Now, social media platform LinkedIn has joined the roster of rankings providers, with a new US-based list it describes as the “go-to resource to identify the best program for your career goals.”
This claim is based on the ranking’s uniquely career-focused criteria. In an article published alongside the list, Taylor Borden and Juliette Faraut, two LinkedIn editors, wrote that the inspiration for launching the ranking came from asking: “Which MBA programs best set up their alumni for long-term career success?”
This explains why the new LinkedIn Top MBA Programs ranking employs a methodology that is largely focused on career outcomes, rather than other criteria often considered such as research quality, thought leadership, and ESG factors.
LinkedIn Top MBA Programs ranking: How does it work?
LinkedIn’s assessment of US business schools is based on five factors: hiring and demand, ability to advance, network strength, leadership potential, and gender diversity.
Hiring and demand: relates to both labor market demand and job placement rates for graduates between 2018 and 2022. This criteria uses LinkedIn hiring data as well as assessments of the numbers of InMail messages graduates receive from recruiters.
Ability to advance: refers to promotions achieved by graduates and how quickly they have reached senior leadership roles such as director or vice president. This criteria is based upon standardized job titles.
Network strength: assesses graduating cohorts from 2018 to 2022 using LinkedIn member connection data. LinkedIn measures how connected alumni of the same program are, as well as the growth rate of an individual’s network between pre and post-MBA, and the average number of connections they have with individuals who hold director positions or above.
Leadership potential: is based on the percentage of MBA graduates who have gone on to gain C-suite or entrepreneurial experience.
Gender diversity: measures the degree of gender parity among graduating cohorts.
While LinkedIn gives a rough indication of the data sources used within each of these factors, there is currently no comprehensive metric list available. The weighting that each factor plays in a school’s performance is also unclear.
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LinkedIn Top MBA Programs ranking: What do the experts think?
With an approach that differs from other MBA rankings available, LinkedIn’s new MBA ranking could prove to be a useful resource for prospective students. To find out just how useful it could be, BusinessBecause spoke with two prominent MBA admissions consultants.
“I was really excited to see LinkedIn create a ranking. Today's B-school curriculum is centered on teaching students how to make data-driven decisions, so it's logical to make use of big data available through social media to create a league table for future students,” says Barbara Coward, founder of MBA 360 admissions.
LinkedIn’s position as an employment-focused social media platform also gives the ranking credibility, she feels.
“The admissions journey to business school often starts right here on LinkedIn. I have conversations with prospective students nearly every day on LinkedIn, and many prospective students will reach out to connect with MBA students or alums through the site. It's where the 'action' is,” she adds.
For David White, founding partner of Menlo Coaching, the criteria used within the ranking is well-suited to the aims and ambitions of those considering studying an MBA.
“LinkedIn's MBA ranking is very interesting because it uses the data that MBA programs have always hesitated to release publicly: which companies and which roles the graduates work in,” he explains.
“The average MBA applicant has strong preferences in this regard, for example they'd prefer to work at McKinsey, Bain or Boston Consulting Group if targeting consulting, or they'd prefer to work at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Evercore, or similar if targeting banking.”
However, David adds that greater detail regarding the methodology would be a welcome addition, as the current lack of transparency leaves several important questions that must be answered before the ranking can be considered a definitive resource.
“Which companies are counted as ‘top’ companies? Are all top companies considered equal? How is compensation tracked beyond the relatively coarse method of tracking promotions to director or VP titles? Pay for these titles can vary dramatically by industry,” he adds.
LinkedIn Top MBA Programs ranking: What are the results?
So, with LinkedIn’s list showing potential to be a useful addition to the cluster of MBA rankings that are published each year—provided further details on the methodology are made available—what are the results from the inaugural ranking?
The top five is composed of similar names included in rankings published by the likes of the FT and US News. Harvard Business School claims the top spot, while Stanford Graduate School of Business takes second place. Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business rounds out the top three.
The Wharton School, which dropped out of the FT list in 2023 after failing to secure enough alumni responses, places fourth; while MIT Sloan School of Management is the fifth best MBA program according to LinkedIn. That means four of the top five institutions ranked in the list are M7 Business Schools.
Making up the rest of the top 10 spots are Nothwestern University Kellogg School of Management in sixth, University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business in seventh, and Yale school of Management taking eighth. University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business take the final two places.
Other high-profile schools including Columbia Business School (11th)—2023’s top-ranked MBA according to the FT—University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business (12th), Cornell University’s Johnson College of Business (14), and NYU’s Stern School of Business (16) ranked among the top 20.
LinkedIn also published a small amount of data for each business school, including the most common job titles—which typically included roles such as founder, product manager, investment associate, and business consultant—and the most common industries where graduates worked. For all schools in the top 20, the most common industries were: Business and Consulting Services, Capital Markets, and Technology and Internet.