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10 best MBA programs in the U.S.

December 1, 2014, 10:00 AM UTC
Stanford University Graduate School of Business at Knight Management Center
Stanford University in California Graduate School of Business at Knight Management Center education CA
Photograph by Bill Bachmann—UIG via Getty Images

(Poets&Quants) — With interest in startups and entrepreneurship reaching a fever’s pitch, Stanford Graduate School of Business emerged as the No. 1 business school in the U.S. in Poets&Quants’ 2014 ranking of the best full-time MBA programs. Here’s this year’s top 10.

More information on Poets&Quants’ ranking.

1 Stanford Graduate School of Business

Stanford Graduate School of Business
With entrepreneurship the new rage on MBA campuses, Stanford has become the place to launch a new business. Record levels of graduates are going the startup route—17% of the class this year, more than any other business school in the world. Stanford's incoming crop of MBAs is the largest class in the school’s history, with record percentages of both female and international students. Out of a class of 410 newbies (vs. 406 last year), 42% are women, up six full percentage points from last year’s 36%, while 44% are from outside the U.S., up three percentage points from 41% last year. The international contingent at Stanford hails from 62 different countries, an all-time high. The average GMAT score for the class is also the highest of any U.S. business school: 732.

2 Harvard Business School

When it comes to prestige, it’s hard to beat Harvard. More corporate CEOs in the world graduate from the school than any other. Over the length of a career, no business school’s graduates make more money. This year, the entering class of MBAs was nearly identical to the previous year. The median GMAT for the class that will enter this fall is exactly what it was for the past three years: 730, with a range of 580 to 790. The average age of the class remained the same: 27. Some 41% of the admits are women, 35% international, and 25% are U.S. ethnic minorities.

3 Univ. of Pennsylvania - Wharton

The latest cohort of graduates from Wharton had one of the best placement records in the school's history. Long known as a finance school, Wharton is diversifying the industries and companies that recruit its MBAs. Even with finance well off its peak, 98.2% of the class had job offers three months after graduation this year. More of the school’s graduates are taking jobs in technology, healthcare, and consumer products, and a growing number of Wharton MBAs are starting their own companies.

4 University of Chicago - Booth

Median salaries and job offers went up this year for MBA graduates of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. The median base salary rose to $120,000, up $5,000 from last year’s $115,000. Only six years ago, in 2009, median salaries at the school were $100,000. Only three business schools have higher median starting salaries: Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton, all of which have reported a median base this year of $125,000.
This year, 98% of Booth's Class of 2014 had at least one offer of employment three months after graduation, up from 93.7% last year, and 89.8% had offers at graduation, up from 86.3%. Of all the top schools to issue 2014 employment reports so far, only Wharton, Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, and Emory University’s Goizueta School match the 98% offer rate hit by Booth.

5 Columbia Business School

Columbia University
Leadership. Innovation. Entrepreneurship. All popular buzzwords in MBA programs, for sure, and three of the key ingredients in a newly redesigned core curriculum Columbia has rolled out this fall for its incoming class of 2015. The school's curriculum was last redesigned in 2009 to respond to the changing business environment wrought by the financial crisis. The new core comes on top of a highly successful fundraising campaign that has raised more than $500 million toward the $600 million cost of a new campus for the school, which is expected to open in early 2018.

6 Northwestern - Kellogg

Under Dean Sally Blount—who was recruited from New York University's Stern School, where she led the undergraduate business program—Kellogg is pushing forward in remarkably positive ways. The school has broken ground on a new ultra-modern home with dramatic vistas of Lake Michigan and Chicago's skyline. Kellogg expects to move into the 410,000 square foot global hub in late 2016. It's the latest in a series of changes at Kellogg under Blount, including a greater emphasis on its one-year MBA program for business undergraduates, dramatic improvements in the way the school is teaching entrepreneurship, and new positioning for the school focused on “inspiring growth.”

7 MIT Sloan

MIT Sloan continues to be one of the world’s foremost MBA programs. Each year, some of the world’s most prestigious companies hire its graduates, and this past year was no exception. Among the school’s top employers were McKinsey & Co., which brought aboard 32 of the school’s 413 graduates, followed by Bain & Co. (17), Amazon (16), Boston Consulting Group (15), Apple (10), Deloitte Consulting, Google, and PwC Advisory (9 each). This year, a record 26.1% of the school’s grads landed jobs in the technology industry, up from 16.8% in 2012. But consulting was the top industry choice of MIT MBAs, with slightly more than one in three (33.9%) entering the field.

8 Dartmouth - Tuck

It was a spectacular year for MBA graduates on Tuck’s leafy campus in Hanover, N.H. Average starting salaries hit $117,860, up 2.5% from $115,031 a year earlier. Average signing bonuses–reported by 87% of the class–were $28,712, while other guaranteed compensation averaged $34,431. For a graduating student who collected all three types of compensation, the average would have totaled a whopping $181,003.
Tuck’s class showed major shifts in industry preferences. Consulting firms took 35% of the class, up eight percentage points from 27% last year. It is the No. 1 industry choice for Tuckies, a first for Tuck grads since the Great Recession. One in five Tuck graduates took jobs at one of the three elite consulting firms: McKinsey, Bain, and Boston Consulting Group.

9 Duke - Fuqua

Tech has taken hold at Duke. This year, tech employment doubled to 20% in 2014, up from just 10% a year earlier. The industry has eclipsed finance as the second most popular sector for Fuqua grads. Finance grabbed 17% of the class, down from 19% a year earlier. The decline occurred even as JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America doubled their Fuqua hires this year, each taking eight members of the Class of 2014.

The high tech jump was partially fueled by Amazon, Apple, and Google, all of which at least doubled their number of hires from the school. Apple hired nine graduating MBAs, up from four last year, while Amazon brought abroad eight Fuqua MBAs, twice as many as the four it hired in 2013. Search giant Google went from one full-time hire last year to six from the Class of 2014.

10 UC Berkeley - Haas

UC Berkeley - Haas campus

If you're interested in tech, entrepreneurship, and innovation, Haas is one of the best schools in the world to get an MBA. The highly selective program, which enrolls a small class of 240 full-time MBAs each fall, is anchored by 12 required courses that promote a general management perspective and provide a framework for the more specific courses that follow. The first year of the program is divided into four quarters. The core curriculum is rooted in business fundamentals, including marketing, finance, and accounting. Three years ago, the school made significant curriculum changes to focus more on the development of business leadership skills.

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