Is it worth it to pursue an MBA, especially when the cost of tuition and lost wages can be more than $300,000? Most prospective MBAs apply to school planning to make a career change and/or obtain a higher salary. Forbes’ tenth biennial rankings of the best U.S. and international business schools are based exclusively on the median returns on investment seen by grads of the class of 2012. More than 100 schools and 17,500 alumni responded to questions about their pre- and post-MBA compensation, career choice, and location. 25% of the grads responded. Schools where less than 15% of their alumni responded were excluded from the survey as were schools where alumni had a negative ROI after five years.
Schools were ranked only on their five-year MBA gain – the net cumulative amount the average alumni would have earned after five years by getting their MBA versus staying in their pre-MBA career. Wharton took first place in the U.S. schools for the first time. London School of Business was the best two-year international program, and IMD is the best one-year program.
Here are Forbes’ Best Domestic MBA, Two-Year International MBA, and One-Year International MBA programs:
Domestic MBA Programs
International 2-Year Programs
International 1-Year Programs
The most notable change in this year’s Forbes’ ranking is Wharton’s jump from seventh place to first, moving up a significant six places in the rankings and unseating Stanford, which had been #1 in the previous Forbes’ ranking from 2015. This is the first time that Forbes has crowned Wharton as #1 and the second time this year that a major ranking has done so – U.S. News named Wharton #1 in its 2018 rankings released last March.
The Forbes ranking is to me one of the more valuable of the rankings. It doesn’t rely on opinions, although it does rely on self-reported data from students. It also doesn’t even attempt to measure “educational quality,” which may not be quantifiable or measurable, and definitely means different things to different people. It looks at one thing: Return on Investment.
For Forbes’ methodology and assumptions, please see “Behind the Numbers.”
And as Forbes’ rankings guru, Kurt Badenhausen writes “Even with increased financial aid, an MBA is a huge investment, topping $300,000 in tuition and forgone salary at an elite school like Harvard, Stanford or Wharton. But our numbers show that a degree from a top school invariably pays off.”
International programs were fairly stable in the Forbes’ ranking of one-year and two-year international programs. Naturally ROI for one-year programs is higher and the payback period is shorter.
Two interesting developments outside the U.S.:
• Tiny IMD unseated INSEAD for the #1 position in Forbes’ Global Ranking. INSEAD dropped to #2. IMD experienced significant personnel changes a few years ago, but seems to have bounced back in fine form.
• ESADE jumped five spots to #5 in the two-year International MBA rankings, which was topped again by London Business School.
Need help choosing — and then applying to — the best MBA program for you? Get matched with one of our expert advisors for one-on-one consulting that will help you get accepted!Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!
• Navigate the MBA Application Maze: 9 Tips to Acceptance, a free guide
• Business School Selectivity Index [Can I Get Into My Dream School?]
• 3 Ways to Determine Which B-Schools are a Good Fit for You