“Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.”
– Benjamin Franklin
The same applies to companies. That’s where finance comes into play. In business, your Chief Financial Officer is your gatekeeper, the guard dog who growls when you suggest splurging on a new IT platform or boosting sales commission. That’s their job: rooting out costly bad habits, staving off half-baked epiphanies, and making tradeoffs to achieve the highest returns.
WHARTON RETAINS THE TOP SPOT
Boring bean counters? Hardly. The finance department is the backbone of strategy. It surveys incoming-and-outgoing, profit-and-loss, and what’s owned and what’s owed. Finance knows all the company secrets – and exactly where the company is…and where it’s going.
Those are just a few reasons why finance is so popular among business majors (along with nabbing high pay and being able to find work in any industry or location). When it comes to the top business school for finance, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School again topped the pack.
In U.S. News’ 2019 business school ranking, Wharton ranked #1, followed by New York University’s Stern School of Business and MIT’s Sloan School of Management, which switched spots from the year before. The University of Michigan and the University of Texas again rounded out the top five.
HALF OF WHARTON CLASS GOES INTO FINANCE
The results are based on peer assessment surveys conducted in 2018, with results published in September. This year, U.S. News asked deans and senior faculty members at business schools to nominate up to 15 of the best finance programs, up from 10 the previous year. The ranking is then based on tabulating votes, with higher a ranking correlated to a higher number of votes.
The results aren’t necessarily surprising. The Wharton School has long been associated with finance…and for good reason. Nearly a third of the 2018 Class – 31.3% – went into investment banking. Tack onto that, another 19.2% entered venture capital, private equity, investment management, hedge funds, and diversified financial services. That’s over half the class, with the next largest industry choices being consulting (21.5%) and technology (12.3%). What’s more, five of the 10 largest employers for the 2018 Class are financial firms, with the two largest being Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase. Such choices explain, as a whole, why Wharton business majors earn far more to start. In real numbers, that was $92,057 last year on average – or $6,500 more per year than runner-up Carnegie Mellon University.
It is more than just rock star faculty, deep resources, and a long-standing tradition of excellence that makes the Wharton School so formidable in finance. One secret is team-based learning. “At Wharton, I love that in more than 50% of our classes, we are required to work on teams,” writes Dipak Kumar, a 2019 Best & Brightest MBA. “Learning individually is an important skill, but at Wharton, I learned with and from my brilliant peers whose perspectives and abilities made me better.”
BOSTON COLLEGE MOVES INTO TOP 10
At the same time, The Wharton School devotes intensive resources to staying two steps ahead. Analytics is one example. In recent years, the Wharton faculty have developed more than 30 analytics courses. In fact, says Eric Bradlow, faculty director and co-founder of Wharton’s Customer Analytics Initiative, the school would like to feature analytics in its “Mount Rushmore” that already includes finance, entrepreneurship, and marketing. Wharton students have also picked up the message, as 20% of undergrads are now majoring in analytics.
“No department wants to be left behind,” adds Bradlow in a 2018 interview with P&Q. “We have enough scale that we can hire people with analytical skills in the disciplinary departments as well and they’ve all come together to create this wave of innovation. Everyone wants part of the analytics pie. Everyone wants to be part of this big massive train that is leaving the station.”
The U.S. News Finance ranking isn’t immune from criticism. It is based on a limited pool of thought leaders, many of whom are not fully versed in the day-to-day operations of their peer schools. That said, they also reflect expert opinion on the quality of top undergraduate business programs. Notably, Boston College’s Carroll School of Management climbed into the Top 10, moving up two spaces. Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business made a similar move, going from 10th to 8th. In addition, three new programs debuted in U.S. News’ Top 15 for Finance: Cornell University (Dyson), Georgetown University (McDonough), and the University of Notre Dame (Mendoza).
Still, at least two business schools punched well above their weight, when it comes to comparing their performance in finance against their overall ranking (which is also based on survey scores). Notably, Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business, which ranks 62nd overall in U.S. News, placed 15th. In addition, Boston College’s Finance ranking, 9th, is 12 spots higher than its overall business school ranking (21st).
Here are the top 15 business schools for Finance:
To access in-depth profiles of the top undergraduate business schools, click here.