Executive MBA Programs: Columbia Business School vs. NYU Stern

Columbia University and NYU

New York City is a living, breathing, dynamic center of the arts, culture and big business. Feeding the state and the city's inexorable clout are some of the world’s best-known names in banking, finance, consulting and media. Two of the strongest influencers in US business are also harbored comfortably within this hub, namely; Columbia Business School and the NYU Stern School of Business.

The QS EMBA Rankings 2019 placed Columbia and NYU Stern's executive MBA programs in the top 10 of the North America leader board (ranked eighth and ninth respectively). With both schools sharing the same city and elite status, what are the key factors that distinguish each executive MBA program offering? Here are some differences to take note of, drawn in part from data supplied by the QS EMBA 2019 rankings.

How Elite?

Columbia Business School, in eighth position, is one place ahead of NYU Stern in QS’s 2019 EMBA rankings for North America. One reason the Ivy League school gains a slightly higher recognition is its performance in the ranking indicator Employer Reputation, on which 30% of an EMBA program’s ranking score is based. Columbia is ranked fourth among North America’s executive MBA programs, ahead of NYU Stern's position in eighth.

This is not to say that Columbia is better across the board, however. Yet, in the same breath, it's hard to ignore the school's magnetism when speakers in their various speaker series include names such as Warren Buffet (an alumnus), Henry Kissinger, Arianna Huffington, Bill Gates and Ratan Tata.

Nevertheless, the tables do turn in the Executive Profile ranking indicator, which is worth 15% of the overall ranking score. This considers the years of work experience, management experience and c-suite experience of students on an EMBA program. NYU Stern scored nearly 20 percent higher than Columbia on this indicator, perhaps reflective of their smaller class size (limited to 60 students, compared to Columbia’s 137). This smaller class size leads to heightened selectivity, so those with strong work backgrounds are at an advantage.

For candidates considering applying for an executive MBA at either school, the fees at Columbia Business School are currently listed at US$208,680. Fees for the academic year 2018-2019 at NYU Stern were US$194,876.

The Executive MBA Experience

An executive MBA candidate considering either of these schools will first have to look at their work timetable. The Columbia Business School executive MBA program has different formats, allowing candidates to opt for their preferred schedule, such as taking classes every Saturday, every other Friday and Saturday or even in five-to-six-day-blocks held once a month. NYU Stern, meanwhile, offers a 22-month program with classes every other Friday and Saturday, beginning in either January or August.

Once enrolled, you will be thriving as part of a community of peers, be it at NYU Stern's bohemian Greenwich Village in Lower Manhattan, or Columbia's Business School's location in Morningside Heights, Upper Manhattan. Each university will have its established network of well-connected alumni across the city. As such, classes are likely to be peppered with lectures from top financiers, bankers or entrepreneurs, taking time out to share their expertise.

In terms of class sizes and composition, they do differ quite considerably. NYU Stern limits itself to cohorts of 60 students as a maximum (although their most recent class had 62 participants), with an average 13 years of prior work experience, according to the 2019 rankings. Columbia Business School, meanwhile, reported enrolling 137 executive MBA students, although these are divided into two clusters (candidates are told to expect to study in cluster sizes of between 30 and 70 students). Students in this EMBA class at Columbia held an average of 9 years' prior work experience before joining the program.

Insofar as diversity, the schools are fairly evenly matched, with Columbia having 28 percent international students and 35 percent female students, and NYU having 30 percent international students and 32 percent female students.

Both institutions teach the essential core EMBA courses and offer a vast array of electives and specializations with which students can build and tailor expertise.

Post-Executive MBA Career Outcomes

Be it at Columbia or at Stern, the opportunities you will have made available to you, because it's New York, and because you are a student at a top-tier business school will be countless - the key is to take them. The largest employers in the city will include banks and corporations, such as PwCDeloitte, and Goldman Sachs – each of which have headquarters in New York.

Salaries a year on from graduating differ somewhat for executive MBAs from both institutions –the salary uplift for executive MBAs at Columbia is 20 percent, 10 percent lower than that calculated for EMBA graduates from Stern (a 30 percent salary increase).

Lastly, the schools' alumni networks: Columbia Business School says it has 46,000 alumni worldwide in its MBA talent pool, encompassing MBA and EMBA graduates. NYU Stern, for its part, draws candidates’ attention to an overall alumni network of over 105,000. While an international network of highly placed contacts is undeniably important, however, in the case of two such prestigious and renowned schools, one group is unlikely to hold any real advantage over the other.

Both schools can offer prospective students an excellent education through their executive MBA programs and valuable contacts, especially within New York City. Choosing which business school is best is a subjective decision that needs to be based on preferences; how international or intimate you want your class to be, for example, where you want to be situated, who is in which alumni network, members of faculty you might be keen to study under, and so on.  

This article was originally published in March 2017 and was most recently updated in April 2019 to include new rankings data.

Karen Turtle
Written by Karen Turtle

A content writer with a background in higher education, Karen holds an MA in modern languages from the University of St Andrews. Her interests include languages and literature, current affairs and film. ​

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