For many graduates, taking on a Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme is the next logical step in their career plan. Typically lasting between one and two years, an MBA is a highly prestigious and beneficial qualification aimed at experienced business professionals and is designed to prepare them for more senior positions – usually within management.
But with thousands of schools across the world offering the course, it can be difficult to choose the best one. Luckily, as ever, we are here to help. Utilising the most up-to-date university rankings of QS, The Economist and the Financial Times, we’ve placed our research hats on and compiled a highly useful breakdown of the top schools across the world.
So, if you’re ready to take that next big step in your career, these are the best MBA programmes in the world.
9. IESE Business School (tie)
Average ranking: 11.7
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Parent university: University of Navarra
Based on the beautiful Mediterranean coast (although overseas options are also available), IESE’s MBA program is world-renowned and is a mainstay of numerous top 10 lists.
Alongside core modules, students undertake a summer internship, with the option of overseas placements and an exchange programme in the second year. Spanish lessons are also incorporated into the programme for those looking to develop sought-after language skills, with students from over 60 nations currently studying on the course.
According to the FT, IESE alumni experience an average salary increase of 133% within three years of graduating, while over 92% of graduates accept new employment within three months.
9. London Business School (tie)
Average ranking: 11.7
Location: London, UK
Parent university: N/A
The only British entry on this list, London Business School claims to offer one of the most flexible MBAs in the world, with a similar emphasis on tailoring modules around individual needs. The class of 2020 has 64 nationalities (drawn mainly from the consulting and finance sectors), and it has been consistently praised for its exceptional curriculum and teaching methods by the likes of Bloomberg and Forbes over the last 10 years.
The school boasts an impressive post-MBA employment rate, too, with 93% of alumni accepting work within three months of graduation.
8. Sloan School of Management
Average ranking: 10.0
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Parent university: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
As an institution synonymous with innovation, its little surprise that the MBA programme on offer at MIT is so open-ended; students begin with a core semester of management theory and practice, and pretty much construct their own curriculum from there.
The numbers are impressive, too, with 97% of graduates receiving a job offer within three months; 10% of these students, meanwhile, go on to form their own company, while the median salary for a Sloan MBA graduate is around $135,000.
7. Kellogg School of Management
Average ranking: 9.3
Location: Evanston, Illinois, USA
Parent university: Northwestern University
Based upon a carefully constructed curriculum, in which students can major in a variety of topics (or simply in general management), the Kellogg MBA programme is designed to be molded to individual career interests and motivations.
Students also benefit from the brand new, state-of-the-art Global Hub facility, on the shores of Lake Michigan, while, through the school’s partnership programmes with the highly renowned ESADE and HKUST business schools in Barcelona and Hong Kong respectively, there are plenty of opportunities to develop your global business awareness.
5. Columbia Business School (tie)
Average ranking: 9.0
Location: New York City, New York, USA
Parent university: Columbia University
Based in the heart of NYC, Columbia’s MBA programme has the distinct advantage of having direct access to leaders and companies in one of the busiest business and financial districts in the world. Many top business leaders speak regularly at the school, offering invaluable networking opportunities and insights, while students also have the luxury of having a highly prestigious Ivy League university on their CV.
This is reflected in the exceptionally high tuition costs, although student loans, as well as various fellowships and scholarships, are available (the average scholarship award is around $20,000). Around 90% of graduates are in employment within three months, while notable alumni include business magnate Warren Buffett – one of the world’s wealthiest people.
5. INSEAD (tie)
Average ranking: 9.0
Location: Fontainebleau, France
Parent university: N/A
With additional campuses in Singapore and Abu Dhabi, INSEAD (or the Institut Européen d'Administration des Affaires, to give it its full title) is one of the few dedicated business institutions on this list. It’s also the shortest course here, although this clearly works in its favour: INSEAD’s MBA programme is consistently recognised as one of the best in the world.
It adopts the same case method way of studying as Harvard, and also employs the use of business simulation games - the frameworks of which are used by countless other institutions across the world. The course has no specialisations or majors, and instead is built around the individual’s needs and interests; it is also one of the most diverse programmes on the list, with the class of 2020 comprised of students from 94 countries.
Finally, as if one world-class business school isn’t enough, there is also the opportunity to spend a semester at Wharton, with the two schools having a reciprocal exchange agreement in place. 91% of INSEAD's 2018 students accepted jobs within three months of graduating, while its alumni include countless Fortune 500 CEOs, politicians and senior finance personnel.
4. Booth School of Business
Average ranking: 5.0
Location: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Parent university: University of Chicago
Another school that claims to offer the world’s ‘most flexible’ MBA programme, Chicago Booth is built upon a multidisciplinary curriculum where only one class is compulsory (Leadership Effectiveness and Development), suggesting the emphasis is on cultivating strong leaders. It is also internationally focused, with the opportunity to spend a term studying abroad at one of the school’s 33 partner institutions.
Impressively, over 98% of graduates are in employment within three months of completing the course, while the school boasts several notable alumni, including McKinsey & Co. founder James McKinsey. Conveniently, Chicago Booth also has an evening/weekend option for those looking to study part-time.
2. Wharton (tie)
Average ranking: 3.3
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Parent university: University of Pennsylvania
One of three Ivy League schools on the list, there are 80 nationalities present in Wharton’s class of 2020. Priding itself on the business experience and pedigree of its esteemed faculty, there is a huge range of modules available to study, as well as the opportunity to spend a semester in San Francisco.
The school boasts an impressive post-graduation employment rate of 95% within three months, with an MBA from Wharton seen by employers as a highly prestigious and distinguished qualification. The calibre of Wharton alumni is no less remarkable, with tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, former Apple CEO John Sculley and the 45th President of the US himself, Donald Trump, all among the school’s alma mater.
2. Harvard Business School (tie)
Average ranking: 3.3
Location: Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Parent university: Harvard University
As one of the most prestigious business institutions in the world, Harvard Business School naturally offers a challenging curriculum based on case method study, a teaching format pioneered and developed by the school’s own faculty. This is complemented by another self-developed study method called FIELD, comprising of small interactive workshops that encourage students to analyse and develop their leadership styles.
Unsurprisingly, over 91 per cent of HBS MBA graduates are in employment within three months, with extensively notable alumni including former US President George W Bush, former presidential nominee Mitt Romney, as well as Michael Bloomberg, the founder, CEO and owner of the eponymous finance and media behemoth.
1. Stanford Graduate School of Business
Average ranking: 2.3
Location: Palo Alto, California, USA
Parent university: Stanford University
Based just outside technology mecca Silicon Valley, Stanford GSB describes itself as ‘fuelled and surrounded by innovation’, and it’s easy to see why. Students have access to all specialist schools on the campus, and this collaborative, cross-disciplinary culture sees many choose to pursue a joint or dual degree. There is also an international focus, with global study trips and internships offered; this reflects the diverse, multinational makeup of both the faculty and the student body.
Eighty-eight per cent of Stanford GSB students accepted job offers within three months of graduating in 2018, while, unsurprisingly for an institution that is regularly ranked as the best in the world, its alumni read like a veritable who’s who of the American business world.
While these schools represent the elite of the business world, you should remember that MBAs are not intended as entry-level qualifications, and you should have around three years’ significant experience before undertaking a General MBA. You should also realistically possess a graduate degree due to the fierce competition for places, although some schools will waive this requirement if you can demonstrate exceptional professional performance. Additionally, most of these schools will require you to take an entrance exam during the application process – typically the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT).
Are you currently thinking of doing an MBA? Let us know where you are studying in the comments below…