Ranking The Best EMBAs In Los Angeles

If you’re relying on a ranking to pick an Executive MBA program, you’re making a mistake. While rankings are important, it’s critical to remember that there are far fewer credible options than for traditional MBA programs. So you’ll have fewer ranking sources with a smaller number of schools that make the cut. That’s especially true in the EMBA field because several highly prominent market leaders, including Wharton, Chicago Booth and Northwestern Kellogg, have chosen not to cooperate with either the Financial Times or The Economist rankings.

Overall, only five of the nine Executive MBA programs in the LA metro area are ranked (see below table). Pepperdine, Chapman and Loyola Marymount are the three EMBA options that have not cracked the rankings game at all on the latest up-to-date lists, though Pepperdine’s full-time MBA program placed 68th in U.S. News‘ latest ranking and Chapman’s full-time MBA finished 77th (more on that later).

The big surprise is that UCLA Anderson, which has long held home field advantage in the LA market, isn’t the highest ranked Executive MBA in Los Angeles. Instead, it’s the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business that takes top honors. How so? In both Poets&Quants‘ composite ranking and in U.S. News, Michigan’s EMBA is simply ranked higher than UCLA’s more flexible EMBA program.

Michigan earns second place in the P&Q list to UCLA’s fifth place finish. According to U.S. News‘ latest reckoning on EMBA programs, Ross outranks Anderson five to 10. The Economist, meantime, puts Ross ahead by 11 places, sixth vs. 17th. The Financial Times ranking differs, however, ranking UCLA eight compared to Michigan which is fifth. Add them all up, as the Poets&Quants‘ composite ranking does, and Ross emerges the winner. By the way, the only two EMBA programs in LA to make every ranking–U.S. News, the FT and The Economist–are Michigan and UCLA. The ultimate takeaway? Don’t take these lists all that seriously.

RANKINGS CAN ONLY TELL YOU SO MUCH

While schools go up and down from one ranking to the next (Anderson's EMBA ranked higher than Michigan Ross' program when Ross came to the LA market in 2012), over time they generally stay surprisingly static. It’s hard for a newcomer to break into the rankings party against entrenched big brands with large alumni and employer networks. So when you look at rankings over a longer period, the best schools tend to remain the best schools. And also remember that only a tiny fraction of MBA programs even get a rank. The vast majority of business schools and their programs have never been ranked by either national or global media.

Of course, rankings only tell you so much. Almost all of them are somewhat flawed and highly limited in what they measure. They also tend to correlate with price so that programs that are ranked higher often cost the most. Afterall, high rankings do create greater demand.

So take all of this with a big pinch of salt and realize that unranked schools can offer you a highly valuable experience at a far more affordable price point. What you sacrifice is brand value, plus the likelihood that the students and alumni aren’t going to come from as many prestige, well-known companies.

YOU CAN ALSO CONSULT THE ‘SHOW’ RANKINGS

Another way to look at rankings is to see how the schools in a region matchup on lists that assess the traditional full-time, two-year MBA programs that tend to get the most attention in the business school world. How a school fares on the traditional MBA lists tends to be a proxy for a school’s overall reputation, anyway. That’s why they are often referred to as the “show” rankings for the long shadow they cast over the school’s entire portfolio of programs and courses. While they don’t measure the EMBA experience, they do give you a strong sense of the school’s standing in a market.

On this basis, Michigan Ross is still at the top of the heap, with an overall ranking of 13th for its full-time MBA, followed by UCLA (15), USC (18), UC-Irvine (46), Pepperdine (65), UC-San Diego (75), Chapman (87), and the University of San Diego (91), which has a hybrid MBA program in which students meet on campus just one weekend per month (Saturday & Sunday), with the remaining coursework completed online. The only LA player that doesn't make the top 100 full-time MBA programs is Loyola Marymount University.

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