Honda or Hyundai? On the surface, many brands seem to be promoting the same kind of product. Both Apple and Android operating systems give us functional phones. Both Pepsi and Coke are refreshing to someone. And both Honda and Hyundai make cars and motorcycles that can get you down the road.
The best business schools also offer similar products. At the end of your undergraduate program you have a great education, you have a recognized degree, and you have a support system that helps you land a job. But your experience in getting that degree can be very different depending on the program you choose.
Some undergraduate business programs hammer home tried and true business principles so that the fundamentals and philosophy of best business practices become second nature to their students. Other undergraduate business programs shove their students into the deep end of the pool and toss out a life preserver when needed, otherwise just monitoring their progress.
The undergraduate program that is a great fit for one student might not work for another. That’s why we are giving you a list of great undergraduate business programs along with a diversity of approaches while ensuring every program has the academic heft and reputation to give you a great start in your business career.
Our approach to identifying the best undergraduate business programs in the nation was to search for media and alumni publications to identify 10 undergraduate business programs that offer their students outstanding opportunities to prepare for business careers. One university on our list, Bucknell University’s Freeman College, matches students to mentors both on campus and in the business world early in the undergraduate experience. Some students thrive on this kind of attention. Others find it distracting.
One of the undergraduate programs on our list, Lipscomb University, has its students start real companies in their freshmen year, and uses those companies as a form of community outreach. That’s wonderful preparation if you plan to go into management or HR, but might not be the best approach for a quantitative analysis major. For these 10 universities, the best undergraduate program that is best for you. All of these are great programs, but some will be a better match for you than others.
We also considered the value of certain undergraduate business programs to open doors for first jobs. We located two schools with outstanding reputations in each of eight business specialties, accounting, entrepreneurship, finance, insurance and risk management, international business, management, management information systems, quantitative analysis, and supply chain management. Having a degree from one of these colleges and universities will open doors for you because their programs are nationally recognized for excellence in those fields. Recruiters will give your resume a second look just because you graduated from that program — and that’s a great reason to consider studying at that school
There are very good programs that we aren’t including on this list, just to simplify your search. And no matter how many data points we use to calculate rankings, we really think that rankings are always ultimately subjective. Rational ranking systems get different results. But for these rankings we considered reputation rankings from Bloomberg and U.S. News and World Report (yes, we know it’s a popularity contest but popularity of your program is a factor in getting your first job), tuition costs, how hard it is to get in (ACT and SAT scores are required by most schools), and the rigor of each school’s academic program.
Our ranking system isn’t so precise that we can tell you, say, #22 is definitely two rankings better than #24. Instead, we are listing 10 top undergraduate programs in alphabetical order, followed by best schools for eight specialties, two for each category, listed alphabetically by specialty.
Best Undergraduate Business Schools in 2020
1. Bucknell University
National surveys frequently find that the undergraduate business program at the Freeman College of Management at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania has the highest satisfaction rate of any undergraduate business program in the county. Students study accounting, business analytics, management of global firms, management and organization, managing for sustainability, or markets, innovation & design at a university with famous science and engineering programs. Students are encouraged to combine their business education with a rich liberal arts experience and full exposure to the basics of technology. The opportunity to satisfy intellectual curiosity while making tangible progress toward a business career is what makes the undergraduate experience at Bucknell so satisfying to so many students.
How do students at Bucknell make measurable progress toward their future business success? Every first-year student is matched to mentors at potential future employers such as Deloitte, Johnson & Johnson, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs, often with a graduate of the program. The annual Business Trends Summit brings Bucknell graduates back to campus to network with students while keeping students informed of the waves they must catch to succeed in their jobs.
With a 9:1 student to faculty ratio, professors know their students by name and can help them in their careers. Intense attention and copious networking opportunities set up Bucknell business graduates for future success.
Annual tuition: $50,514
Campus size: 2,000
Average test scores: 1248-1460 SAT, 27-33 ACT
2. Carnegie Mellon University
The Tepper School of Business occupies about half of the Tepper Quad at Carnegie Mellon University, along with programs in engineering and the life sciences. The co-location of the business program with technical programs was intentional. The Tepper School of Business specializes in preparing students for careers with high-tech companies. They train students to be “bilingual,” understanding data and data science while recognizing business implications.
