See our complete guide to MBAs for more information.
When it comes to business schools, global reputation can be very important. After all, earning an MBA from an elite institution like Harvard Business School or the University of Oxford can carry a lot of weight in the world of international business.
But how can prospective students choose the best business school in the world for their MBA?
MBA programs are extremely popular for a reason. Business administration is a gateway to countless careers in the business sector. However, many of the top careers are highly competitive. Business leaders will typically earn their master’s degree in order to compete for top roles.
Attending a top school of business can significantly improve your chances of ascending to a leadership role and earning executive level pay. And in an increasingly global business landscape, international students may enjoy unique competitive advantages on the job market.
Indeed, many of the world’s best-paid chief executives are MBA graduates from top business schools with international accreditation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, chief executives are among the best paid professionals in the labor market.
In the U.S., top executives earned a median salary of $179,520 in 2021. While a bachelor’s degree can technically qualify you for many roles in business, most of these elite leadership roles are held by those with an advanced business degree from a top business school with a fantastic global reputation.
Bottom Line: Earning an MBA at one of the best schools in the world can open numerous career opportunities, often in leadership roles.
Many MBA programs will require you to submit Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) Scores or Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Scores. These test scores can impact your chances of admission. The best MBA programs—those offered by the most prestigious business schools—may have minimum GMAT or GRE scores.
If you are applying to top business schools that don’t have a minimum score requirement, pay close attention to the average GMAT score or GRE score for students who are admitted.
For instance, the average GMAT score for students in the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business Class of 2024 was 733; the average GRE scores were 162 verbal and 162 quant.
MBA applicants can improve their chances of admission to the best MBA programs by ensuring that their standardized test scores match those of current enrollees.
You need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year program. This undergraduate degree can be in any subject. You don’t necessarily have to major in business to pursue an MBA program at a top business school.
In fact, many business schools take an interest in students with unique undergraduate backgrounds in areas like psychology, sociology, and legal studies.
The typical graduate level business administration program will include a requirement for a minimum—usually 3.0. However, students applying to a top business school should generally have an undergraduate GPA of 3.5 or better to be considered competitive.
Bottom Line: High test scores on the GRE or GMAT and a GPA of 3.5 or better will help to secure admission into one of the best business schools in the world.
Students planning on earning their MBA outside of their home country must be aware of any rules, requirements, and procedures specific to international students.
Among them, you may be required to:
Key Point: Applying for and being accepted into an MBA program can be a complicated and lengthy process for international students. If you are planning on attending a top business school in the U.S., you can learn more here.
Each college of business will require the completion of different courses, although there are similarities in programs. There are typically core courses, as well as electives and an individualized capstone project.
Most of the top MBA programs in the world will include the following core courses:
Key Point: Top international MBA programs will cover topics such as organizational behavior, corporate finance, and business ethics.
Graduates with an MBA from the best business schools in the world will often qualify for elite leadership roles including:
Key Points: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings for top executives are projected to grow by 6% from 2021 to 2031.
The picture is even brighter for those who use their graduate degree to pursue careers as administrative services and facilities managers. Jobs for these positions are expected to grow by 7% from 2021 to 2031.
If you’re looking to attend one of the top business schools in the world, be sure you’re ready for a competitive admissions process and a challenging educational experience. Here are the factors that you need to consider when choosing from the best business schools for your MBA:
In addition to institutional accreditation, be sure your MBA is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). This national board provides programmatic accreditation, which is an important mark of credibility and academic excellence for the master’s of business administration degree.
Find out what kinds of course delivery options are available through these prestigious international business schools.
Top business schools will typically be highly reputable as well as highly influential. MBA rankings published by sites like U.S. News & World Report place a heavy weight on reputation surveys alongside factors like acceptance rate and graduation rate.
By contrast, Academic Influence measures excellence with a unique metric called Influence. Influence-based MBA rankings spotlight the real-world impact of a school’s students, alumni, and faculty members.
The resulting ranking does reflect some of the same outcomes as the annual U.S. News rankings. For instance, top business schools like University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, the Columbia Business School, The Northwestern University Kellogg School of Business, and other highly prestigious business schools rank both for reputation and Influence.
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Harvard University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
Harvard University is the oldest institution of higher learning in the U.S. Founded in 1636, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based private research university consistently places at or near the top of both national and world rankings.
