Methodology for Fortune’s full-time MBA ranking

BY Lance LambertJuly 07, 2021, 11:17 PM
Martin Laksman

Back in 2010, University of Chicago MBA grads earned a median $102,000 base salary fresh out of the Booth School of Business. A decade later, that figure is up 47% to $150,000. Booth isn’t alone: During that same period, median base salaries of new MBAs shot up at all elite programs, including at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (30%) and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (36%). Simply put, employers want MBAs and they’re willing to pony up for them.

While MBAs are still hot, the skill sets these grads require are changing. For instance, managers these days must be comfortable both analyzing data and making decisions with data. That prompts the question: In this fast-changing digital world, which are the top business schools?

To find out, Fortune conducted its first-ever ranking of full-time traditional MBA programs. We looked for programs that not only see their graduates head into good jobs right out of the gate (with high starting salaries) but also have a track record of placing alumni into the highest echelons of corporate America. Salary, school brand, and leadership trajectory: That’s the core of our ranking.

Fortune invited around 100 traditional full-time MBA programs to participate. In all, 69 programs completed our questionnaire. That information, along with data we collected from companies and executives, was used as the basis of our ranking. Our final ranking is made up of three components: Outcomes Score, Fortune 1000 Score, and Brand Score.

Outcomes Score (65%)

Employers like Deloitte, Amazon, Bain & Co., Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and Procter & Gamble battle annually for the best and brightest new MBA grads. They’re willing to pay more for grads of particular programs, while they skip some campuses altogether.

That’s why we made starting salaries such a big component of our ranking. We equally weighted median base salary and mean base salary for each program’s 2020 MBA class. We did not factor in pay like signing bonuses.

Additionally, our Outcomes Score looked at the school’s job placement rate for its 2020 class. This is the percentage of new graduates who accepted a job within three months of graduation.

For earnings and placement questions, schools followed the MBA CSEA Standards for Reporting MBA Employment Statistics.

Brand Score (25%)

Fortune partnered with Ipsos to survey thousands of business professionals and hiring managers to get their thoughts on specific B-schools. This metric looks at business school brands, not just their full-time MBA program.

Ipsos deployed a survey methodology similar to the one it would use if a consumer brands company asked it to evaluate the company’s brand strength. For this research, Ipsos interviewed a total of 2,500 professionals. These professionals work in a corporate role, have attended college and/or an institution of higher education, and know at least two of the schools in our selection.

Ipsos completed the fieldwork between March 16 and March 24, 2021. The total length of each interview was 13 minutes. The results yielded a 95% confidence interval, which gives us a maximum ±1.96% margin of error. This analysis was done on a regional basis. The exception being the nation’s top 20 business schools (according to U.S. News & World Report’s latest ranking), which we also measured on a national basis.

The final score produced is a business school’s Attitudinal Equity (AE) measurement. That tells us, according to Ipsos, “how much a group of people want to recruit from the university. It is the university’s share of mind.” (For more on Attitudinal Equity scores, go here.)

Fortune 1000 Score (10%)

Good business schools help grads get good jobs, while elite programs help develop the future leaders of business. We sought to find schools with a good track record doing the latter. That’s why Fortune looked at the number of each school’s MBA alumni who are executives (C-suite only) at Fortune 1000 companies. This includes everyone from CEOs to CFOs to CIOs. The more Fortune 1000 C-level placement, the higher the school’s Fortune 1000 Score.

A school’s score includes Fortune 1000 C-levels who graduated with an MBA from the school (regardless of the type of MBA program).

(Note: The Fortune 1000 are the 1,000 largest U.S. publicly traded companies ranked by revenues, as compiled by Fortune.)