Every year, students around the country compete for a head start on conquering the corporate world by studying business in college. Since 2006, we have ranked undergraduate business programs to help guide prospective college students and their families in choosing the right degree program for the career they want. Today, after surveying nearly 30,000 students and recruiters at almost 600 companies, we present the best undergraduate B-schools of 2016.
As we did with our MBA rankings, we updated how we rank undergraduate programs to put a bigger focus on the outcome most students want from B-school: the brightest possible career path. We based our ranking on four main metrics (see full methodology):
Correction: updated to include Case Western Reserve (Weatherhead) as No. 60 in the ranking
|Rank||School||Employer survey rank (40%)||Student survey rank (35%)||Salary rank (15%)||Internship rank (10%)||Ranking index score|
Wondering what these young CEO hopefuls do after college? You can find some answers below, both for specific business programs and for all college seniors in B-school.
One thing is clear: The importance of a business-related internship. Most students who had landed jobs at the time of our survey previously interned at the place where they ended up working.
There’s a cost to that success: The median student debt load for business grads ranged from $10,000, at BYU’s Marriot School of Business, to $50,000 at Duquesne’s Palumbo School of Business.
Since our rankings comprise four elements, some schools might rank highly without killing it on every measure. For example, Villanova, our top-ranked school, ranked 29th out of 114 schools on our starting salary category. The chart below shows you how each school did for each rankings metric.
Bloomberg has ranked undergraduate business programs since 2006. Over time, we have shifted our methodology to focus on how well the programs prepare their graduates for job success. Our employer survey, which measures recruiter opinions on how well undergraduate programs equip their graduates with relevant skills, and our student survey, which records student feedback on how thoroughly they’ve been prepared for the workforce, have always been cornerstones of our rankings, along with data on how many graduates had at least one business-related internship during college and starting salary figures for graduates. This year, we’ve eliminated several parts of our old rankings model that do not speak directly to career preparation, including time spent on homework and average SAT score, and we’ve updated our surveys to focus more clearly on jobs.
To assess how well undergraduate business programs prepare graduates for the jobs they want, we surveyed recruiters from companies that hire undergraduate business majors. We asked schools to identify individuals recently involved in recruiting their graduates. We surveyed 1,079 recruiters at 582 firms that completed the survey. We partnered with Cambria Consulting of Boston to run our employer survey, along with our Student survey.
We asked recruiters to identify as many as 10 schools at which they had significant recruiting experience in the past five years. We then asked the recruiters to assess how well these schools’ graduates performed on specific qualities important to them when they recruit business students. To ensure that employers that hired only a few undergrad business majors did not have outsize weight in our analysis, we gave each company an index score representing the total number of business undergraduates it hired in 2013 and 2014 (estimated using data provided by schools). We then weighted recruiters’ raw scores by their index scores for employer size. Ratings from employers that hired many undergraduates had greater impact than ratings from those that hired just a few.
Because the best business programs are well-regarded by a wide array of recruiters, the employer score was based equally on two components: its average rating by employers (a measure of the school’s quality in the eyes of recruiters); and the sum of ratings it received (a measure of the school’s reach).
It’s common for alumni to take up the task of recruiting from their alma mater for their employer. Alumni, though, tended to rate their own school significantly more favorably than non-alumni who rated the school. Receiving favorable ratings from its own alumni says little about a school’s reach among recruiters, so we excluded alumni ratings while measuring each school’s reach. Alumni opinions of their own schools, however, remained a factor in the average (quality) rating. All types of alumni were excluded—undergraduate alumni (whether the person graduated with a business degree or not), as well as MBA alumni and other graduate school alumni. Alumni status was self-reported by respondents to the employer survey.
Recent graduates are the best judge of many undergraduate business program features, like campus climate, effectiveness of career services, and responsiveness of faculty and administrators. That’s why we include the student survey in our rankings methodology.
We recorded 27,327 survey responses from graduates from the class of 2016 at the 114 ranked schools, representing a 42.54 percent response rate. The survey was live from December 2015 to February 2016. To be included in our rankings, each school was required to have at least 30 percent of its class and at least 30 students respond to our survey. Students graduating between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016, were eligible to take the survey. In addition to 22 questions that contributed to each school’s rank, the survey also generated non-rankings data on student demographics, career paths, debt, and priorities in pursuing an undergraduate business degree.
We also included data from our 2014 student survey, to diversify the student feedback that contributes to this portion of the rankings. Data from 2016 made up 75 percent of each school’s student survey score; 2014 data made up 25 percent.
Another key measure of a school’s success is how much compensation its newly minted graduates fetch in the labor market. Because undergraduate business programs do not record information about their graduates’ first jobs in a uniform way, we collected starting salary data directly from students through our student survey. Forty-six percent of students reported that they had accepted a full-time job by the time they took our survey between December 2015 and February 2016, and these are the only students whose salary data contributed to this part of the rankings. While this method of data collection left out all students who accepted jobs after they took our survey, it was the fairest and most uniform way to compare salary data across schools.
To create as level a playing field as possible, we ranked schools only on base salary figures (no other forms of compensation were included in our analysis), and we implemented controls to adjust for salary variation across industries and regions. Consulting salaries were compared with other consulting salaries, tech salaries with other tech salaries, Midwestern salaries with other Midwestern salaries, and so on.
A school excelled to the extent that its graduates entering each region and industry bested other schools’ graduates entering that region or industry (on the basis of median salaries not mean salaries, which are more affected by outliers). The overall scores for schools were weighted in proportion to the number of graduates entering each industry and region. For example, if a program sent 60 percent of its grads to jobs in the South, 60 percent of the school’s region-adjusted salary score reflects its performance in that region. Half of the starting salary score reflects region-adjusted median salary; half reflects industry-adjusted median salary.
Studies have shown that college students with internships fare better in the labor market after they graduate, compared to students without internships. Many undergraduate business programs push hard to place their students in high-value internships that may turn into full-time job offers, expose students to a particular industry or job function, or simply help students forge connections to the world of work. That’s why 10 percent of our rankings model is based on the percentage of a school’s graduates who had at least one internship at any time during college. These data were collected directly from students via our student survey.
In our student survey, we defined an internship as a work experience that accumulates a minimum of 120 hours of work within a six-month (consecutive) period, in which a student receives supervision and/or mentorship and in which the student applies his or her knowledge and skills learned in college. An internship may be paid or unpaid and may be for credit or not for credit. A student’s work on his or her own start-up business qualifies as an internship if it meets the other stated criteria.
Scores for each of the four components were standardized using each score’s mean and standard deviation. Scores were then weighted and summed to reflect our rankings model of 40 percent employer survey score, 35 percent student survey score, 15 percent starting salary score, and 10 percent Internship score. Each school’s ranking index score was calculated by dividing its weighted sum by the best school’s weighted sum and then multiplying by 100. The top school in each ranking received an index score of 100.
Index scores show the difference in measurement between schools better than rankings do. For example, the difference between a school with an index number of 91 and a school with an index number of 90 is small. The difference between two programs with index numbers of 91 and 83, however, is substantial. In either case, though, the schools might be separated by only one ranking place.
Finally, a note to prospective students: Don’t let rankings alone make your school decision for you. Our rankings and data interactives offer a thorough picture of the current landscape of undergraduate business programs, but deciding where to go to school is a personal decision. A school that’s right for one student may be wrong for another.