Fortune magazine has just released its first full-time MBA ranking, with Harvard Business School topping the list of the best MBA programs in the United States.
There’s no big surprise in the top three of the exclusively US-based list: Stanford is in second place and Wharton is third.
The new Fortune MBA ranking is based on salary outcomes for the MBA class of 2020, the brand reputation of business schools, and alumni career outcomes.
The results are underwhelming.
How is Fortune’s MBA ranking put together?
The Fortune MBA ranking methodology differs from other rankings in its emphasis, perhaps overemphasis, on pay.
Starting salaries and job placement rates post-graduation account for 65% of the ranking methodology—double the weight given to the same metrics by US News and Bloomberg Businessweek.
25% of the ranking is based on ‘brand’, which was calculated via a survey of business professionals who were asked about their opinions of the schools.
The remaining 10% is based on the number of MBA alumni who are c-suite executives at Fortune 1000 companies, reflecting the type of high-flying career graduates can expect.
Fortune Education Editorial Director Lance Lambert says: “We looked for programs that not only see their graduates head into good jobs right out of the gate, but also have a track record of placing alumni into the highest echelons of Corporate America.”
What are the Fortune MBA ranking’s limitations?
Given the sheer size of some schools’ alumni community and the fact that respondents to the brand survey could name their alma mater, Fortune’s methodology privileges big brand, elite business schools.
That is reflected in the predictable top 10, which includes five Ivy League institutions, M7 business schools, and some of the most well-known schools in the country.
Moreover, suffering from rankings fatigue, some renowned programs are markedly absent from the list. Four schools that typically make the top 25 in US MBA rankings—UCLA Anderson, Michigan Ross, USC Marshall, and Emory Goizueta—declined to participate in the new ranking.
Of the 100 programs contacted by Fortune, only 69 completed the questionnaire.
In the case of the Fortune ranking, this missing data means some schools fared much better than they have done elsewhere. UC Davis ranked 27th, 26 spots better than its US News ranking.
Another surprising entry is Lindenwood University, which doesn’t usually appear in top MBA rankings, ranked 69th by Fortune.
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Can you trust the Fortune MBA ranking?
However, if you’re already wading through multiple MBA rankings lists with different criteria, Fortune’s ranking adds to the confusion.
US-centric and focused on elite schools, Fortune’s MBA ranking can hardly claim to bring a fresh perspective. Its methodology is also not as nuanced or intricate as other rankings, and the overemphasis on salary may give a distorted picture of a school’s value.
While the Fortune ranking is useful for those interested exclusively in studying in the US and who want to know about immediate post-graduation opportunities, you should use it as one among many tools to help you choose your MBA.
To find the right business school for you, speak with current MBA students, read MBA alumni profiles, and seek out a wide variety of resources—including, but never limited to MBA rankings lists that often don’t tell the whole story.