Students who pursue MBA degrees tend to do very well financially, with the average salary for a recent graduate at around $150,000. Even though tuition can be expensive, over $70,000 per year at some top schools, the return on investment for an MBA program is usually very high. For example, the Princeton Review estimates that Stanford University’s 10-year ROI for MBA graduates is 325%.
In addition, MBA programs can provide a host of other benefits for students. Students report increased confidence in their skills, the ability to put their knowledge to work in new industries, and better networking capabilities.
Not all MBA programs are equal, however. The ideal program provides the combination of a high return on investment, quality instruction, and a good personal experience. To determine the best MBA programs in the U.S., WalletHub compared nearly 100 schools across 10 key metrics. Our data set ranges from the annual tuition for students and the average base salary for graduates to gender diversity, ratings from professors and average GMAT scores. Read on for our findings, along with additional commentary from a panel of experts and a full description of our methodology.
Top MBA Programs
(1 = Best)
|MBA Program||Total Score||‘Return on Investment’ Rank||‘Student Selectivity & Program Quality’ Rank||‘Campus Experience’ Rank|
|3||University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)||76.58||12||3||45|
|4||University of Chicago (Booth)||75.89||16||4||56|
|5||Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan)||75.54||3||6||38|
|6||University of California--Berkeley (Haas)||74.28||9||7||41|
|7||Northwestern University (Kellogg)||73.85||19||5||43|
|8||University of Southern California (Marshall)||73.03||5||9||49|
|11||University of Michigan--Ann Arbor (Ross)||70.78||6||11||48|
|12||University of Washington (Foster)||69.72||1||23||83|
|13||Duke University (Fuqua)||69.34||4||13||58|
|14||New York University (Stern)||68.49||7||14||57|
|15||University of Virginia (Darden)||67.89||8||18||27|
|16||Dartmouth College (Tuck)||67.51||15||15||47|
|17||Indiana University (Kelley)||65.17||18||19||66|
|18||University of California--Los Angeles (Anderson)||65.07||25||16||60|
|19||University of Wisconsin--Madison||63.48||29||17||65|
|20||Georgetown University (McDonough)||63.40||22||25||68|
|21||Cornell University (Johnson)||62.64||13||37||73|
|22||Washington University in St. Louis (Olin)||61.98||45||12||25|
|23||Rice University (Jones)||61.68||28||22||85|
|24||University of Florida (Warrington)||61.57||17||47||62|
|25||Brigham Young University (Marriott)||60.99||11||44||84|
|26||University of Texas--Austin (McCombs)||60.95||24||38||75|
|27||University of Rochester (Simon)||60.77||32||24||54|
|28||Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper)||60.25||26||36||81|
|29||Georgia Institute of Technology (Scheller)||60.10||10||60||80|
|30||Ohio State University (Fisher)||59.52||35||26||78|
|31||University of Georgia (Terry)||59.28||38||27||23|
|32||University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler)||58.74||23||58||82|
|33||University of Minnesota--Twin Cities (Carlson)||58.03||31||42||77|
|34||Vanderbilt University (Owen)||57.96||34||33||89|
|35||Michigan State University (Broad)||57.88||36||46||18|
|36||University of Notre Dame (Mendoza)||57.71||33||41||92|
|37||Pennsylvania State University--University Park (Smeal)||57.71||27||53||69|
|38||Arizona State University (Carey)||56.98||39||35||53|
|39||Southern Methodist University (Cox)||56.65||40||32||42|
|40||University of Arizona (Eller)||56.41||55||20||17|
|41||University of Maryland--College Park (Smith)||56.20||37||40||86|
|42||University of California--Irvine (Merage)||55.28||51||29||28|
|43||Boston College (Carroll)||55.12||47||31||59|
|44||University of Pittsburgh (Katz)||54.99||48||39||15|
|45||University of Texas--Dallas||53.32||49||49||40|
|46||Boston University (Questrom)||53.25||50||43||34|
|47||North Carolina State University (Poole)||52.72||44||52||71|
|48||Texas A&M University--College Station (Mays)||52.47||41||48||91|
|49||Iowa State University||52.10||54||54||4|
|50||CUNY Bernard M. Baruch College (Zicklin)||51.07||46||68||21|
|51||University of California--Davis||51.01||43||64||63|
|52||University of Arkansas--Fayetteville (Walton)||50.51||72||30||13|
|53||University of Connecticut||49.90||56||56||55|
|54||University of Oklahoma (Price)||49.90||60||50||76|
|55||University of South Carolina (Moore)||49.66||79||21||35|
|56||University of Tennessee--Knoxville (Haslam)||49.64||42||69||87|
|57||Purdue University--West Lafayette (Krannert)||48.99||64||55||31|
|58||William & Mary (Mason)||48.70||52||67||36|
|60||University of Miami||48.31||74||28||72|
|61||University of California--Riverside (Anderson)||48.26||58||70||9|
|62||Babson College (Olin)||47.63||68||62||3|
|63||Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey--Newark and New Brunswick||47.24||59||65||74|
|66||University at Buffalo School of Management, The State University of New York||46.11||78||51||8|
|67||University of Utah (Eccles)||45.57||73||45||90|
|68||University of Alabama (Manderson)||45.18||66||71||61|
|69||Fordham University (Gabelli)||45.07||57||80||51|
|70||Syracuse University (Whitman)||44.63||86||57||2|
|71||University of Missouri (Trulaske)||44.54||61||84||16|
|72||Baylor University (Hankamer)||44.40||70||72||14|
|73||Louisiana State University--Baton Rouge (Ourso)||43.99||67||78||11|
|74||George Washington University||43.87||65||81||50|
|75||Drexel University (LeBow)||43.01||63||86||7|
|76||Case Western Reserve University (Weatherhead)||42.19||82||61||64|
|77||University of Massachusetts--Amherst (Isenberg)||42.18||90||34||67|
|78||University of Louisville||41.88||69||82||1|
|79||University of Kentucky (Gatton)||41.42||88||59||19|
|80||University of Kansas||41.33||75||77||26|
