The Best 50 U.S. Cities for MBAs & Business Graduates

The Best 50 U.S. Cities for MBAs & Business Graduates

As our country begins the next decade, the business students of today will transform into the business innovators of tomorrow. Whether they will lead businesses fully online or transform boardrooms to promote equity among diverse teams, it’s exciting to think about how business graduates will change our world.

At Grand Canyon University's (GCU) Colangelo College of Business, through our in-person and online classes, our future-focused students come together from all over the country. We know that this wide geographic spread means that our business graduates will go on to change the local business landscape in all parts of the United States and we got to thinking -- where might our GCU graduates join other business degree holders in their futures?

With this question in mind, GCU's partner Grand Canyon Education, together with a third-party company, conducted a study around the hubs for America’s undergraduate business graduates and MBAs. Two separate studies were conducted, one mapping out which states in the country with the most MBAs and one ranking the best U.S. cities for business graduates. Collecting data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census, and National Center for Education Statistics, we were able to determine which U.S. locations are most attractive for the business degree holders of the future.

Methodology

In order to rank the best 50 U.S. cities for business graduates, we analyzed each city based on six criteria:

  1. Number of Employees in Business Occupations (Per 100,000)
  2. Annual Mean Salary of Employees in Business Occupations
  3. Median Home Value 
  4. Median Monthly Rent Costs
  5. Quality of Life Index
  6. Number of MBA Graduates (Per 100,000)

Each of the six ranking factors was weighted according to their level of importance for business graduates embarking on their careers. The factors were then graded on a 5-point scale, with a score of 5 representing the most favorable conditions for business graduates. We calculated the sum of the six weighted factors, which gave us an overall city score for each city. The highest possible city score was 50.

The factors are listed below with their respective weights and source data:

  • Number of Employees in Business Occupations (Per 100,000) — Weight: 2.0
    • Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Annual Mean Salary of Business Occupations — Weight: 2.0
    • Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Median Home Value — Weight: 1.5
    • Source: U.S. Census
  • Median Monthly Rent Costs — Weight: 1.5
    • Source: U.S. Census
  • Quality of Life Index — Weight: 1.5
    • Source: Numbeo
  • Number of MBA Grads (Per 100,000) — Weight: 1.5
    • Source: The National Center for Education Statistics

In order to map out which states have the most MBA graduates, we analyzed six years of data regarding each state’s MBA-holding population. After finding the number of MBA graduates each year, we used state population statistics to calculate the number of MBA graduates per 100,000 from 2011 to 2017. Lastly, we calculated the percentage growth in the number of graduates between 2011 and 2017 to gauge the states where the MBA degree has grown in popularity the most over the last decade.

Finally, we sourced 2019 GMAC data to find the states with the highest average GMAT score. These two state ranking factors are listed below with their respective source data:

  • Average GMAT Score by State (2019)
    • Source: The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC)
  • Number of MBA Grads (Per 100,000) (2011 - 2017)
    • Source: The National Center for Education Statistics

The Best U.S. Cities for Business Graduates

Top 20 U.S. Cities for Business Graduates Map

First, we analyzed and ranked the best U.S. cities for business graduates. The top city is Boston, Massachusetts, scoring 41 out of a possible 50 points. This probably comes with little surprise to anyone who has walked through the city’s storied financial district, home to such institutions as State Street Bank and Boston Consulting Group. With so many major business employers calling Boston offices home, it’s the perfect place for young professionals to move, work, and develop wide networks across the industry.

Other locations among the top-three cities for business graduates include Richmond, Virginia (#2) and Washington, D.C. (#3), both mid-Atlantic cities that provide ample job opportunities for business graduates starting their careers within key industry sectors including the federal government, technology, consulting, construction, international business and hospitality. With median monthly rent listed at $1,100 and a median home value of $246K, Richmond checks out as a city with affordable cost of living as well.