A member of the vaunted Ivy League, Harvard’s more than $50 billion endowment makes it the wealthiest academic institution in the world. Harvard uses much of this endowment to create opportunities for eligible students with financial need.
Harvard University’s prestigious Harvard Business School was founded in 1908 and consistently ranks as one of the top business schools in the world.
Are at the top of their class. Harvard ranks annually as the most selective university in the nation.
Don’t enjoy a competitive environment. Harvard students often compete aggressively for grades and opportunities.
University of Oxford’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
The University of Oxford in Oxford, England may be able to trace its roots to formal instruction occurring as early as 1096. This would make it the oldest university in the English-speaking world. At nearly 1000 years old, Oxford has both a storied legacy and a high degree of global prestige as a research university today.
University of Oxford serves an estimated 25,000 students, and is almost evenly divided between undergraduate and graduate students.
Oxford’s Saïd Business School, formed in 1996, is noteworthy for the prestige of its MBAs and master’s in economics, finance, management, and more.
Are seeking a degree with an unparalleled reputation. A degree from Oxford can pave the way to top professional opportunities in any field.
Are not among the top ranking students in their class. Oxford is among the most selective universities in the world.
University of Cambridge’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
The University of Cambridge is a public collegiate research university that can trace its roots to 1209. Earning a royal charter from King Henry III in 1231, this British institution is noted as the third oldest operational university in the world today. Notable alumni include 14 British Prime Ministers and luminaries like Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawking, and Alan Turing.
Today, the University of Cambridge is widely recognized as one of the most prestigious institutions in the world, and serves a student body of more than 24,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Cambridge’s Judge Business School was founded in 1990 and is noteworthy for its excellence in both business research and instruction.
Are looking to network with top leaders in their field. Cambridge owns one of the most expansive and powerful alumni networks in the world.
Have financial constraints. Both the cost of attendance and the cost of living are comparatively high for students at Cambridge.
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Columbia University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
Columbia University sits in the heart of bustling Manhattan. Founded in 1754 under the name King’s College, Columbia is the oldest university in New York and the fifth oldest in the nation. Today, Columbia serves more than 33,000 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
The private research university is a member of the vaunted Ivy League, and is widely recognized as a hotbed for scientific innovation and cutting edge research. And with an endowment of over $13 billion, Columbia has the largest endowment of any academic institution in the world!
The Columbia Business School is among the most prestigious graduate schools in the world.
Enjoy a college experience in the heart of a vibrant city.
Have a limited budget. Tuition for Columbia typically ranks among the highest in the nation.
Tuition + fees
University of Chicago’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
The University of Chicago was founded in 1890 and is located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. The private research university is noteworthy today for the excellence of its economics, law, and political science programs among others.
The University of Chicago has played a highly influential role in the modern development of these disciplines. Today, this highly selective institution serves more than 18,000 students.
University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business was founded in 1898, which makes it the second oldest business school in the U.S.
Are pursuing graduate degrees. With five distinct graduate schools, more than half of the students at the University of Chicago are pursuing advanced credentials.
Do not prefer to earn their degree on an urban campus. The main campus is located on the South Side of Chicago just near the shores of Lake Michigan.
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University of California, Berkeley’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
University of California, Berkeley is the flagship campus in the University of California system. With fourteen colleges, undergraduate and graduate students can choose from more than 350 unique degree programs.
The University of California, Berkeley is also renowned for its state of the art research facilities. This means that Berkeley continues to draw highly influential professors in areas like science, math, and engineering.
UC Berekely’s Haas School of Business was founded in 1898, which makes it the very first public business school in the United States.
Enjoy the experience of a sprawling campus with a large student body and a full spectrum of course offerings.
Prefer an intimate environment or small class sizes.
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Yale University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
Yale University is among the most highly regarded schools in the world. Based in New Haven, Connecticut, Yale was founded in 1701. This makes it the third oldest institution of higher learning in the U.S.
A member of the vaunted Ivy League, Yale is a private research university serving more than 12,000 elite students. It is noteworthy that more than half of enrollees are in pursuit of a graduate degree.
The Yale School of Management serves roughly 1000 postgraduate students today.
Rank near the top of their class. Yale is among the most selective schools in the world.