Tepper students are encouraged to earn double majors, combining undergraduate business with computer science, engineering, psychology, or any CMU program. The university encourages students to make their undergraduate education an on-campus experience, complete with dorms, intramural teams, student clubs, and dining halls, so they will know and network with as many CMU grads in as many fields as possible.
Annual tuition: $58,924
Campus size: 7,022
Average test scores: 1460-1560 SAT, 33-35 ACT
3. Hult International Business School
The Hult International Business School is a training ground for global citizens planning to dedicate their careers to business. With campuses in Boston, San Francisco, Dubai, Shanghai, and London, the school is home for students of 123 nationalities who speak 88 languages in person and online. Students are free to study at any or all the campus at any time during the year, and cultivate a truly international business network. The school maintains residence halls in Boston and London. For students who need international mobility in the undergraduate studies, there is no better option than Hult.
Annual tuition: $49,950
Campus size: 4,236
Average test scores: Not available.
4. Lipscomb University
We have a confession to make. Before we were crunching some numbers to find the best undergraduate business programs, we had never heard of Lipscomb University. This small, private liberal arts university affiliated with the Churches of Christ is about 20 miles south of the center of Nashville, in a neighborhood of tree-lined streets within walking distance to Bridgestone, Caterpillar, and UBS. The greater Nashville area is second only to Austin in startup job opportunities.
What makes Lipscomb University a great place for undergraduate business study? For starters, all classes are taught by professors, never by teaching assistants. With its religious emphasis, Lipscomb encourages “Business with a Mission,” entrepreneurial activities that serve a social purpose. And for students struggling to integrate their business careers with Christian commitments, Lipscomb is very helpful. It’s not for every student, but for some students it is a perfect match.
Annual tuition: $34,744
Campus size: 2,859
Average test scores: 1060-1320 SAT
5. New York University
It’s not easy to get into Stern. In 2020, just 7.6% of applicants were accepted. But when you graduate from Stern, you have a degree from a program that is regarded as one of the top 5 in finance, marketing, and general business, from which new graduates get job offers at an average starting salary of $85,930 per year.
The Stern School of Business is one of the nation’s largest business schools. There are 438 professors for its undergraduate, executive, and graduate programs. No matter what your special interest, you will be able to find a professor at Stern who is an expert in it. Unlike most other undergraduate business programs, NYU’s business degree allows for 40 semester hours of electives, encouraging students to develop a depth of expertise and to indulge their intellectual curiosity while getting a good ground in the world’s premier location for commerce.
NYU trains its students for global leadership. Every junior in the Stern School of Business takes a semester-long course called the Barr Family International Studies Program (ISP). The course hones in on the principles of global economics and trade and features a trip over spring break to one of three cities in Asia, Europe, or South America. Students travel together, meet company executives, and observe a country’s business culture first-hand. The course culminates in the annual ISP competition in which teams present their experiences in a large performance space to their 600 classmates and panel of professors and international business executives. It’s a great way to interview for a job in international business with a team.
Annual tuition: $53,808
Campus size: 51,123
Average test scores: 1310-1510 SAT, 29-34 ACT
6. Northeastern University
When we think of great colleges in Boston, Harvard, MIT, and Boston University leap to mind. But if you are aiming for a business degree complemented by a second area of expertise, you should consider the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Boston’s Northeastern University.
Students in the School of Business at Northeastern earn double majors in business administration and cybersecurity, business administration and mathematics, or business administration and U/X (user experience), psychology, health science, data science, or any of several dozen other fields. The university also has “plus One” programs for future CPAs to earn a master’s degree along with their undergraduate degree in business in just four years.
D’Amore-McKim cultivates paid cooperative learning experiences for its students. Some of these positions pay as much as $55,000 for six months of internship. And more than a few students use their coop experiences to create their own start-ups when they graduate.
