Methodology for Fortune’s part-time MBA ranking

BY Lance LambertNovember 17, 2021, 12:01 AM
Illustration by Martín Laksman

This fall, Fortune invited 150 schools to participate in our first-ever ranking of the Best Part-Time MBA Programs. In total, we ranked 70 programs. The completed questionnaires from schools, along with data we collected from companies and executives, was used to build our ranking.

Our final ranking is made up of three components: Program Score, Brand Score, and Fortune 1000 Score.

Program Score (60%)

The truth is that part-time MBA students are busy professionals who are already making headway in their career. That explains why they often gain just as much value from their fellow classmates (who usually have a good amount of experience under their belt) as they do the curriculum. It’s also why Fortune put so much weight on the strength of a school’s incoming class.

In a perfect world, we would use current salary or career-progression data to measure the quality of incoming students. But that information isn’t universally collected by programs. So instead, we looked at the average years of work experience, average GMAT score, and average undergraduate GPA of incoming students. Schools without an average GMAT score (or too few students submitting one) could still be ranked. However, the lack of that information lowered their Program Score.

If schools didn’t provide these three metrics, Fortune pulled the information from their websites. (Notably, Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University declined to participate and did not have the required data on their website.)

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 part-time MBA programs.

Ipsos deployed a survey methodology similar to what it would use if asked by a consumer brands company to evaluate its 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 (15%)

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.)

See how the schools you’re considering landed in Fortune’s rankings of the best part-timeexecutive, full-time, and online MBA programs.