Other high-ranking cities include Midwestern metropolitan hubs like Minneapolis, Minnesota (#4), Kansas City, Missouri (#5), and Cincinnati, Ohio (#7). As reported in an article from The Hustle, the startups taking the Midwest by storm may mean that central parts of the country could be the next Silicon Valley -- an enticing draw for many recent business graduates with a penchant for future-focused careers.1

The States With the Most MBA Graduates & Highest GMAT Scores

The U.S. States With The Most MBA Graduates Each Year Map

Next, we looked into state-by-state statistics to see where the most MBA holders are currently living. According to a report from the Graduate Management Admission Council, an MBA remains one of the most popular degree programs for those seeking a graduate degree.2 We wanted to see which state has the most MBA holders as a way to highlight places where business graduates may want to live, study, and build a network of peers.

Washington, D.C. has the most MBA graduates by far -- averaging 336.7 graduates per 100,000 each year. The runner up is New Hampshire, home to over 159 MBA graduates per 100,000. Other top states were Massachusetts (#2) with 141 MBA graduates per 100,000 and Arizona, GCU’s home state (#3) with over 132 MBA graduates per 100,000.

On the other side of things, the state with the fewest MBA graduates is Wyoming, with only 10.2 MBA holders per 100,000. This makes perfect sense to anyone who would trade skyscraping business hubs for the fresh air of the Tetons. However, with a growing industry like hemp and renewable energy, as profiled by Forbes, business graduates willing to take a risk and join a select few MBA holders transforming business in America’s West may want to call this outdoorsy state home.3

The U.S. States With The Highest Average GMAT Score Map

Next, we looked at the states with the highest average GMAT scores in 2019. The GMAT is the standardized test used to guide admissions into various MBA programs across the country.

With an average GMAT score of 622 out of 800 possible points, Washington D.C. tops the list for the highest average GMAT scores in 2019. The runner up is Massachusetts, with an average score of 599 out of 800. Other top states are Illinois (#3), New York (#4), Alaska (#5), and Connecticut (#6), all home to plenty of top-ranking MBA programs that may attract high-scoring applicants.

The 10 U.S. States Where The MBA Degree Has Grown The Most Over The Last Decade Infographic

Finally, since we know that our MBA graduates are fueled by change and progress, we wanted to look at the states with the highest growth rates of MBA graduates between 2011 and 2017.

According to the percentage growth in the number of MBA graduates between 2011-2012 school year and the 2016-2017 school year,4 we found that New Hampshire has the largest growth in MBA holders per capita, showing over 93% growth in the number of MBA graduates between 2011 and 2017. This high growth pattern is incredibly exciting for MBA holders who may be looking to live in places less saturated with business graduates, offering a new outlook and new opportunities.

Other states where the MBA degree has grown the most in the last decade are Utah, Delaware and Wyoming with growth rates of 80.5%, 76.7%, and 65.1% respectively.

Wrap Up

Altogether, we were excited to see that the data surrounding the best cities and states for business graduates and MBA holders were somewhat unexpected. Impressive statistics from top-ranking cities in the Midwest and industry growth in smaller states like New Hampshire suggests that business graduates are entering a field brimming with opportunities.

No matter where these bright young business graduates head, it’s essential that they feel ready to bring value to their new homes and careers. If you’d like to find a program that will empower you and help you gain skills needed to succeed in a variety of business settings, check out GCU’s business degree programs today.

Retrieved from: https://thehustle.co/david-hall-interview-midwest/, September, 2020.

2 Retrieved from: https://www.gmac.com/-/media/files/gmac/research/admissions-and-application-trends/demand-for-mba-and-business-masters-programsinsights-on-candidate-decision-making-summary-reportmbac.pdf, September, 2020.

Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/places/wy/#d37264126a56, September, 2020.

Retrieved from: https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/Search?query=Masters%20of%20Business&query2=Masters%20of%20Business&resultType=table&page=1&sortBy=date_desc&overlayDigestTableId=200511 in September, 2020.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.

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