Annual tuition: $53,808
Campus size: 51,123
Average test scores: 1360-1540 SAT, 32-34 ACT
7. University of Evansville
Why would we mention a lower-profile school like the Schroeder School of Business at the University of Evansville in our list of top-tier undergraduate business programs? What got our attention was the number of BBA graduates who offered online testimonials that they had at least one career-changing experience at the school. The number was 100% of students surveyed. And we had to pay attention to the fact that the Schroeder School of Business at the University of Evansville offered undergraduate op[ortunities to do hands-on consulting work through programs like these:
- EMBRACE, a student-run marketing consultancy that offers marketing services to real-world companies for a fee.
- Institute of Banking and Finance, where students act as loan officers for microfinancing and farm credit.
- LEAD Forward, a year-long program that develops executive skills in a cohort of students.
Also, about 70% of Schroeder School of Business students participate in similar programs at the school’s program in the UK.
Students at the University of Evansville have a great placement rate because the school has a relatively small undergraduate program. Professors know their students, and know the school’s corporate partners, so they can simply pick up the phone to give a meaningful evaluation of the student’s potential for a job. Fully engaged faculty, the Schroeder School of Business believes, help create dream jobs for their students.
Annual tuition: $37,466
Campus size: 51,123
Average test scores: 1080-1300 SAT, 22-28 ACT
8. University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
The Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus likes to say it’s where all the action is — literally. Associate Dean Norm Bishara told the website Poets and Quants:
“A major differentiator at Ross is our focus on action-based learning, and oue learning by doing philosophy is embedded into our BBA program from the first semester to graduation. Through our evolving Ross Experiences in Action Learning (REAL) portfolio, lur students have the opportunities to consult with real clients, invest real money in real companies provided by our investment funds, and start real businesses – all while they are supported by the undergraduate curriculum and mentored by Ross School of Business faculty.”
An example of the University of Michigan’s commitment to experiential learning is its Living Business Leadership Experience course. Students set up a division in one of the companies partnering with the university related to their areas of concentration, such as employee development, finance, marketing, or supply chain administration. In the school’s MAP program, students head overseas to help companies like Medtronic and MicroSoft streamline or reorganize international operations. And in the school’s Leadership Crisis Challenge, students and faculty play roles (sometimes adversarial to each other) in a 24-hour simulation of a corporate crisis like an arrest of a spokesperson or a product recall.
In 2020, the Ross School added an optional “pandemic essay” as part of its evaluation process for incoming students. The essay is not scored, but it is used to give the admissions committee additional context for understanding applicants. Just 12% of applicants are admitted, but
The Ross School of Business reports that 97% of graduates received a job offer within three months of graduation, and that the average starting salary for new graduates was $78.500.
Annual tuition: $15,558 (in-state), $51.200 (out-of-state)
Campus size: 44,718
Average test scores: 1340-1530 SAT, 31-34 ACT
9. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The Kenan-Flagler School of Business at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill specializes in action-based learning. Undergraduate students participate in the Student Teams Achieving Results (STAR) program as consultants to the university’s corporate partners to create data-driven, innovative solutions for business challenges. And the Kenan-Flagler School encourages students to develop collegial attitudes, a characteristic that is sought out by recruiters who come to campus.
Business majors at North Carolina are free to pursue AOE’s, Areas of Emphasis, to create unique combinations of courses that prepare them for recognized job opportunities in start-ups, non-profits, economic development, healthcare, sports, and family businesses. The university uses AI and predictive analytics to match students to their best choices in courses, And the university has been pursuing a “phygital” curriculum that merges digital content with face to face contact to better match the learning style of Generation Z students.
Annual tuition: $8,980 (in-state), $36,159 (out-of-state)
Campus size: 29,946
Average test scores: 1270-1480 SAT, 29-33 ACT
10. University of Pennsylvania
Wharton SchoolTop Undergraduate Business Schools for Accounting Majors
1. University of Texas at Austin
U.S. News and World Report has ranked the Accounting Department at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin top undergraduate program in accounting for 15 years in a row. Although U.S. News and World Report rankings are based on the assessment of working accountants and program alumni rather than on a purely objective process, the regard for the program translates into easy entry into the corporate world for its graduates. Currently, about half of all undergraduate students are taking their courses entirely online. The accounting program at UT Austin is a superb foundation for future studies in accounting research and university teaching.
