The world of educational ranking is very robust. There are many big names in the ranking game, including Bloomberg Businessweek, US News & World Report, Financial Times, Forbes, PrincetonReview, The Economist, Eduniversal, and Quacquarelli Symonds. These organizations rank business schools, MBA programs, and even online MBA programs. Online MBA programs only have a few prestigious rankings, thus it is important to review the other rankings and see how they give insight into the available online MBA programs.
As students look into different rankings to help narrow down their college applications it is important to understand the How and the Why behind each ranking. Simply put, context matters. If you know how a ranking is made and why they used the data they did, then it can help students realize if they should use that ranking in their decision-making process or take it with a grain of salt.
If you compare rankings, you see quite a bit of discrepancy on which program or school is the best. This is because each ranking has their own particular bent when quantifying and qualifying programs. They look at different data and use different methodologies emphasizing different aspects of programs and schools based on their subjective view of what makes a program "the best." Thus each ranking results can vary significantly.
Lets look at Bloomberg Businessweek.
Bloomberg Businessweek has been ranking MBA programs since 1988. Businessweek offers rankings of US Full-Time MBAs, International Full-time MBAs, and Part-time MBAs. Businessweek states that their overall focus in their annual rankings of MBA programs is on how well the MBA programs prepare their graduates for job success.
How does Businessweek quantify how successful MBA graduates are in their careers? Bloomberg surveyed over 13,000 students, 18,000 alumni, and 1,400 recruiters. This data allowed them to rank 177 different B-school programs. The scores of each program was made up of the following categories: Employer Survey, Alumni Survey, Student Survey, Job Placement Rate, and Starting Salary.
The Employer Survey comprises 35% of the program's total score. Businessweek placed the most weight in this category. It is to assess how well the MBA programs prepare graduates for the jobs they want. This employer survey combines two aspects, the average measure of the school's quality in the eyes of recruiters, and the sum of all the ratings it received. This category is meant to measure how it is known and how well it is known.
The Alumni Survey comprises 30% of the program's total score. This is a new component to this ranking. The category asks alumni who graduated six to eight years ago about their median compensation increase, their job satisfaction, and feedback on the MBA itself. Each aspect of this category is weighted equally, and together the answers are meant to show the view of the MBA and the impact it had on graduates' careers.
The Student Survey comprises 15% of the program's total score. This category is meant to give feedback of the most recent graduates on how well they have been prepared for the workforce. The surveys question program features like campus climate, effectiveness of career services, and responsiveness of faculty and administrators. This component is meant to give the most current feel and effectiveness of the program and the school.
The Job Placement Rate comprises 10% of the program's total score. This is also a new aspect of this year's ranking. Businessweek acquired the most recent data on how many MBAs seeking full-time jobs get them within three months of graduation. This component is meant to show the usefulness of this MBA when actively looking for a job following graduation.
The Starting Salary comprises 10% of the program's total score. This is the final new addition to this year's ranking. This component is comprised of the most recent data on how much MBAs make in their first jobs after graduation, adjusted for industry and regional variation.
The Part-Time MBA Rankings are composed of 50% of the Student Survey score and 50% of the Alumni Survey score. Thus, this ranking combines the components that surveys most recent graduates on how well they have been prepared for the workforce and alumni's median compensation increase, their job satisfaction, and feedback on the MBA itself. It should be noted that no employer surveys were added to these figures, as well as the job placement rate and the starting salaries.
Pros and Cons of the Ranking
Bloomberg Businessweek states that their focus in their MBA rankings falls in line with the focus of MBA students: how easy it is to get a satisfying, well-paying job after graduation. When looking at why most students pursue an MBA, very few invest the time and money solely for the benefit of ingesting the knowledge from the MBA. They invest their precious time and hard-earned money for a purpose, to use the MBA as a vehicle. A means to an end. Whether it be for a pay raise, a promotion, a boost to start an entrepreneurship, the business connections to peers and alumni, they all lead to the focus of achieving career satisfaction. Trying to measure the ability of a program to reach that seems right on the money.
It is unclear the exact data that Businessweek uses because they do not reveal the exact surveys or questions that they use to create their rankings. But from the information that they provide on their methodology, one can see that they pull both subjective and objective data. This shows that they try to be well balanced in their approach. They use factual data when they can and when you cannot, like polling campus climate and job satisfaction, objective data needs to be used to give an important look into the program.
There are definite areas of improvement in the rankings. When looking at the weight of each component of the ranking, it seems like there is an unnecessary wide gap. It is understandable to weigh heavily on the power of the program's name in the recruiter world, but it is unknown why that aspect, at 35%, is so much larger than the quantifying of the actual job placement rate at 10%. Businessweek completely dismisses the job placement rate in the part-time ranking, which can be reasoned because many part-time students stay within their current company, but they also completely disregard the employee survey as well. Would employers not want to recruit students from the part-time Duke University program, for example? It seems that they would. Then to top it off, Businessweek does not even consider a ranking for online MBA programs.
Online programs in rankings
Because Businessweek does not currently have an online MBA ranking, we must look to their published rankings and pull information from those. Over 25 colleges in the two US rankings have nationally ranked online programs. These two rankings list online MBA programs from hybrid to fully online and from private to public schools. Here are a few online MBA programs to note:
Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business is listed as #18 in the full-time ranking and #2 in the part-time ranking. Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business offers a hybrid MBA. This program is offered in a 32-month, part-time hybrid format with a residency requirement every six weeks. Concentrations available within the Tepper MBA include: Entrepreneurship, Ethics and Social Responsibility, Information Systems, Marketing, Operations Management, Operations Research, Organizational Behavior, Strategy, Accounting, Communications, Economics, and Finance.
The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School is listed as #17 in the full-time ranking. UNC Chapel Hill's The Kenan-Flagler Business Online MBA program is a 66-credit hour AACSB-accredited program. Students can choose between six different concentrations: Corporate Finance, Entrepreneurship, Global Supply Chain Management, Marketing, Investment Management, and Sustainable Enterprise. Students are additionally given the opportunity to enroll in global immersion experiences throughout their program, located across the globe. Students are required to attend at least two immersions during their program.
University of Texas, Dallas Naveen Jindal School of Management is listed as #42 in the full-time ranking and #22 in the part-time ranking. The Jindal School of Management offers many AACSB-accredited MBA programs to the business masters students, including a Professional MBA Online Program for students not able to attend on-campus classes. This 53-credit hour MBA program offers 24-hours of electives to choose from, including topics in Finance and Managerial Economics, Information Systems and Operations Management, Marketing, and Organizations, Strategy and International Management.
Businessweek is focused on MBA programs that are an effective vehicle to a meaningful career. They do not specifically rank online programs but their US MBA rankings contain many schools with online programs. These rankings will not give insight into their distance programs but can still be used to gauge their faculty, curriculum, and B-school in general. More research will be helpful to get specifics into the online program.
And always remember: Do not make a decision based on one lone ranking, but research multiple places. They can be very helpful. There are hundreds of programs to choose from. Let the rankings narrow that list down. Then research and apply. See which ones you get accepted into. See which ones you like the most. The make the most informed decision that you can.
Stay tuned for more ranking reviews, and happy hunting.
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