“Our curriculum now contains courses that include tech fundamentals, applied AI, digital product management, blockchain, crypto, and climate tech, among others,” Norton pointed out in a 2022 interview wth P&Q. “Today, more than 88% of our students take an elective in data, tech, or analytics and ~67% take two or more electives in this space…The number of data and digital-related classes on offer at CBS continues to grow with 3 times more sections and more than double the number of students taking classes in this area. 88% of 2022 MBA graduates took at least one full-term elective focused on product, tech, digital, analytics, or programming.”

That doesn’t count climate change and sustainability, areas where CBS seeks to become the world’s undisputed leader. Long known for being one of the top MBA programs in Finance – and an incubator for Wall Street talent – CBS has now incorporated climate and sustainability across its MBA programming, says Norton, with an emphasis on “environmental and social responsibility.” That sets the program up for several university partnerships, including the Columbia Climate School. Not surprisingly, Norton observes, faculty research has entered areas like carbon reduction pledges, behavioral nudging, and clean growth. On top of that, the school has recently been rolling out courses like Climate Finance, Measuring and Managing Climate Risk, and Climate Change and Energy Transition.

Not only have these efforts enabled CBS to do good, but also do well by attracting news students like first-year Isabella Todaro. “It was important to me that the business school has dedicated resources to developing curricula specifically tailored to my interests and to solving such a key global issue,” she tells P&Q. “CBS offers many courses dedicated to climate change and business and I’m looking forward to taking advantage of experiential learning and fellowship opportunities focused on climate change.

How serious is CBS about sustainable practices? They guided the construction of its Manhattanville campus. Opened two years ago, the building received the LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council – but that’s really just an anecdote. Reality is, Columbia Business School’s Manhattanville campus – the Henry R. Kravis Hall and David Geffen Hall – reflect the school’s prestige. More important, it can accommodate the resources of an urban, Ivy League institution that ranks among the world’s best. Picture two glass-encased high-rises, filled with light, covering 492,000 feet – more than double the space of its predecessor, Uris Hall. Imagine spacious and teched-out classrooms, not to mention two dozen interview rooms that pamper employers (and hopefully stick around campus a little longer). Yeah, it may have cost $600 million dollars, but it provides a state-of-the-art learning experience designed to bring together all stakeholders – students, faculty, employers, experts – with amenities that bring out their best. Maybe the new campus’ most underrated feature, says Norton, is its stair system, known as “The Network.”

“[It] acts as the connective tissue of the school, linking all levels of each building, joining a myriad of intimate lounges, classrooms, study rooms, and informal hang-out spaces. In addition, the space includes an Innovation Lab, dedicated space for nurturing new business ventures conceived of and led by members of the Columbia community, student screening room, student game room, fitness room, dining hall, and café. Connecting the buildings is an underground Link, which houses a variety of shared service groups and amenities, allowing our new space to truly function as one unit on our new campus.”

Alas, Columbia Business School boasts – maybe – the biggest advantage of any business school: Location. In New York City, as students say, you’re a cab ride away from every industry, company, function, or area of expertise. The region is home to 47 Fortune 500 companies, along with the presence of large outposts for big names ranging from Google to McKinsey. Not only is it a financial, artistic, and media center, but it nurtures a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem. Think $22 billion dollars in early-stage investment (and 98 unicorns) from 2020-2022. And Columbia Business School MBA competes in the thick of it all. Case in point: Among the 15 MBA startups that drew the most investment from 2018-2022, four were founded by CBS MBA graduates – more than any other business school.

For MBAs, that translates to access and opportunity. Clare Norton points to internship opportunities, something that students can enjoy any time of the year. Even more, they can learn from some of New York City’s top c-suite executives and business thinkers through adjunct faculty and executives-in-residence. More than anything, Columbia Business School positions MBAs for long-term success, whether it is through its deeply-connected faculty and alumni, wide-ranging and cutting-edge programming, or the possibilities only afforded by living in the Big Apple.

“Quoting a line from a CBS alum and the former VP of Entrepreneurship Club,” says first-year Uvika Chaturved, “a CBS MBA will already put you at the top in the business capital of the world.”

Next Page: Johns Hopkins Carey Business School

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