Annual tuition: $11,106 (in-state), $39,322 (out-of-state)
Campus size: 40,163
Average test scores: 1230-1480 SAT, 27-33 ACT
2. Brigham Young University (Provo)
The well-regarded accounting program at BYU’s main campus emphasizes practical competencies in everyday accounting work. The networking opportunities for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are world-class, but the academic requirements are stringent. The program requires 64 semester hours of business courses, and is limited to 275 students.
Annual tuition: $5,970
Campus size: 31,292
Average test scores: 1210-1420 SAT, 26-31 ACT
Top Undergraduate Business Schools for Entrepreneurship
1. Babson College
Tiny Babson College first introduced entrepreneurship as a separate field of undergraduate study in the 1970s. It has developed dozens of courses that encourage disruptive ideas in a safe environment, with all the benefits of a $50 million grant to the program to bring in superb scholars and industry leaders.
What makes Babson College a great place to study entrepreneurship? As the program explains it, Babson students learn how to generate ideas. They learn how to recognize opportunities and acquire resources. They learn to recognize possibilities by living out an entrepreneurial experience, building business models, interacting with vendors and customers, and always keeping their plans in the zone of the possible.
Annual tuition: $54,144
Campus size: 2,386
Average test scores: 1270-1450 SAT, 27-32 ACT
2. Massachusetts Institute of Management
The Sloan School of Management at MIT describes itself as a different kind of business school. It’s not iterating principles on how to build a more profitable widget. It’s not about the latest business fad. The Sloan School focuses on solving the pressing problems of the world at large by commercializing the latest disruptive technologies.
MIT has global reach and astonishing technology. The undergraduate program at MIT is rigorous, but it is a superb place to learn how to head a tech startup.
Annual tuition: $53,818
Campus size: 4,530
Average test scores: 1510-1570 SAT, 34-36 ACT
Top Undergraduate Business Programs for Finance
Top undergraduate programs for finance majors include the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, the Sloan School of Management at MIT, the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. We have introduced all of these programs earlier in this article.
Top Undergraduate Business Programs for Insurance
1. University of Georgia
The University of Georgia’s Risk Management and Insurance program emphasizes placement opportunities. Students get jobs as actuaries, adjusters, agents, analysts, brokers, and underwriters and a variety of companies, many of which do not offer insurance, such as Levi Strauss, Mars Inc., and United Parcel Service.
Annual tuition: $31,120 (out-of-state), $12,080 (in-state)
Campus size: 29,848
Average test scores: 1240-1420 SAT, 27-32 ACT
2. University of Wisconsin at Madison
The University of Wisconsin is a great place to study insurance in depth. Faculty members are experts in insurance regulation, financial operations of insurance companies, enterprise risk management, and reputation risk. The strong faculty at the school gives students first-hand access to industry experts that match their interests for enhanced success in landing their first jobs.
Annual tuition: $38,629 (out-of-state), $10,741 (in-state)
Campus size: 33,456
Average test scores: 1310-1490 SAT, 27-32 ACT
Top Undergraduate Business Programs for International Business
1. University of South Carolina
The University of South Carolina gives undergraduates an opportunity to combine a strong liberal arts program with a concentration in business in Chinese, the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America, or Central Europe. Students can also concentrate on:
- Exporting and Importing,
- International Financial Management, or
- Foreign Market Entry and Growth.
Annual tuition: $33,928 (out-of-state), $12,688 (in-state)
Campus size: 27,502
Average test scores: 1180-1370 SAT. 25-31 ACT
2. Florida International University
Florida International University offers outstanding opportunities to prepare for a career in business with Latin American companies.
Annual tuition: $18,964 (out-of-state),$6,566 (in-state)
Campus size: 49,004
Average test scores: 1110-1280 SAT, 23-28 ACT
Top Undergraduate Business Programs for Management
Top Undergraduate Business Programs for Management Information Systems
Top Undergraduate Business Programs for Marketing
Top Undergraduate Business Programs for Quantitative Analysis
Have you studied in one of these undergraduate business programs? Tell us about your experience during and after school. And please keep in mind that tuition, graduation rates, financial aid percentages and NCLEX pass rates are subject to change. We always welcome updated information.