How We Calculate the Rankings

We look at statistical indicators, plus the opinions of peer schools.

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Each year, U.S. News ranks professional school programs in business, education, engineering, law, and medicine. These rankings are based on two types of data: expert opinion about program quality and statistical indicators that measure the quality of a school's faculty, research, and students. These data come from surveys of more than 1,200 programs and some 14,000 academics and professionals that were conducted in fall 2007. As you research course offerings and weigh different schools' intangible attributes, U.S. News's rankings can help you compare programs' academic excellence. It's important that you use the rankings to supplement—not replace—careful thought and your own inquiries.

We also rank programs in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and many other areas, including selected health specialties. These rankings are based solely on the ratings of academic experts. This year we've updated our rankings of Ph.D. programs in computer science, mathematics, and physics to correct a problem with 2006's survey that left some programs off the survey instrument. We've produced new rankings of graduate health programs in audiology, clinical psychology, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physical therapy, social work, and speech-language pathology. We've also done new rankings for master's of public affairs and public policy and master's of fine arts.

In addition to these new rankings, we republish older rankings that are based solely on peer ratings in various graduate level health fields, Ph.D. programs in sciences, Ph.D. programs in social sciences and humanities, and master's of library and information studies.

To gather the opinion data, we asked deans, program directors, and senior faculty to judge the academic quality of programs in their field on a scale of 1 ("marginal") to 5 ("outstanding"). In business, education, engineering, law, and medicine, we also surveyed professionals who hire new graduates. The statistical indicators used in our rankings of business, education, engineering, law, and medical schools fall into two categories: inputs, or measures of the qualities that students and faculty bring to the educational experience, and outputs, measures of graduates'achievements linked to their degrees. Different output measures are available for different fields; as a result, the indicators we use in our models vary. In business, the value of students' education can be gauged by their starting salaries after graduation and by how long it takes them to find jobs. In law, we look at the time it takes new grads to get jobs, plus state bar exam passage rates.

This year, we modified our education school rankings. After consulting with deans of leading graduate education schools, we improved the methodology by making it more oriented toward the research aspect of graduate education. For more details go to the education methodology.

Scoring. To arrive at a school's rank, we examined the data for each quality indicator. Where appropriate, we adjusted the indicators in which low values suggest higher quality, such as acceptance rates. We then standardized the value of each indicator about its mean. The weights applied to the indicators reflect our judgment about their relative importance, as determined in consultation with experts in each field. The final scores were rescaled: The highest-scoring school was assigned 100, and the other schools' scores were recalculated as a percentage of that top score. The scores were then rounded to the nearest whole number and schools placed in descending order.

Every school's performance is presented relative to the other schools with which it is being compared. A school with an overall score of 100 did not necessarily top out on every indicator; rather, it accumulated the highest composite score. A school's rank reflects the number of schools that sit above it; if three schools are tied at 1, the next school will be ranked 4, not 2. Tied schools are listed alphabetically. More details about the methodology for each discipline can be found with its ranking tables.