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7 Top Cities For An MBA In The US

From forward-thinking tech hubs to historical New England towns, these are the best cities in the US to study your MBA degree

By  Almha Murphy

Fri Sep 8 2023

The phrase ‘American Dream’ was first penned by the writer James Truslow Adams way back in 1931, but fast-forward nearly 100 years later and the idea still holds true today.  

Each year, thousands of professionals apply to business school in the US to chase their own American dream. According to a 2023 GMAC survey, 42% of all prospective MBA candidates are interested in studying in the US—and with the range of options on offer, it’s easy to see why.

Not only is the US home to the globally renowned M7 schools, it’s also a major hiring pool for some of the world’s largest, highest-paying corporations, such as IBM and Amazon. But the tricky part is deciding where to study your degree. 

So, what are the top MBA cities in the US? 

Top MBA Cities In The US

1. New York (NY)

It’s hard not to wander down the neon-lit streets of New York without feeling like you’re on a movie set. From the allure of sights like Times Square and Central Park, to the mythologized metropolitan energy, this sleepless melting pot has a reputation for attracting the most ambitious of dreamers. 

It should therefore come as no surprise that the city is home to the number one MBA program in the world. According to the Financial Times, Columbia Business School boasts the world’s best MBA degree, with graduates earning seismic median salaries of over $225,000. 

Similarly, the New York University Stern School of Business is also ranked in the top 10 US MBA programs by the US News report, where graduates can expect to earn lucrative salaries of around $198,000.

READ: What Are The Best Business Schools In New York City? 54f31edca6bb4a33a7feb8b835af890be2e8a2b3.png ©Sean Pavone 

2. Cambridge (Boston, Massachusetts)

Separated by the deep blue Charles River, Cambridge and Boston sit across from each other and share the same diverse student populations, vibrant brewery culture, and world-renowned business schools.  

Part of the world-famous Harvard University, Harvard Business School – birthplace of the MBA degree -- sits squarely on the Boston side of the river. With the FT ranking its MBA fourth in the world, and an impressive graduate median salary of $235,000, the school possesses an extensive alumni network that includes billionaires such as Bill Gates.  

Coming fourth in the US News ranking is the equally renowned MBA program at MIT Sloan School of Management. Situated in the lively neighboring town of Cambridge, MIT Sloan grads earn salaries of around $207,000 per year. 

3. LA (California)

It’s where anyone who’s trying to become someone winds up. A Shangri-la of Hollywood stars, musicians, and sun-drenched yellow beaches, just being in the buzz of LA feels a little like you’ve already made it.   

For those seeking stardom in the business world, underneath the breezy palm trees you can find the campus of UCLA Anderson School of Management. Ranked the world’s 14th best MBA program by the FT, graduates of this top degree earn salaries of over $192,000. 

Found nearby in the city is the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, which boasts an MBA program, ranked 15th in the US by US News. USC graduates routinely pocket salaries of around $181,300.

4. San Francisco (Greater Bay Area, California)

Home to Silicon Valley – the crown jewel of the tech world – San Francisco and its surrounding Bay Area are mega-centers for diversity and innovation, making it one of the best cities for MBA graduates. 

Located in the tech hub of Palo Alto is the world-leading Stanford Graduate School of Business, which ties with Harvard in the FT MBA ranking at number four. Stanford graduates earn larger salaries than grads of any other top-ranked MBA degree, with a median salary of almost $250,000.  

Another highly reputed MBA program can be found nearby at the Haas School of Business at University of California Berkley. Rated seventh in the world by the FT, its graduates currently earn median wages of over $213,300. 

READ: 5 Reasons To Study Your MBA In San Francisco

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5. Chicago (Illinois)

As the US’ third-largest city, Chicago is famous for its futuristic skyline, happening arts scene, and surfeit of Michelin-star restaurants, which you can enjoy all the while studying for a top-rated MBA. 

In 2023, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business was awarded the title of best MBA program in the States by the US News report. The nation’s second-oldest business school, graduates of Chicago Booth’s program earn median salaries of $218,000 at top companies. 

The same report ranked the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University as a close second, while the Financial Times placed it at number nine in the world. Situated in the neighboring town of Evanston, Northwestern MBA grads can expect salaries of $209,300.

6. Durham (North Carolina)

This southern city has more to offer than just craft cocktails, friendly neighbors, and a warm climate. Known as the Startup Capital of the South, Durham is a magnet for entrepreneurial thinkers from around the globe. 

Shrouded in the city’s rich green foliage, Duke University Fuqua School of Business boasts the world’s 11th best MBA, according to the FT. Famous alumni of the program include Apple CEO, Tim Cook, while current graduates earn median salaries of over $196,700.

Over in the nearby town of Chapel Hill, the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School also offers a highly ranked MBA program. Ranked number 22 in the States by US News, graduates go on to earn impressive salaries of $169,400. 

7. Philadelphia (Pennsylvania)

When devout Quaker William Penn stepped off the boat onto Philadelphia in 1682 to set up his colony of “brotherly love”, it’s doubtful he ever envisioned it transforming into the main stage of the American Revolution – and it’s definitely probable that he didn’t see it becoming the multicultural originator of the world-famous Philly Cheesesteak either.

However, if there’s one thing about this historical city that has remained constant, it’s that it’s always been home to people with big ideas. 

That’s why, every year, thousands apply to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania MBA program. Not only is it a part of the elite cohort of M7 schools and the former home of well-known alumni including Elon Musk, but graduates can expect salaries of around $175,000.  

READ: 5 Reasons You Should Pursue An MBA In Philadelphia

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Each of these cities are home to schools that offer unique MBA experiences, but all will provide you with a chance to enhance your knowledge and skill set while also making new connections, ensuring that studying an MBA in the US will have a long-lasting impact on your career.