If you are looking for the best MBA programmes in the US, one particular list will be of interest to you: US News & World Report’s (US News) Best Business Schools ranking.

According to US News, Harvard University and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania offer the best full-time MBA programmes in the United States. 

Ranking methodology

Before you look into the listing of the best B-schools, check out how the list was compiled. US News started its annual ranking process by surveying all 471 MBA programmes in the US that were accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Of those, 377 programmes responded to the survey, but only 131 of the surveys contained enough information to thoroughly evaluate them based on the parameters of the ranking procedure.

Schools were ranked based on their overall scores. Those scores comprised three components: 1) a quality assessment score (40%), which calculated peer assessments and recruiter assessments, 2) a placement success score (35%), which looked at employment rates for graduates and mean starting salaries with a bonus, and 3) a student selectivity score (25%), which tallied the mean GMAT and GRE scores, mean undergraduate grade point averages and programme acceptance rates. US News also provided rankings for MBA programmes with specific concentrations like entrepreneurship or finance as well as online and part-time MBA programmes.

Here are the top 10 US business schools in the ranking

  • #1 (tie) Harvard University (MA, US)
  • (tie) University of Pennsylvania – The Wharton School (PA, US)
  • #3 University of Chicago – Booth School of Business (IL, US)
  • #4 (tie) Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Sloan School of Management (MA, US)
  • (tie) Northwestern University – Kellogg School of Management (IL, US)
  • (tie) Stanford University (CA, US)
  • #7 University of California, Berkeley – Haas School of Business (CA, US)
  • #8 Dartmouth College – Tuck School of Business (NH, US)
  • #9 (tie) Columbia University (NY, US)
  • (tie) Yale University (CT, US)

US News ranks only B-schools in the US and the full list contains 100 B-schools. There are other rankings – such as those of the Financial Times’, The Economist, Bloomberg Businessweek - that include MBA programmes around the globe. Within those rankings, you can see how the schools you are considering perform when compared to those in other countries. You are able to search specific types of programmes as well, such as online or part-time MBAs and European business schools.

Check out: Which Business School Rankings to Check Out

Be aware that not all rankings consider the same parameters when developing their lists. Ensure that you check into the methodology of each ranking before drawing comparative conclusions.

International students in the US

Universities and B-schools in the US regularly achieve top marks for excellence, and there is a wide array of specialty programmes to choose from, so international students historically have been drawn to the US for graduate school. While the US News ranking evaluates only US schools, these programmes are not limited to US students.

Around 400,000 international students are enrolled in graduate programmes in the US. This diversity is well reflected in the MBA class profile of top MBA programmes. For example, #1 Harvard Business School’s (HBS) Class of 2017 represents 64 countries and 135 international undergraduate institutions. Fellow #1 Wharton School’s Class of 2018 represents 71 countries and nearly a third of the class is from outside the US. In addition, nearly 20% of the graduating students accepted jobs in other countries.

Tuition and return on investment

The best MBA degrees in America will cost you well over USD 100,000 to attain, although HBS estimates that 50% of enrolling students qualify for some sort of need-based financial assistance. The big investment in your education often pays off, with HBS reporting that the average starting salary for 2016 graduates was nearly USD 135,000, not including signing bonuses or other guaranteed compensation. At Wharton, the median starting salary was USD 125,000.

Not only are degrees from top universities expensive, but admission to their MBA programmes is extremely competitive as well, with HBS accepting only 11% of its nearly 10,000 applicants in 2015 and , Wharton accepting only 851 of 6,679 applications or 13%.

Rankings are simply one of many tools in making decisions about the destination for graduate studies. An informed decision takes into consideration a complexity of factors, such as your profile, potential for admission, test scores, budget, career goals, B-school culture, curriculum focus and career prospects. The ultimate goal of choosing the right B-school is to ensure a worthwhile MBA experience with a high return in happiness.