Business Schools

MBA Specialty Rankings


BusinessWeek asked corporate recruiters to rate MBA programs based on 12 functional areas and specialties. Here are the results

Are the highest ranked MBA programs at the head of the class in every area? In the eyes of the companies hiring their graduates, the answer is no. Sure, schools like Northwestern's Kellogg School of Managementand the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business are praised by recruiters for producing the best all-around graduates, but if you're looking for the best school in areas like finance or operations, or for the program with the most innovative curriculum, you have to venture a little deeper into the full-time MBA ranks.

As part of BusinessWeek's 2008 MBA ranking, corporate recruiters at more than 500 of the companies that hire the most graduate business students were asked to provide their opinions on which schools produce the strongest graduates in functional areas such as marketing, global business, accounting, and communication skills. Also, they were asked program-specific questions, such as which schools are most improved and which offer students the most global focus. Using this data, we have created a ranking of specific areas, or specialties, within the MBA programs themselves. The top 10 programs in 12 different specialty areas are included in the main tables for U.S. and International programs. Additionally, within those tables, links are provided to individualized rankings for each of the categories.

Looking at the results, it's no surprise the top-ranked programs show up in numerous categories, led by Chicago Booth. Chicago appears in the top 10 of each of the 12 specialty areas and is the program that recruiters call Most Improved. Stanford's Graduate School of Business and Northwestern's Kellogg follow closely behind, each staking claim to 11 top-10s, with Kellogg taking home top honors in Marketing, Teamwork, General Management, Competing Globally, Communication Skills, and Career Services.

But as you move away from the elite programs, some interesting results arise. For instance, Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business—ranked 19th overall—is in the top 10 in six categories, including No. 2 for operations/production and No. 3 for most-improved. Also, recruiters put the No. 22-ranked Marriott School at Brigham Young University at No. 4 in accounting.

A Specialty Edge

Second Tier programs also have a presence in the specialty rankings, led by the University of Rochester's Simon School, which ranks ninth for most improved and tenth in accounting. Babson College, Thunderbird School of Global Management, and Michigan State's Broad Graduate School of Management also each appear in the top 10 in at least one category.

Looking at individual specialty areas, the schools at the top of the Innovative Curriculum category might be the ones with the most value for prospective students, especially considering the current state of the financial world and the changing expectations of students. Because of the flexibility that schools such as Stanford and Yale offer in their customizable curriculums, they are able quickly to adapt to changes in the business climate by adding courses in areas like risk management, ethics, and sustainability. And recruiters have noticed, putting both schools in the top 10. The University of Washington and Carnegie Mellon also finish near the top in this category, and Babson's Olin School, which finished in the Second Tier of the overall ranking, is ranked fourth in this category for its integrated, modular MBA curriculum.

For students, though, the most important specialty area is likely to be career services, as the current job market is anything but predictable, especially in areas such as finance and investment banking. Recruiters point to Kellogg, Chicago, the University of Michigan's Ross School, and University of California at Berkeley as leading the way in this category. At these schools, administrators have developed new and unique ways to bridge the gap between students and companies, as well as reaching out to a more diverse set of industries and businesses to make sure their customers' needs are met. It's not a quick fix, and as the job and internship markets become more and more difficult and competitive, the schools strong in this category will have a decided edge over competitors who are searching to find their niche.

Table: U.S. Schools Specialty Rankings

Table: Non-U.S. Schools Specialty Rankings

Gloeckler is a staff editor for BusinessWeek in New York.

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