MBA rankings: What you will – and won't – learn from MBA rankings

MBA rankings can help you find the best MBA business school for you… but they don't tell you the whole story. MBA rankings offer a good benchmark for elements such as course content and graduate salaries. However, your needs are unique: to find your best school for MBA, do consider some important factors beyond the MBA rankings.

What MBA rankings will tell you about MBA courses
MBA rankings publishers evaluate specific aspects of MBA business school programs through surveys of school administrators, graduates and recruiters, as well as through statistics such as professors' journal publication rates. Consulting MBA rankings gives you a first means to focus on quality, accredited business schools and to compare some factors that will contribute to their potential to impact your career. But remember, executive education rankings publishers must work with a limited set of directly comparable criteria to create these generalized lists. Essentially, they must look at MBA courses as if they were apples when in fact there is a whole fruit basket to choose from.

Beyond MBA rankings

Yourself as a student: What kind of MBA education are you ready for? Ask this question before your MBA business school search, even before you look at MBA rankings. If you are a recent or soon-to-be grad wanting apply your liberal education to a business management career, an MBA course that is theory-based and toolbox-oriented can help. If you have a few years' business experience (preferably international), you're a different kind of MBA student. You're ready to access a business program that guides participants to deeply explore their business questions, share real experiences, and develop their inner leadership skills within a relevant context.

Type of business school: MBA course providers can be loosely divided into three categories. The “apples” of the MBA business school world are traditional academic universities, offering large-sized MBA courses that attract new graduates looking to cap their undergraduate degrees. Most MBA rankings favor the criteria in which these programs measure strongly – fundamentals that aid entry into the business world. There are also top online MBA programs, many of which make good content accessible, cost-effectively. The downside of these MBA courses is lack of stimulating group dynamics, ideas sharing and networking. Finally, there are renowned leadership development institutes that focus specifically on executive education. These business schools develop programs that are well-aligned with the ever-changing business world, thanks to faculty that combine academic strength with real business experience and research activity.

Relevant learning: MBA rankings fall short of telling you much about how your learning will serve you throughout your real-world career, not just in your green years. The most relevant education comes from MBA business schools with programs that help you reach the core of your business leadership skills, and develop your awareness of your own motivations and behaviors – as well as those of your teammates and your rivals. Deep-rooted leadership development enables you to be agile and aware in even the most intense business interactions throughout your career.

By all means, MBA rankings can help you select a quality MBA business school. But do remember to further explore your personal needs, skills and goals; the type of business school that will provide the best value for you; and the relevance of the learning experience. An MBA can be an exciting, life-changing experience that not only gives you a competitive edge in the job market, but more importantly helps you profoundly develop your leadership skills. You'll have a good formula for successful selection if you keep these things in mind when you look at MBA rankings.


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