Prefer an emphasis on science over humanities. Yale is noteworthy for its excellent liberal arts programs.
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Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
MIT is among the most selective, influential, and prestigious universities in the world. Founded in 1861 as the United States approached the age of industrialization, the private research university is regarded today among the top destinations in the world for studying, teaching, and researching applied sciences, engineering, and more.
In addition to serving roughly 12,000 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels, the Cambridge, Massachusetts institute is widely recognized as a key contributor to essential scientific developments, innovations, and discoveries since its founding.
1300 graduate students are currently in pursuit of an MBA or related degree at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Have achieved academic excellence in the hard sciences. MIT is one of the top destinations in the world for scientific research and innovation.
Prefer a liberal arts experience.
Tuition + fees
Stanford University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
Stanford University is located in Stanford, California and covers over 8,180 acres of land. The private research university was founded in 1885 as a secular, coeducational institution. Today, it serves more than 17,000 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Stanford played an essential part in the evolution of the region known as Silicon Valley. Through both its academic programs and its ongoing investment in research, Stanford has been the site of countless technological innovations and the birthplace of countless groundbreaking companies.
Stanford University Stanford Graduate School of Business was founded in 1925 and offers one of the most selective MBA programs in the world.
Are looking for career opportunities in technology. The university shares a close relationship with the top hiring tech firms in Silicon Valley.
Aren’t prepared for a challenge. Students at Stanford typically describe the academic workload as extremely demanding.
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University of Pennsylvania’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
The University of Pennsylvania was founded in Philadelphia in 1740 by civic leaders including Founding Father and inventor Benjamin Franklin. Today, the vaunted Ivy League institution is the 4th oldest in the United States.
University of Pennsylvania serves over 22,000 students. Of those, more than half are studying to earn a graduate level degree.
University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business serves more than 2500 postgraduates today
Are at the top of their graduating class. University of Pennsylvania is among the most selective schools in the nation.
Don’t wish to attend college in a big city like Philadelphia.
Tuition + fees
Northwestern University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
Northwestern University was founded in Evanston, Illinois in 1851, which makes it the oldest institution of higher learning in the state. In 1856, the private research university also became a founding member of the Big Ten conference, where they compete as the Wildcats.
Northwestern University is among the most prestigious research institutions in the world, and is noted for leading programs in engineering, economics, business, education, and more. Today, Northwestern serves roughly 22,000 students.
Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management currently serves a little over 1000 MBA candidates.
Are pursuing research-driven graduate degrees. The majority of Northwestern students are studying at the graduate level.
Are not among the top students in their class. Admissions at Northwestern are highly selective.
Tsinghua University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
Tsinghua University was founded in 1911 and is located in Beijing, China. In addition to being one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in China, Tsinghua is also among the most prestigious.
Tsinghua University is a member of the C9 League, a group of China’s most elite universities. Today, Tsinghua is particularly noted for its excellence in areas such as technology, engineering, and business.
The Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management was formed in 1926 and is among the most competitive graduate business schools in the world today.
Are seeking an advanced degree. Roughly two-thirds of students in Tsinghua’s massive student body are pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees.
Are seeking a more intimate learning experience. Tsinghua University is home to more than 50,000 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
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Indiana University Bloomington’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
Indiana University Bloomington was founded as State Seminary in 1820 and evolved into Indiana College within the decade. The Bloomington campus is the flagship institution in the state public university system.
Indiana University Bloomington is noted for its high level of research activity, and has been referred to as a “Public Ivy.” With top-ranked programs in areas like environmental policy, public finance, and nonprofit management, Bloomington serves more than 45,000 undergraduate and graduate students today.
Bloomington’s Kelley School of Business serves roughly 2000 MBA candidates today.
Like to get involved in campus life. With more than 700 groups and clubs, Bloomington offers an incredible variety of social and recreational opportunities.
Prefer a small campus atmosphere.
Tuition + fees
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is considered a “Public Ivy,” a school with state funding that offers the prestige and educational experience akin to those at a private Ivy League school.
The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is the flagship campus for the broader University of North Carolina system and began enrolling students in 1795. This makes UNC the only public school in the U.S. to both teach and graduate students in the 18th Century!
UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School currently serves 1800 MBA candidates.
Desire a well-rounded education. All students are required to complete a liberal arts education on the way to their chosen major. Popular majors include biology, business administration, and psychology.
