A guide to business master’s rankings

When it comes to choosing a master’s program, the rankings are likely to be one of the first things you look at. So what are the current rankings? And how do you figure out which are most relevant to you? We spoke to rankings expert Laurent Ortmans to cover all of this and much more in our guide to business master’s rankings.

In short

What are the most popular rankings for business master’s?

Although there is a range of business school, university, and MBA rankings out there, in this article we’re going to focus on the most popular rankings for business master’s programs. QS and the Financial Times both publish annual rankings for master’s programs in business. Their lists are generally considered to be the most reliable and widely-read. 

Laurent Ortmans is a rankings specialist. He says that although it can be difficult to compare business programs from different schools, there are certain criteria you can use to make it easier, such as employment rate.

“Typically they all include employment rates – which is employment three months after graduation – so this is a kind of hard measure; it’s a good standard to measure this data. It gives you a very good idea of what you can expect,” he explains. (04:25)

Let’s take a look at how the rankings compare.

How the business master’s rankings compare

Financial Times business master’s rankings

The Financial Times publish a number of subject-specific business master’s rankings. Alongside their ranking of the top MBAs in the world, they also have a list of the best Master’s in Finance and Master’s in Management programs.

Both use similar criteria to arrive at the final ranking, based around topics such as salary, international outlook, research output, and career progress. Alumni survey responses make up 58% of the total weighting of the Master’s in Finance ranking, with the remaining 42% taken from school data. The weighting is the same for the Master’s in Management ranking.

The FT rankings largely draw from alumni salary data, which accounts for 40% of the ranking criteria. Within this category, they measure salary today, salary percentage increase, and value for money.

QS business master’s rankings

QS publishes five different business master’s rankings: Business Analytics, Finance, Management, Marketing, and Supply Chain Management. They all use the same – or very similar – methodology.

Those criteria are Employability (35% / 30% in Finance and Business Analytics), Alumni Outcomes (15% / 20% in Finance and Business Analytics), Value for Money (20%), Thought Leadership (20%) and Class & Faculty Diversity (10%). Unlike the QS World University Rankings, which is a 50/50 split between surveys and school data, only 30-35% of the data in the QS business master’s rankings come from survey results.

This contrasts with the Financial Times, which rely on alumni surveys for their rankings. While the Financial Times prioritize alumni salary in their methodology, QS chooses to focus on employability, which accounts for 30-35% of the total weighting. To gather the employability data, they ask employers all around the world which schools they tend to hire from.

Business master’s rankings 2021

Financial Times Master’s in Finance Ranking 2021

  1. HEC Paris
  2. ESCP Business School
  3. Skema Business School
  4. Essec Business School
  5. Edhec Business School
  6. University of St Gallen
  7. SDA Bocconi/Università Bocconi
  8. IE Business School
  9. London Business School
  10. University of Oxford: Saïd

Financial Times Master’s in Management Ranking 2020

  1. University of St Gallen
  2. HEC Paris
  3. Essec Business School
  4. London Business School
  5. Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University
  6. ESCP Business School
  7. Stockholm School of Economics
  8. University College Dublin: Smurfit
  9. SDA Bocconi/Università Bocconi
  10. Imperial College Business School

QS Master’s in Finance Ranking 2021

  1. Oxford (Said)
  2. London Business School
  3. MIT (Sloan)
  4. HEC Paris
  5. Cambridge (Judge)
  6. UC Berkeley (Haas)
  7. ESSEC Business School
  8. UCLA (Anderson)
  9. London School of Economics
  10. Bocconi University

QS Master’s in Management Ranking 2021

  1. HEC Paris
  2. London Business School
  3. ESSEC Business School
  4. Esade Business School
  5. Copenhagen Business School
  6. IE Business School
  7. ESCP Business School
  8. Imperial College Business School
  9. Bocconi University
  10. EMLyon Business School

QS Master’s in Marketing Ranking 2021

  1. HEC Paris
  2. Columbia University
  3. Imperial College Business School
  4. Esade Business School
  5. ESCP Business School
  6. Warwick Business School
  7. EDHEC Business School
  8. EMLyon Business School
  9. Manchester (Alliance)
  10. WU Vienna

QS Master’s in Business Analytics Ranking 2021

  1. MIT (Sloan)
  2. UCLA (Anderson)
  3. ESSEC Business School
  4. ESCP Business School
  5. Imperial College Business School
  6. Texas (McCombs)
  7. USC (Marshall)
  8. ESADE Business School
  9. Manchester (Alliance)
  10. McGill (Desautels)

QS Master’s in Supply Chain Management Ranking 2021

  1. MIT (Sloan)
  2. Michigan (Ross)
  3. WU Vienna
  4. Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University
  5. Manchester (Alliance)
  6. USC (Marshall)
  7. MIP Politecnico di Milano Graduate School of Business
  8. Purdue (Krannert)
  9. Washington (Foster)
  10. University College Dublin (Smurfit)

How to use rankings to choose your master’s

Use them as a way of starting your search

With so many master’s programs out there, it can be difficult to know where to start looking. Laurent believes that rankings can help you begin your search.

“Rankings are a tool that helps you select the school that you want,” he says. “It’s kind of an early filter in your research – but it shouldn’t be the primary tool. It can help you make an early selection, and then you go and speak to staff, former students and make a decision.” (06:38)

Look beyond the rankings

It’s also important to look beyond the rankings: Don’t judge a program based solely on its overall position – where possible, dig a little deeper into the list and find out how it ranks for the things that matter to you. Laurent cites an example from the Financial Times: “The FT has criteria on international course experience, which is if you get to go abroad during your studies. So if this is one of your top priorities or interests then you can just look at this criteria and ignore the overall ranking.” (06:21)

Consider what you value the most

You might also want to consider the ranking bodies themselves. Take a look through the criteria for each ranking and try to find the rankings that align with your own beliefs and ambitions. Some rankings place a greater emphasis on student and academic surveys, while others largely base their methodology around school data. Consider what you value most: the opinions of employers, academics, and students, or quantitative data from schools.

Analyze the trends

According to Laurent, analyzing the performance of a school over several years instead of just one year is a way of finding out whether the program is improving in comparison to other schools. 

“The better way to look at it actually is not to look at ranking in just one year, but to look at the performance of a school over several years,” Laurent explains. “Then you can see a trend. If a school is progressing in the ranking, since [the ranking] has been calculated on a consistent basis then you can be fairly sure that the program is getting better.” (12:32)

Rankings should never be the only thing you base your study decision on, but they can definitely help you begin the process of finding a master’s. And if you understand how to use them to your advantage, you’ll be one step closer to your dream program.

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