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Why MBA Rankings Are Less Important In Landing MBA Jobs

2013 MBA salaries show that high-ranking business schools don’t necessarily offer the best job prospects. We spoke to four MBA grads about whether MBA Rankings factored into their application choices.

Tue Dec 10 2013

It is common practice for prospective MBAs to enter business schools that are near the top of the global MBA Rankings. How a business school is ranked, in terms of education, salary and job prospects after graduation, is a key consideration when it comes to applying to do an MBA.

The Financial Times and The Economist, among other publications, compile in-depth assessments of the world's best full-time MBA programs and its' recent graduates. Making it into the list of the world's 100 best is considered a major feat.

It is easy to forget that business schools are businesses too. Those in the higher echelons of the MBA rankings will use their position to encourage prospective students to choose their program over others.

And why wouldn't they? Future students often consider rankings in their business school searches; they provide a useful indication of what an MBA graduate can expect in their first post-MBA jobs - and how soon they can expect to get it.

But do rankings translate into career success?

Many argue that, in the US, if you can't get into a top-ranking MBA program, then the degree just isn't worth it.

Jay Bhatti, a 2002 Wharton MBA graduate and a previous member of the Wharton Admissions Committee, provides a frank assessment: "I tell candidates that if they want an MBA, then go to one of the top five schools: Wharton, Harvard, Stanford, MIT and Kellogg. If they cannot get into one of these schools, then don’t even go to another school. The return on investment is just not there."

But the real answer, according to graduate employment figures, is a resounding no. The brand of business school on your resume is seemingly becoming less important.

Whether you agree an MBA is worth it or not, there is no doubt that in the US, and in other parts of the world, an MBA is a career booster.

But in the US, MBA rankings do not necessarily equate to job offers. While the esteem a business school is held in may provide a reliable indication of the standard of education an MBA has earned, for employers that may not be as essential anymore.

Of the 2013 US MBA cohorts, those from Emory University: Goizueta Business School, ranked 49th in the world by the FT, secured the highest amount of job offers after graduation. An impressive and yet suprising 98.1 per cent of their 2013 MBAs were in employment three months after graduating.

Harvard Business School, ranked #1 in the world by the FT, is a shocking 17 places below Emory in the employment report, with 93 per cent of 2013 graduates gaining employment within three months.

Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business, ranked even lower at 72nd (FT) in the world, secured a similarly impressive 97 per cent employment rate, with a $90,000 median base salary and approximately $19,000 average signing-on bonus.

Of course, prospective MBAs chose business schools for a whole host of reasons - and many will claim that the best-ranking schools offer different levels and types of education.

But the case for top-ranking MBA programs offering the best job prospects is declining. According to these figures, where you study is becoming less important.

This week BusinessBecause reported that a Kellogg MBA graduate landed a $375,000 salary in finance – which topped all other 2013 MBA salaries for the US MBA programs surveyed.

But do MBAs still consider rankings when applying to business school?

Fay Wells, a 2006 MBA graduate, said that she chose Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College based on recommendation, rather than ranking. She has since secured media and entertainment jobs at ESPN, Disney and Netflix - and credits Tuck for the roles.

"I considered a couple of different business schools but Tuck was recommended by a friend," she said. "When I reached out to Tuck alumni I had a great experience and I didn’t always have that when speaking to alumni from other schools.

"I went to visit and it was a very welcoming community, with great access to the alumni network. It was a phenomenal experience, so ultimately it made my decision."

Juhi Bhatia, a 2011 MBA graduate from the University of Bath School of Management, suggested that location was the most important factor when choosing an MBA program. After moving from India to study an MBA in the UK, she has since secured a strategic marketing career at ABB.

"I decided that I wanted to have international exposure, in terms of living and knowing about a different country other than India," she told BusinessBecause.

"In terms of location, Bath was the best. I went to an interview and spoke to people there and I liked the environment, the warmth the people showed me and the atmosphere."

The confidence in MBA professors was also a deciding factor. "The professors were very warm when speaking to me, and I was just opened up," Juhi added.

Oliver John Rivera, a 2012 MBA graduate from Grenoble Ecole de Management in France, said that it was less about rankings and more about the career opportunities.

He specialised in management consulting - a key motivator for choosing Grenoble. "I was absolutely gagging to become a consultant and I applied to a few different business schools," he said.

"I knew I wanted to be in Europe, and because I have a German background, I wanted to experience the culture in Europe a bit more."

Originally from Mexico, location was crucial. "Most of my life has been spent in central Mexico so I wanted a change," he added.

Chris Rowohlt, a 2012 MBA graduate from Henley Business School in the UK, said he considered business schools based on recommendations rather than rankings. Chris has since become a consultant and entrepreneur, and he chose Henley because of the program structure.

“It was structured around experiential learning, and collective teamwork and collective assignments,” he said. “The quality of students was also a consideration; the program was more for practicing managers. On our course the average age was thirty-seven and that brought a lot of experience.”

The chance to visit international locations was also important. “The chance to visit Shanghai and Cape Town also influenced my decision,” Chris added.

There are a great many reasons that MBAs chose their business schools – and not all of them are career related.

But what is clear from these figures is that the top-ranking names are becoming less relevant.

What is more important, according to these MBA grads, is international exposure, cohort experience and career specializations.

High-ranking business schools don’t necessarily offer the best career prospects. 

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At Bath, students are offered various avenues and connections to enhance their professional growth, while also having ample opportunities to explore different career paths. The campus offers a vibrant student community and a range of social events that encourage networking and socializing. The faculty members genuinely care about the students' well-being and are supportive throughout their academic journey, fostering a sense of unity across the campus between students and teachers.