Prefer a more conservative environment. Many students at UNC note that the campus culture tends to lean to the liberal side of the political spectrum.
Tuition + fees
University of Florida’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
University of Florida is a public university with strong appeal for students with an interest in research. The University of Florida is classified among R1 Doctoral Universities, those institutions noted for a very high level or research activity.
The University of Florida also holds the distinction of being the only Florida college with members in the Association of American Universities.
UF’s Warrington College of Business was formed in 1926 is noted for the excellence of its MBA programs.
Enjoy an excellent athletics program. The University of Florida Gators varsity sports teams have claimed 45 national championships for the school.
Prefer a more intimate experience. With more than 57,800 students enrolled during the 2020-21 academic year, the University of Florida is the fifth largest school in the United States.
National University of Singapore’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
The National University of Singapore (NUS) was founded in 1905 as the Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States Government Medical School, in what was then the British-controlled Straits Settlements colony. Today, NUS is the oldest autonomous university in Singapore.
With degree programs in a wide range of disciplines at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, including law, engineering, business, computing, and more, the National University of Singapore serves roughly 36,000 students at the graduate and undergraduate levels.
The National University’s NUS Business School was formed in 1965 and is widely considered one of the top graduate business institutions in the world today.
Are interested in innovation. The public university is noted for its high level of cutting edge scientific research.
Are seeking a more intimate learning atmosphere. NUS is a very large school with a relatively dense student population.
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University of Massachusetts Amherst’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
University of Massachusetts, Amherst was founded as an agricultural college in 1863. Today, it is the only public land-grant university located in the state of Massachusetts.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst is home to more than 32,000 students, which makes it the second largest school in the state by enrollment.
The university’s Isenberg School of Management was established in 1947 and is particularly noteworthy for the excellence of its graduate MBA programs.
Enjoy a sprawling campus. At 1,463 acres, Amherst owns the largest campus in the state.
Are focused on liberal arts. Many of the state’s top programs are focused on the sciences.
Erasmus University Rotterdam’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
Erasmus University Rotterdam was founded in 1913 and today is noted as one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the Netherlands and in the world. The public research university places a strong emphasis on economics, business, the social sciences, and more.
Today, Erasmus University Rotterdam serves more than 39,000 students at the graduate and postgraduate levels.
Among those, roughly 10,000 are pursuing bachelor’s degrees and MBAs at the highly regarded Rotterdam School of Management.
Are interested in forming or leading their own business. EUR is noted for its excellent entrepreneurship programs.
Are studying internationally and will require student loans. Some students note that Dutch students enjoy greater student loan benefits and other cost saving advantages over international students.
London Business School’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
London Business School was founded in 1964 and makes its home in Sussex Place, London. Today, LBS is noted as one of the most prestigious business schools in the world.
London Business School is a constituent of the University of London, and serves only graduate level students. Today, more than 2300 students are pursuing top-ranked Executive MBAs as well as master’s in finance, management, and more.
Are pursuing international business careers. With students from more than 100 nations and close partnerships with other top ranking business schools, LBS creates numerous pathways to international business leadership.
Have financial constraints. LBS is located in the bustling city of London, where the cost of living is typically quite high.
INSEAD’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:
INSEAD, or the Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires, was founded in 1957 in Fontainebleau, in the broader Paris Metropolitan Area. Though INSEAD’s student body is relatively modest in size—with just over 1500 graduate level students—the prestigious business school has expanded to include campuses in Singapore, Abu Dhabi, and San Francisco in the United States.
A non-profit business school, INSEAD is particularly noted for its Executive MBA and Entrepreneurship programs.
Wish to become top executives. INSEAD boasts the second most graduates among CEOs for the world’s 500 largest companies.
Have not earned an undergraduate degree. INSEAD exclusively serves graduate level students.
Many of the best business schools also offer a wide range of online part time MBA programs as well as full time MBA online programs with self-pacing and asynchronous distance learning opportunities.
To learn more about your options, check out the best online master’s programs for MBA students.
Before you launch into business school, it’s worth also considering traditional MBA programs that offer fully online master options. Many of the best business schools offer an array of online courses. And if you are working to balance job responsibilities while attending business school, an online MBA program may make it possible to manage everything at one.