Face Off: Duke Fuqua Vs. UVA Darden

Duke and Darden MBA programsThe school selection process for MBA applicants can seem overwhelming. With so many terrific business schools, how do you decide which one is right for you? In SBC’s blog series Face Off, we tease out the strengths and differences between two similarly ranked, or located, b-schools. Let’s take a look at some of the key differences between the Duke and Darden MBA programs.

How do the Duke and Darden MBA programs stack up?


Both Duke University Fuqua School of Business and UVA Darden School of Business consistently rank in the top 15 across multiple sources. The two schools rank back-to-back in the latest US News and Forbes “Best Business Schools” rankings (with Darden leading). Surprisingly, Bloomberg Businessweek has Darden ranked 5th and Duke at 20th in its latest ranking.  Nonetheless, Duke University is a more recognizable brand globally, as we recently shared with Find MBA.

Career Outcomes

Outplacement to the consulting industry (32%) is comparable between the programs. However, other sectors such as tech (28% for Duke and 18% for Darden), finance (16% for Duke and 23% for Darden), and healthcare (9% for Duke and 3% for Darden) reveal key differences in the recruiting focus areas.

(Check out the latest employment reports at Darden and Duke-Fuqua.)

While salary and employment rates are comparable between the programs, outplacement geographically varies markedly. For example, in the West, it’s 27% for Duke and 17% for Darden. The number of grads headed to the Midatlantic region is 6% for Duke and 19% for Darden. In the South, the numbers are 23% for Duke and 12% for Darden, as shown in the map and table below.

source: Darden 2019-2020 MBA Employment Report


source: Duke MBA Employment Report 2018-2019

Location Comparison

Darden is in Charlottesville, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Central Virginia. Charlottesville is considered more of a quintessential college town. Applicants should decide whether they find the school’s rural setting idyllic or too isolated. Darden is about 90 minutes from Richmond, Va., and two hours from Washington, DC

Meanwhile, Duke University’s location in Durham, North Carolina, is considered suburban and a bit more bustling. You can get a good sense of life in Durham in this post on the Duke Daytime MBA Student Blog

How do the two schools’ MBA cohorts compare in terms of quality and culture?

The Duke and Darden MBA programs are comparable with respect to class cohorts, which influences the student culture and experience.  Duke has a slight advantage, however, given that it has a bit more international student representation (37% at Duke; 33% at Darden) and women (43% at Duke and 40% at Darden), as well as minorities (37% at Duke, 21% at Darden).

The average MBA class size is 395 at Duke and 336 at Darden. So, the higher numbers of international, women, and minority students at Duke may result in a student class with a broader array of viewpoints and perspectives.  

Both programs have a robust tight-knit student and alumni network. Anecdotally, Darden students are known to have heavier workload demands. “With its rural location and case study method, the focus at Darden is going to be on the program and your classmates–it is an intense, rigorous program,” shared a former Darden Admissions Officer who works on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team. 

Duke students, meanwhile, are often stereotyped as having more fun because its MBA program is more flexible.

Duke attracts quirky, fun and/or interesting students,” shared Sherry Holland, a former Duke Admissions Officer who works on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team. 

How do the two curriculums and teaching methods compare?

Darden is more structured, with challenging workload expectations for its students and hence a potentially greater learning opportunity. Darden’s heavy emphasis on the case method (100% case method)  means more rigorous teamwork, time commitments, and overall work intensity.

On the other end of the spectrum, Fuqua’s professors use lectures, case studies, strategic games, simulations, visiting executives, and their own research to create a dynamic learning experience. Duke Fuqua’s teaching methods allow for more flexibility to create a tailored approach to time allocation and work intensity during business school. 


We hope this comparison between the Duke and Darden MBA programs has given you helpful intel as you finalize your school selection decisions this season. If you need help with your MBA applications, please reach out to learn more about working with SBC.

With deadlines around the corner, you may be interested in the world-famous SBC Flight Test. Once a full set of application materials for your initial school have been drafted, but not finalized, the application will be sent to a former admissions committee member for a one-time review, adcomm style. You’ll have the benefit of a true admissions committee review while still having the ability to tinker and change.  You will receive written feedback within two business days after submitting.

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