|82||University of Colorado--Boulder (Leeds)||39.36||77||76||88|
|83||Chapman University (Argyros)||38.96||80||79||32|
|84||Pepperdine University (Graziadio)||36.73||89||75||46|
|85||University of Houston (Bauer)||36.40||85||83||70|
|86||University of Delaware (Lerner)||35.63||87||88||6|
|87||University of Denver (Daniels)||35.60||81||87||79|
|88||Northern Arizona University (Franke)||34.21||71||92||30|
|89||American University (Kogod)||33.95||83||89||37|
|90||College of Charleston||33.37||76||91||52|
|91||University of San Diego||32.81||92||63||44|
|92||Rochester Institute of Technology (Saunders)||31.86||91||85||5|
Ask the Experts
MBA programs can be incredibly expensive, so it’s a good idea to get a handle on their benefits and drawbacks before applying. For additional insight on this topic, WalletHub turned to a panel of experts. You can click on the experts below to read their bios and see their responses to the following key questions:
- Is an MBA program worth the investment?
- Would an MBA program offer candidates a competitive advantage in the job market?
- Would you advise graduates to pursue further education or gain experience in the respective field?
- Are MBA programs an efficient way for international students to gain access to the U.S. job market?
Ask the Experts
In order to determine the best MBA programs in the U.S., WalletHub selected a sample of 92 schools that offer full-time MBA programs from the list of member institutions in the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International. Due to data limitations, we were not able to include all member schools. Please note that the AACSB is not affiliated whatsoever with WalletHub and was used strictly as an informational resource.
We evaluated the schools based on three key dimensions: 1) Return on Investment, 2) Student Selectivity & Program Quality, and 3) Campus Experience. We constructed the three dimensions using 10 total metrics, each grouped with related metrics in the appropriate category and listed below with its corresponding weight. We graded each metric on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing best MBA program.
Finally, we determined each school’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.
Note: The career stats are for the Class of 2018. The incoming stats are for the Class of 2020.
Return on Investment – Total Points: 50
- Average Base Salary: Triple Weight (~21.43 Points)
Note: This metric measures the average annual base salary for full-time MBA students after graduation. Data is for the Class of 2018. We considered a normal distribution and thus the average is equal to the mean. In some cases, we estimated the salary for the class of 2018 , by adjusting the salary from previous classes with the inflation rate.
- Average Signing Bonus: Full Weight (~7.14 Points)
Note: This metric measures the average signing bonus for full-time students after MBA graduation. A signing bonus is a sum of money paid to a new employee by a company as an incentive to join that company. Data is for the Class of 2018. We considered a normal distribution and thus the average is equal to the mean. In some cases, we estimated the signing bonus for the class of 2018, by adjusting the signing bonuses from previous classes with the inflation rate.
- Employment Rates for Full-time MBA Program Graduates: Double Weight (~14.29 Points)
Note: This metric measures the share of employment-seeking full-time MBA graduates who accepted a job offer within three months after graduation. Data is for the Class of 2018. We considered a normal distribution and thus the average is equal to the mean.
- Tuition & Fees: Full Weight (~7.14 Points)
Note: This metric measures the full-time MBA program tuition and fees for the first academic year for in-state students. Fees cover the registration/application fee. In some cases, we estimated the tuition and fees for the academic year 2018-2019, by adjusting the tuition and fees for the academic year 2019-2020 based on their average annual growth rate.
Student Selectivity & Program Quality – Total Points: 40
- Average GMAT Score: Full Weight (~10.00 Points)
Note: This metric measures the average GMAT score earned by full-time MBA students. Most MBA programs require applicants to take the GMAT . Data is for the Class of 2020. We considered a normal distribution and thus the average is equal to the mean.
- Average Undegraduate GPA: Full Weight (~10.00 Points)
Note: This metric measures the average undergraduate GPA of full-time MBA students. Data is for the Class of 2020. We considered a normal distribution and thus the average is equal to the mean.
- Ratings from Professors: Double Weight (~20.00 Points)
Note: This metric is based on professors from accredited full-time MBA programs rating other MBA programs on a scale of 1 (unremarkable) to 5 (outstanding).
Campus Experience – Total Points: 10
- Gender Diversity: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: This metric is based on the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index method, a commonly accepted measure of market concentration that also works effectively as a general-purpose measure of diversity. Data is for the Class of 2020.
- Share of International Students: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: This metric measures the share of full-time MBA students with citizenship other than U.S. Data is for the Class of 2020.
- Average Years of Work Experience: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: This metric measures the average number of work years that an MBA candidate has. Data is for the Class of 2020.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the universities and a WalletHub survey of MBA professors. All universities were contacted to verify their data, but not all responded in a timely manner.