The US is the birthplace of the MBA, so it’s no surprise that business schools in the nation have enjoyed a decades-long stranglehold on the top of some key rankings tables. This reflects centuries of academic excellence at parent institutions that are revered worldwide. It also reflects the strength of the US economy as well as its size and diversity.
The best MBA programs in the US are unique from their peers in other parts of the world in that they are, generally, two years in length. This gives students an opportunity for an internship, and many leading employers run specific summer programs for MBAs that are a virtual prerequisite for a job in, say, banking or consulting. The lengthier format also means participants can pursue more extracurricular activities, and electives. All this means an American MBA can be an ideal for those looking for a change of direction in their career; many students describe their MBA as a life-changing experience.
But these courses do not come cheap, with the high opportunity cost of being out of the workplace a major consideration for prospective students. There are also greater living and travel costs to factor into the choice of study destination.
But with prestigious brands, large alumni networks and excellent employment outcomes, the return on investment from an American MBA can be large. Here are the top 10 US MBA programs to consider.
Stanford is one of America’s most stellar business schools: it’s ranked first nationwide by US News, a respected publication – a pedestal it shares with the Wharton School. Key to Stanford’s success is the astronomical salary its graduates tend to land after graduation. Stanford is based in the heart of Silicon Valley, near many of the biggest tech companies and venture capital firms. This is a major advantage for anyone who wants to work in these industries. Students cite good job prospects and personal development.View School Profile
Wharton, in joint first place with Stanford in the US News ranking, was America’s first business school, a feat that has given it the largest alumni network in the nation. The 90,000-strong network includes luminaries, such as Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn’s CEO. The school has a number of joint-degree options, including an MBA/JD program. All of the courses center on experiential learning and include overseas trips. The school scores highly on research too, which informs teaching on the MBA.View School Profile
Harvard Business School in Boston is credited with having invented the MBA about a century ago. In addition to a strong alumni base, HBS has a prestigious reputation. It is ranked first in the world in the Global MBA Ranking from the Financial Times. This is due to its large salary and top billing in other categories: for more than a decade, alumni of ranked schools have named HBS the top choice institution from which they would hire graduates. Employment outcomes are second to none.View School Profile
Columbia Business School, in the bustling business hub of New York City, gives students access to leaders across industries. The highly ranked MBA is not just taught by a star faculty and overseas professors, but practitioners who help make the course responsive to industry changes. Columbia encourages students to learn from their peers in other departments, be it law or engineering, and get involved in student organizations and cutting-edge research centers across campus.View School Profile
Chicago Booth is home to several noble laureates; the research and teaching on offer is superb. The school prides itself on academic freedom, with students able to customize the entire MBA course to their professional goals and personal tastes. It also focuses on generating a positive impact in the world, and takes a multi-disciplinary approach to education. This year, Chicago took the radical decision to freeze tuition fees for incoming MBA students, so it offers relatively good value for money.View School Profile
Another of the US’ best MBA programs is offered by the Kellogg School in Illinois, which focuses on teamwork and practical learning, with students able to study abroad and conduct field research. The menu of co-curricular education is extensive, including a dozen research centers, and more than 100 student organizations. Kellogg offers a two- and a one-year MBA program — a fast ticket to the big time that keeps the opportunity cost of not working low. The institution is especially renowned for its connections to management consulting firms.View School Profile
MIT Sloan School of Management in Massachusetts prides itself on convening high potential leaders who can solve pressing global problems and improve the world. The vast majority of students use their degree to switch careers, with help from the well-resourced career development office. Many students describe the MBA program as a life-changing experience. The hallmark of MIT’s teaching is action-learning, where students put academic theory to work in the real business world, often overseas.View School Profile
Students at the Haas School at Berkeley, a prestigious university, benefit from the school’s location near San Francisco, home to big tech companies like Google and Apple. Students are assigned to such companies in what is a highly experiential MBA program. Close to a third of the participants are from abroad, adding a diversity of perspectives that enriches the learning experience through group discussion. And because Berkeley is a publicly funded institution, the tuition fees are far lower than some peer schools.View School Profile
Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in North Carolina, aspires to generate leaders who can make an impact on the world, who have an open mind to appreciate different perspectives, and draw out the strength in others. The MBA is customizable, with 16 different concentrations — in finance, energy, entrepreneurship et al — a wide range of experiential opportunities and student clubs in a close-knit community. The school also has specialized career coaches who draw more than 200 companies to recruit on campus.View School Profile
As part of the MBA at the School of Management at Yale, an Ivy League institution in Connecticut, students solve case studies — real corporate challenges — take part in a leadership development program. They can also study abroad, and take electives at other highly ranked schools, such as Yale Law. A liberal arts institution, Yale attracts a wide array of students, with nearly half the MBA cohort from abroad and being female.View School Profile