The high cost of an MBA and the pressure to stay in work to continue earning mean MBA candidates are more discerning about the flagship management qualification. Calculating the return on investment (ROI) of business school is vital when weighing up your options.
The Financial Times Global MBA Ranking lists the world’s 100 best business schools each year. The FT also tots up schools’ 'value for money' rank, which is compiled using the salary of alumni today, course length, fees, and other costs, including the opportunity cost of not working for the duration of the MBA.
Here we explore some of the best-value, full-time MBA programs currently available according to the FT 2024 MBA Ranking.
Best-value MBA programs
The University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business tops the list of the best-value MBA programs in 2024, despite ranking in 40th place overall.
The two-year MBA program costs just $14,968 per year for Georgia residents and $33,996 for non-residents. That adds up to under $30,000 for the whole program for in-state students and under $70,000 for out-of-state students.
By contrast, just one year at the top-ranking MBA program overall, Wharton, costs over $124,000.
Not only are tuition fees low at Georgia: Terry, but salaries that students earn after graduation are high. According to the FT’s list, the average weighted salary of a Georgia: Terry MBA three years after graduation is over $143,000, with an average salary increase of $186% between pre and post-study.
The second best-value MBA on the FT’s list is ESCP Business School in France. Ranked 25th overall, the school is one of the highest-ranking programs overall on this list.
ESCP’s MBA in International Management can take as little as 10 months to complete and for the 2024 intake costs just €57,000 (US $61,500). Average alumni salaries after graduation are even higher than at Georgia: Terry, at over $143,900, although the percentage increase is lower at 99%.
Top MBAs For Value For Money
With MBAs typically being shorter in Europe—thus reducing both tuition and opportunity costs—it is perhaps no surprise that European programs dominate the list of top MBAs for value for money.
Including the UK, eight of the top 15 best-value MBA programs are in Europe, with France accounting for half of these.
The highest-ranking MBA on this list belongs to SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan, which ranks third in the overall global rankings and fifth for value for money. It is the only school in the top 20 to rank this highly for value.
The 12 to 15-month program costs €75,000 (US $81,000), with most graduates taking home salaries above $200,000 three years after graduation.
The only UK-based program on this list is the MBA at University of Cambridge's Judge Business School, where tuition costs £69,000 (US $87,000). Cambridge MBAs increase their salaries by 99% on average, achieving average yearly pay packages of nearly $177,000.
Only two schools outside the US and Europe rank in the top 15 for value for money. The first is Nanyang Business School at NTU Singapore, where grads secure an 144% average increase in their salaries after graduation, from an investment of just $81,750 in tuition.
MBA ROI: What will you earn?
The average salary for graduates on this list of the best-value MBA programs is just under $147,000. Although this is nearly $100,000 shy of the top-ranking MBA programs—graduates from Wharton earn nearly $246,000 on average—it still represents an average of 120% increase in salary from pre-MBA, roughly the same as at Wharton.
The highest salary in this list comes from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics: College of Business in China. The school offers a two-year full-time MBA in mainland China for just CNY 288,000 (US $40,000), but graduates increase their salaries by an average of 190%, with an average salary of over $211,000 after three years.
SDA Bocconi grads come in second, followed by Cambridge Judge. These top three salaries are well ahead of the pack, with the next-highest salary in this list belonging to Nanyang Business School almost $10,000 below.
If getting the highest MBA salary is your driving factor, it may be best to look outside the top 10 global MBA programs. For instance, Shanghai University offers access to highly competitive graduate salaries for a very low upfront investment in tuition.
Indeed, as we mentioned above, the only top-10-ranked school to appear in this list is SDA Bocconi’s MBA program; all other programs sit outside the top 20.
This goes to show the importance of considering factors like overall return on investment when choosing your MBA program, and not ending your search at the top schools.