Frequently Asked Questions: Grad Rankings

Why does U.S. News rank graduate schools?

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  1. Why does U.S. News rank graduate schools?
  2. How do you rank schools?
  3. Do you rank all schools in a graduate discipline?
  4. How do you select the schools or programs you rank, and which programs are newly ranked this year?
  5. Why does U.S. News rank certain disciplines and not others?
  6. How do you rank specialties within various disciplines?
  7. Are rankings from previous years still valid?
  8. Why don't the ranking lists show all the rank numbers?
  9. How do the U.S. News rankings compare with other graduate school rankings?
  10. How does U.S. News get a peer assessment score?
  11. What are "input" measures of academic quality?
  12. What are "output" measures of academic quality?
  13. What does it mean when schools are tied?
  14. Where do the data on quality measures come from?
  15. Why are there more rankings online than in print?
  16. Our school was ranked this year. How do we download the 2010 America's Best Graduate Schools badge?
  17. 1. Why does U.S. News rank graduate schools?


    The process of selecting among the various schools that offer graduate programs in your area of interest involves factors ranging from the personal to the objective. We want to help you with this process by giving you an independent assessment of the academic quality of programs in your field. By collecting data annually for the fields of business, education, engineering, law, and medicine, we are able to present the most current figures on enrollment, job placement, faculty, and other critical quality indicators that help you make informed decisions. In other graduate fields, we usually gather data on a program every four years, asking the experts who teach and direct programs in these fields to evaluate their peer programs.
    Back to top 2. How do you rank graduate schools and programs?


    There are two different ways that we rank graduate programs. For the five graduate program areas with the largest enrollments—business, education, engineering, law, and medicine—we use a combination of statistical data and expert assessment data. The statistical data we collect include both input and output measures. Input measures reflect the quality of students, faculty, and other resources brought to the education process. Output measures signal an institution's success in managing that process so graduates achieve desired results, such as passing the bar exam or getting a high-paying job offer.

    The expert assessment data for these areas come from surveys of knowledgeable individuals in academia and practitioners in each profession. Survey respondents are asked to rate the programs with which they are familiar on a scale of "marginal" (1) to "outstanding" (5). Statistical and assessment data are standardized about their means, and standardized scores are weighted, totaled, and rescaled so that the top score is 100 and other scores are expressed as whole percentages of the top score. Schools are then ranked by their rescaled score.

    We also rank a variety of programs—including Ph.D. programs in the sciences and humanities and programs in healthcare, public affairs, and the fine arts—based solely on the peer assessment data from academics involved in that particular field. For a more general explanation, please read "How U.S. News ranks graduate schools." For specific information about how we rank each discipline, review the specific methodologies for business, education, engineering, law, medicine, Ph.D.'s, the fine arts, various fields in the health sciences, and public affairs.


    Back to top 3. Do you rank all schools in a graduate discipline?


    We survey all programs in a discipline that meet generally recognized criteria for a professional program in that field. In many fields—business, law, medicine and the health professions—we survey only accredited programs. Since other programs generally do not have an accrediting body, when we construct surveys in these areas we use available resources, such as the most recent Survey of Earned Doctorates, and cooperate with organizations and schools to determine which schools are currently offering graduate programs in a field.