Let’s face it: an MBA is all about getting a great job afterward. Which must mean that Foster is one of the best business schools around. Because The Financial Times recently rated Foster’s full-time MBA number one in the world for employment, with 99% landing a job within three months of graduation. Even better, the Seattle school placed a stunning 60% of graduates in the hot tech sector in 2018, up from 40% in 2014.
Also, the average pay — made up of salary and bonuses — of the most recently surveyed class, which graduated in 2017, was $177,936. That’s higher than Dartmouth, Berkeley, UCLA, Cornell, or Yale. Foster was also one of the top U.S. schools for pay-to-debt ratio, according to a 2017 report by U.S. News, and was number one among top-ranked schools. Amazingly, 45% of full-time MBA grads had no debt whatsoever.
How does Foster do it? Location plays a big part. Seattle is home to a myriad tech stars, most famously Microsoft and Amazon, but Apple, Google, Facebook, and Nintendo have bases nearby as well. And it’s not all tech: other global firms with a presence include Nike, Adidas, Accenture, Boeing, and Deloitte.
But the great results don’t just happen by magic. Foster works very closely with its business partners. Consultants McKinsey, BCG, and Bain train students in critical thinking and framework thinking, while Amazon teaches business memo writing. The connections made in the classroom clearly translate into benefits for all concerned when it comes to recruitment.
First-years also complete an Applied Strategy Project, where a five- or six-member student team works with a company on a real-world problem. MBAs also get involved in the local community by serving as board members on local nonprofits, where they can learn about boardroom dynamics and governance — as well as networking.
So what else does this 21-month MBA have that others don’t? Diversity must help. Women accounted for 42% of the cohort that started in fall 2018, an increase of 10 percentage points compared to three years previously. About a quarter of the MBA class is international, and the same percentage hails from Washington state. Interestingly, 37% of that class had STEM undergraduate degrees, 33% studied business or economics, while 30% studied humanities or social sciences subjects. Perhaps that’s one reason why two-fifths of the most recent graduates took jobs in sales and marketing roles.
Foster takes diversity seriously. It recently became the 20th university to join The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, a partnership of MBA programs and businesses that encourages diversity and inclusion in business education. It has also become a member school of the Forté Foundation, which encourages workplace gender diversity.
The bare bones of the Foster MBA program are familiar enough. The first year consists of core courses like accounting, finance, marketing, operations management, and strategy. In the second year students customize their experience, with overseas trips, exchanges, and electives. All students also take courses in ethics and macroeconomics before they leave, and are required to complete one of various overseas study options. Examples are MBA courses that focus on international topics, non-MBA courses with an international focus, study abroad, international study tours, or completion of an internationally focused internship or project. Alongside the conventional study, students undergo intensive career coaching, including “mentoring and polishing” in year two.
Unsurprisingly, given the tech environment, entrepreneurship is a big deal at Foster. It is home to the 30-year-old Arthur Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, which houses the Jones + Foster Accelerator. Competitions and encouragement in the form of mentoring, workshops, and funding encourages student-led companies. Also, there are no fewer than 19 electives in entrepreneurship-related subjects.
Is Foster optimistic about its graduates’ futures? Absolutely. After all, not every school has an elective in how to give a TED Talk.
The University of Washington’s Foster School fell eight places to a rank of 40th in 2011 from 32 a year earlier in PoetsandQuants’ ranking of the top 100 MBA programs in the U.S. The decline in Foster’s standing can largely be attributed to The Financial Times which failed to include the school in its 2011 ranking. A year earlier, the FT ranked Foster 78 on its global list. The school also fell four places in U.S. News’ 2011 ranking, dropping to 37th place from 33rd in 2010.
Foster no longer publishes in its employment report its top employers, preferring to list all of the firms that hired the school’s graduates.