MBA is a huge investment of time and money, hence it is crucial to have a clear answer to the question:
Ask yourself and be honest, here are the most common reasons:
- Receive a promotion
- Improve career opportunities and increase network
- Switch careers
- Move to a different country to work
- It’s time to get one (yes, this is a reason as well, actually many students don’t know exactly what they want with their degree)
After you have a crystal clear goal it is time to research schools and what they have to offer:
USA vs Europe vs SE Asia
This question requires an understanding of where you want to work after business school. It is true that Insead and LBS are stronger than some Top-20 schools in US, but will they provide the same opportunities? Can you join media in LA with Insead degree or UCLA Anderson is a stronger bet? The answer is: Anderson. Recrtuitment to US from European schools is far and in between, interestingly, recruiting from US to Europe is much easier. And if you are an international candidate, remember that getting a job in US without working visa will be close to impossible.
Kellogg is a marketing school and Wharton is finance, right? Well, yes and no. Wharton indeed sends more than 30% to Financial services, but that leaves 70%, who get jobs in consulting (26%), tech industry (14%). Actually, Wharton is proud of their Marketing and work hard to provide students with high quality education.
See the table I compiled for top-8 programs based on 2014 FT employment reports (%):
*Stanford GSB and Tuck provide rounded numbers only
As you can see, Kellogg is not so much about marketing, as about strategy, same with HBS and Tuck, which are known as a general management schools.
It is important to remember, that there is self-selection that affects the final placement report, more people look for jobs in Finance in Wharton, hence more people find it, in no way it is a limitation for people who look to work in consulting or CPG.
Most schools upload the list of companies that recruit on-campus, so be sure to check that data.
Ok, so rankings are usually first thing that people care about, and that’s actually ok, by nature rankings should combine all the benefits discussed above and more. So, do they?
US News (8/10)
This ranking puts a lot of weight in assessments of peers (25%) and recruiters (15%), placement success (35%) and student selectivity (25%). It seems like something is missing… oh, where is the program assessment?
Well, it’s included in assessment of peers/recruiters, as well as placement success. Each of these parameters indirectly assesses the quality of program. Peers are not interested in giving the competing school a lot of high praise, hence they have 25% weight in the overall ranking. Unfortunately, that also means that this ranking will have a lag in time, as minor changes in program will not affect reputation of the school and hence won’t change if they are not marketed properly.
The schools are all ranked based on their 5-year MBA gain.
Well, that’s all there is, another ranking with indirect measurements, 5-year gain will include the quality of student body and placement, making it closer to reality, but the report is 5 years lagging, as you can’t see 5 years in the future, so for the Forbes 2015 they surveyed MBA’s ‘2010. I mean it’s not like schools change that quickly, but still keep that in mind.
Financial Times (4/10)
I’m not commenting on the methodology, because though it’s clearly stated on their web-site, the truth is even with the same methodology they have schools jump +/- 50 places, they also compare 1 year programs to 2 year programs, which also doesn’t seem to be a great idea. I personally try to stay away from this ranking. Notorious questionable placements:
- Tuck holds 23 place behind such programs as Duke, Judge, ESADE and Oxford Said
- Kellogg is behing Haas, HKUST and Judge
- Stanford GSB is below LBS/Wharton
- MIT below Insead
And though methodology seems ok (except for the weight that research gets, I mean those are business schools, not research institutions), the inconsistency just screams “DON’T TRUST ME”
Bloomberg Business Week 2015 (6/10)
Bloomberg’s Business Week (2/10) Student survey (45%), Employer survey (45%), Research (10%). Another ranking I don’t use, as I wrote before, research has nothing to do with the quality of Business school and 45% weight to graduating students? Seems like there might be some bias going on. Any school that invests more time and money to “experience” will get a higher place than rigorous programs, that might explain how Duke Fuqua came before M7 + Tuck. It’s important to remember that students that get into Fuqua are different from those in HBS in terms of expectations, hence it is easier to satisfy them, while HBS students might consider getting into MBB and not PE/VC a fail (many of them come from MBB already). So, stay away.
The Economist (0/10)
Absolute disaster. Both methodology and consistency are lacking. I am not going to spend any time explaining, please read this.