Ranking The Top 50 U.S. EMBA Programs

Different rankings, different results


As usual, each of the three major Executive MBA rankings employs vastly different methodologies. The U.S. News ranking of the top 25 U.S. programs is based entirely on a survey sent to deans and senior faculty of business schools. The Financial Times ranking is the result of two surveys: one to the schools and another to alumni of the programs. The list incorporates 16 different metrics, with the most emphasis, 40%, on salaries. A total of 4,810 alumni completed the survey last year. The Economist culls 24 different metrics from surveys to schools and alumni, placing a weight of 27.5% on pay. Roughly 8,000 alums completed the Economist surveys last year.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, all three of the latest rankings end up with completely different winners. Besides Chicago topping the U.S. list and Yale taking first prize in The Economist, MIT’s Sloan School of Management is the top-rated U.S. standalone EMBA program on the Financial Times’ list.

As with all rankings, there are some glaring anomalies that can have a dramatic impact on the results. Wharton, for example, is in second place in both U.S. News and by the Financial Times among the U.S. EMBA players. But it is not ranked at all by The Economist because the school isn’t willing to cooperate with the magazine. Similarly, MIT Sloan is ranked by both U.S. News and the Financial Times but not The Economist, presumably for the same reason. UC-Berkeley’s highly respected EMBA program, meantime, isn’t ranked by the Financial Times, though it is ninth best on the U.S. News list and second-best among the U.S. programs on The Economist ranking.


When a program fails to get one of the three most influential rankings, the school is penalized by the Poets&Quants methodology. That’s because we want to discourage shopping for the best ranks and also want to encourage a school to face up to the scrutiny of the more authoritative and credible organizations that do rankings. The other reason for giving credit to schools that participate in all three lists is that the program’s overall rank is more reliable. Three measures, however flawed and different, are better than two or one.

Combining all three rankings tends to diminish an oddball result in a single ranking and at least directionally gets users to a greater truth. One example: U.S. News‘ ranks the EMBA program at Seattle University’s Albers School of Business & Economics in 11th place, just ahead of Cornell’s offering which is ranked 12th and immediately behind MIT Sloan which is ranked tenth. Few people would agree with that result. Yet, because Albers’ program isn’t ranked by either the FT or The Economist, it justifiably falls outside P&Q’s top 25, landing at a rank of 29th.

All that said, potential EMBA applicants should look over these rankings carefully. Even though the University of Maryland’s EMBA program is ranked higher on the P&Q composite list than either Georgetown or the University of Virginia’s Darden School, it’s highly unlikely that students in the Maryland program would get a better experience than those who go to Georgetown or UVA, which has an EMBA on a new campus overlooking the Potomac in the Rosslyn district of downtown Arlington, Va. But UVA chose not to cooperate with either the FT or The Economist so its rank is not a true reflection of the program’s quality. It would also be hard to justify Wharton’s rank at ten, a direct result of its failure to participate in The Economist ranking.


Regardless, what the P&Q tables allow potential candidates is the ability to see at one glance where each EMBA program is rated across the trio of the most influential rankings (or not) and how that all adds up in a composite score. You can then decide what to discount, what to ignore, and what to believe. The index score also provides a bit more context to allow you to see if an actual numerical rank is more or less meaningful.

It’s also worth noting that The Economist ranks the most U.S. standalone EMBA programs, 36 out of the 65 schools on the list. That level of cooperation is a testament to the magazine’s well-heeled and educated audience, a demographic that is most in sync with potential EMBA students. The FT ranks 26 standalone U.S. EMBAs on its top 100 global ranking. U.S. News limits its list to just 25 EMBA programs, all in the U.S.

There are some important insights that come out of the analysis. Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School’s EMBA offering looks like a real hidden gem. Though unranked by U.S. News, the program merits a fourth-place finish on the FT list and a fifth-place ranking on The Economist among U.S. standalone programs. The University of Michigan’s third-place finish on the P&Q list also is notable, largely because its EMBA program places highly on all three surveys, ranking sixth on each one.

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