The Stanford Graduate School of Business stands during the the grand opening of the Knight Management Center in Palo Alto, California, U.S., on Friday, April 29, 2011. Construction on the complex started in 2008, after Nike founder Philip Knight contributed $105 million in 2006 to get the project started. Photographer: Tony Avelar/Bloomberg
Stanford Graduate School of Business campus © Bloomberg

Stanford GSB’s full-time MBA is best for a career in finance, according to a new ranking published by the Financial Times today.

The Californian school, known for its focus on entrepreneurship and self-development, came top in this ranking of the 50 best generalist MBA programmes worldwide for careers in finance. The ranking was based on responses of graduates working in finance three years after completing their MBA courses, to questions on a range of subjects including salary. Harvard Business School and Judge Business School ranked second and third.

Of all industry sectors, finance is the largest employer of top MBA graduates. Among the top 50 schools in the FT’s overall MBA ranking, more than a quarter (27 per cent) of the class of 2013 work in finance. This is 10 percentage points greater than the proportion of this year’s alumni working in consultancy, the next largest employer. 

Chart: Top sectors of employment of MBA graduates

The new list is not a ranking of specialised MBAs in finance. The FT used data collected in 2016 as part of the FT 2017 Global MBA ranking and included only those schools with more than 10 alumni working in finance among the respondents.

The programmes were assessed using 13 different criteria, including salary and salary increase of alumni, as well as career progression. The analysis also considered research published by the schools’ full-time faculty in five internationally recognised financial journals. The ranking took into account of the overall proportion of alumni employed in finance; the proportion of those who worked in finance before their MBA and remain working in finance; and the proportion of those who did not work in finance before their MBA, but who do so now.

Twenty-seven per cent of Stanford’s alumni work in finance. Those graduates have the highest annual salary among the top 50 schools at $266,000 a year, a 104 per cent increase on their pre-MBA salary, on average. This compares with a weighted average salary of $160,000 a year for survey respondents, which also represents a 104 per cent increase. In addition, Stanford’s alumni ranked top for career progress (see ranking table key).

After graduating, as many alumni leave the finance sector as move into it. Overall, 15 per cent of students who previously worked in other fields joined the finance industry after their MBA, FT analysis shows. 

“I transitioned from non-profit work into private equity,” said one graduate from Stanford. “I couldn’t possibly have done so without my MBA programme — both the skills it imparted and the prestige of the university.”

Darden School of Business ranked 17th overall, but its graduates obtained the highest salary increase, with their annual earnings rising 151 per cent to $162,000 on average. Judge Business School is best for value for money while Kelley School of Business in Indiana, ranked 42, is best for career services. Alumni from Ross School of Business have the highest satisfaction rate at 91 per cent. Stern School of Business ranked number one for its research and was fourth overall.

Melbourne Business School has the most gender-balanced cohort, with 45 per cent of women, while all of Esade’s graduates were from overseas. Alumni from HEC Paris are the most internationally mobile, just ahead of those from Insead.

The 50 ranked schools are from 11 different countries, with more than half (27) in the US. The UK has the second-largest representation with six schools, including Saïd Business School, its other representative in the top 10, in seventh place. China, with four schools, has the third-largest group. Three of these are in Hong Kong and are ranked between 12 and 16.

Chart: MBA graduates and their salary increases

Two-thirds of The University of Hong Kong’s alumni work in finance, the largest proportion among ranked schools, while CUHK Business School and HKUST Business School are above the 40 per cent mark. 

Non-Chinese students studying in Hong Kong are more likely to remain in Hong Kong if they work in finance. Half of them did so, compared with less than a third of those who work in other industries. “I studied in Hong Kong to get a job in Hong Kong,” said one Korean graduate. Students from mainland China are just as likely to return to mainland China, whether they work in finance or not.

Canadian schools have the second-largest proportion of alumni in finance at 43 per cent. Ivey Business School, Rotman School of Management and Smith School of Business are all located in or near Toronto, Canada’s main financial centre. However, Canadian finance salaries are relatively low, at $92,000 on average.

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