This week, Forbes released its 10th biennial ranking of MBA programs, which are divided into three categories: top U.S. programs; top one-year, non-U.S. programs; and top two-year, non-U.S. programs.
As you’ve probably noticed by now, each major ranking has its own particular emphasis, and the Forbes ranking attempts to answer the question: is an MBA worth it?—based solely on the median returns on investment achieved by the graduates from the class of 2012.
“Our ranking of business schools is based on the return on investment achieved by the class of 2012. We examined more than 100 schools and reached out to 17,500 alumni around the globe. We compared graduates’ earnings in their first five years out of business school to their opportunity cost (two years of forgone compensation, tuition and required fees) to arrive at a five-year MBA gain, which is the basis for the final rank.”
University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School unseated Stanford Graduate School of Business to top the ranking of US-based MBA programs for the first time ever, with a five-year MBA gain of $97,100 (Wharton ranked seventh in 2015). With Stanford GSB now in second, Harvard Business School came in third, Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business round out the top five.
IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland, takes the top spot this year among the one-year MBA programs, up one spot from 2015. The school had a five-year gain of $194,700. “IMD caps its annual enrollment at 90 students, allowing for a very individual approach regarding career services,” Forbes notes, adding that as many as 70 companies work with the school annually to recruit IMD grads.
INSEAD, which is ten times larger than IMD with a class size of 1,055 in 2017, ranks second among one-year programs. “With a five-year gain of $150,400, the payback period is a brisk 2.7 years thanks to salaries five years of school of nearly $190,000.”
Spain’s IE Business School moved up two spots in the rankings and now comes in third, based on its gain of $145,400. With an annual enrollment of 547 students, Forbes notes that IE is the second-biggest international MBA program behind INSEAD.
The Judge Business School at University of Cambridge ($140,000) and Italy’s SDA Bocconi School of Management ($138,100) round out the top five one-year MBA programs.
For the fifth consecutive time, London Business School tops the list for two-year international MBA programs. “Alumni of its class of 2012 realized a 5-year gain of $119,100, the highest of any 2-year program in the world, and it took the typical graduate 3.4 years to pay back their investment,” Forbes explains, noting that, “In comparison, alumni of Wharton, the top-ranked MBA program in the U.S., saw a 5-year gain of $97,100 and took 3.8 years to pay back.”
Spain’s IESE Business School takes the second position, also for the fifth time in a row. “With a five-year gain of $97,100, up 15.5% compared to 2015, graduates of the Class of 2012 reported earning $156,140 in salary and bonus, the highest first year compensation among our ranked two-year international programs,” the rankings reveal.
The MBA program at China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) took the third position, with a five-year gain of $95,000, up 32% compared to 2015. ” The main contributing factor is the Class of 2012 reported having less work experience than prior surveyed classes, and as such, lower pre-MBA incomes,” Forbes explains.
Meanwhile, HEC Paris and Spain’s ESADE Business School round out the top-five non-US two-year MBA programs.
For more on this story, read the complete 2017 Forbes MBA rankings.