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Specialty Rankings: MBA Programs Show Strengths

Most MBA programs are good at something, even if they're not ranked among the greats. Lower-ranked schools take top honors for accounting, marketing, and more

(Corrects name of school that ranked in the top ten for eight academic specialties in the third graph, and number of top ten rankings achieved by the University of Rochester Simon Graduate School of Business in the photo caption.)

For prospecitve students—as with employers—B-schools are not one-size-fits-all when it comes to meeting specific needs. An MBA program that is strong in finance may not be the best choice for someone looking for a job in accounting. But how can MBA aspirants know what schools top companies target to fill positions in certain areas or functions? Look no further. As part of Bloomberg Businessweek's 2010 ranking of top MBA programs, corporate recruiters at more than 600 companies that hire the most MBAs were asked to provide opinions on which schools produce the strongest graduates in such functional areas as marketing, global business, accounting, and communication skills. They were also asked program-specific questions, such as which schools are most improved in career services. Using this data, we have created a ranking of specific areas, or specialties, within the MBA programs themselves. As can be expected, the top-ranked schools overall fare quite well in the specialty ranking, but they aren't the only schools earning high marks. Second-ranked Harvard Business School (HBS Full-Time MBA Profile) appears in the top 10 on eight of the specialty lists, the same number as the MBA program at Northeastern University (Northeastern Full-Time MBA Profile), ranked 56th overall. Of the 57 ranked MBA programs in the U.S., 68 percent appear in the top 10 of at least one of the specialty lists, and 83 percent of the 18 ranked international programs appear in at least one top-10 list. Deserving a Closer Look

In some specialties, some of the lower-ranked schools rub shoulders with the most elite programs. Take the marketing specialty. Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management (Kellogg Full-Time MBA Profile) is, by a large margin, the first choice for recruiters looking for MBAs well-versed in the specialty area.But what about Boston College's 50th-ranked Carroll School of Management (Carroll Full-Time MBA Profile) or University of Washington's Foster School of Business (Foster Full-Time MBA Profile), No.31, the schools that follow Kellogg in the marketing ranks? True, they may not leap to mind when it comes to the specialty area, but in the eyes of recruiters, these programs deserve a closer look.The same is true in accounting, where the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business (Booth Full-Time MBA Profile)—the No.1 school overall—is tied for top spot with 25th-ranked McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas-Austin (McCombs Full-Time MBA Profile).

Booth is also at the top of the analytical skills rank—a spot it shares with third-ranked Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton Full-Time MBA Profile)—and is second in finance. As for other top-ranked programs, Harvard holds the top position in communication skills, global competition, and general management. In the non-U.S. ranks, a few schools stand out from the rest. IE Business School (IE Full-Time MBA Profile), ESADE Business School (ESADE Full-Time MBA Profile), and Cranfield School of Management (Cranfield Full-Time MBA Profile) rank in the top 10 of each specialty category.ESADE claims top honors in both teamwork and most improved, Cranfield in operations, and IE in the most innovative curriculum category.The second-ranked Queen's University School of Business (Queen's Full-Time MBA Profile) leads the way in marketing, and HEC-Paris (HEC Full-Time MBA Profile) is tops in both analytical skills and global competition. More One-on-One Contact

With the struggles MBAs are experiencing on the job front (due to the difficult hiring market), the "most improved career services" area holds more importance than in the past. The schools at the top—Georgia Tech College of Management (Georgia Tech Full-Time MBA Profile), Boston University School of Management (Boston University Full-Time MBA Profile), and Northeastern—are blessed with relatively small class sizes, which allows for more one-on-one contact with career services staff.And they're seeing results.At Georgia Tech, for instance, 97 percent of grads had received a job offer three months after graduation, tied with Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business (Tuck Full-Time MBA Profile) for the best placement record of any school in the ranking. This success can be credited largely to the fact that each Georgia Tech MBA is assigned a personal career adviser before she even sets foot on campus, an adviser to lead her through the job search process from start to finish. Northeastern's success with recruiters can be credited to the program's unique corporate residency program, which allows MBAs to work full-time in MBA-level positions from June to December, more than twice as long as the typical MBA internship. Northeastern, ranked 56th overall, also claimed the top spot in both operations/production and teamwork and finished in the top 10 in six other categories, including No. 3 in both communications and global management. In the eyes of recruiters, Stanford Graduate School of Business (Stanford Full-Time MBA Profile) is in a class all its own when it comes to most innovative curriculum. The school turned heads in the fall of 2007 when it launched a revamped curriculum that broke away from the traditional, silo-centric MBA formula and introduced, instead, a more customized and flexible format. Two classes have now completed the program using the new format from start to finish, and next year Stanford will move operations into the Knight Management Center, a group of seven buildings and outdoor spaces designed with the new curriculum in mind. In addition to the curriculum specialty, Stanford also finished in the top 10 in general management (7), communication skills (5), and global competition (7).

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