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March 22, 2012

U.S. News grad school rankings: Engineering, business, law rise

USNewsOverall rankings for Pitt’s graduate programs in business, engineering and law rose while the ranking for education dipped slightly in U.S. News & World Report’s 2013 list of the nation’s top graduate schools.

Rankings for the School of Medicine, which are split into two categories, in one case stayed the same and in another rose from last year, according to the magazine.

Each year, U.S. News measures graduate programs in these five major disciplines, using quality indicators such as peer assessments, entering students’ test scores, faculty/student ratios and reputational ratings drawn from inside and outside academia.

Nationally, Pitt tied for 68th in business (tied for 85th last year); tied for 24th in education (tied for 23rd last year); tied for 47th in engineering (tied for 52nd last year), and tied for 69th in law (tied for 71st last year).

Pitt’s medical school was 15th in the research category, up from No. 14 the prior year. In the primary care preparation category, the University ranked 18th nationally (tied for 28th last year).

Information on the five disciplines will be published in the magazine’s April 3 print edition. In addition, U.S. News offers an expanded online edition with more extensive listings. The online version, which was activated March 13, was the source for this story.

U.S. News also ranks individual areas of study on a three-year rotation. This year, new peer assessment surveys were conducted and new rankings were published online for the health specialties of occupational therapy, pharmacy, physical therapy, social work, audiology, speech-language pathology and clinical psychology, as well as for public affairs and fine arts academic programs.

The magazine’s web site ( also includes rankings of subdisciplines completed in previous years; however, only this year’s new rankings that include Pitt programs are summarized here.

USNEWScoverU.S. News methodology

According to U.S. News, rankings are based on two types of data: expert opinions about program excellence and statistical indicators that measure the quality of a school’s faculty, research and students. “These data come from surveys of administrators at more than 1,200 programs and nearly 15,000 academics and professionals, conducted in fall 2011 and early 2012,” U.S. News stated.

To gather the peer opinion data, the magazine 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 the five disciplines, the magazine also surveyed professionals in the field who hire new graduates. To compute the assessment scores of these professionals, the two most recent years’ ratings were averaged.

The statistical indicators used in the 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, that is, measures of graduates’ achievements linked to their degrees, the magazine stated.

Inputs, for example, include acceptance rates and appropriate admission test scores for each discipline (LSAT, GMAT MCAT or GRE).

Depending on the field, output measures vary. For example, indicators in the business discipline include starting salaries and the ability of graduates to find jobs upon graduation or three months later. For law, indicators include employment rates and state bar exam passage rates among first-time test takers.

The weights applied to the indicators reflect the magazine’s judgment about their relative importance, as determined in consultation with experts in each field. Every school’s performance is presented relative to comparable schools.


The Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business overall was tied for 68th with Syracuse University. Last year the school was tied for 85th.

All 441 master’s programs accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business were surveyed in fall 2011 and early 2012. Of these, 136 provided the necessary data to calculate full-time MBA rankings, according to the magazine, which ranked the top 102.

Harvard, Stanford and Penn topped the overall list.

Quality indicators for business schools included: overall academic quality peer assessment as determined by deans and directors of accredited programs in business; assessments by corporate recruiters and company contacts who hired MBA graduates from previously ranked programs (about 18 percent of those surveyed responded, so for the purpose of calculating this year’s rankings, the two most recent years’ recruiters’ survey results were averaged); job placement success (mean starting salary and employment rates for 2011 graduates), and student selectivity (mean GMAT scores, mean undergraduate GPAs and proportion of applicants accepted in fall 2011).

In order to be ranked by U.S. News, a full-time MBA program had to have 20 or more graduates who were seeking employment in 2011. For a school to have its employment data considered in the ranking model, at least 50 percent of its 2011 full-time MBA graduates needed to be seeking work.

U.S. News also ranked certain business specialty areas.

According to the magazine, these rankings were based on ratings by deans and directors of accredited master’s programs from the list of schools surveyed. They were asked to nominate up to 10 programs for excellence in each of the areas listed. Those schools receiving the most votes in each specialty were ranked numerically in descending order based on the number of nominations they received, as long as the school/program received seven or more nominations in that specialty area.

Two business specialties at Katz were ranked by U.S. News. The school’s part-time MBA program tied for 47th (tied for 32nd last year) with Arkansas-Fayetteville, Colorado-Boulder, George Washington University and Temple. The online edition lists 262 such programs.

This year, for the first time, U.S. News included as ranking factors in computing the part-time MBA rankings the percentage of a graduate business school’s enrollment that is part time, the mean undergraduate GPA of entering part-time students, the mean GMAT of entering part-time students and the average months of experience of entering part-time students, in addition to the peer assessment score.

Pitt’s information systems program in the business school tied for 19th nationally with Harvard and the University of Texas-Dallas. The magazine ranked the top 25 such programs. The information systems program was unranked last year.


Pitt’s School of Education tied for 24th (tied for 23rd last year) with Utah State University out of 181 education schools ranked.

Of the 280 education schools granting doctoral degrees surveyed in fall 2011 and early 2012, 238 provided the data needed to calculate rankings based on a weighted average of 10 measures, according to U.S. News. The top three schools nationally were Vanderbilt, Harvard and the University of Texas-Austin.

Quality indicators for education schools included peer quality assessment by school deans and deans of graduate studies, as well as a 2011 nationwide survey of school superintendents in a sampling of districts; student selectivity (mean GRE scores of doctoral students entering in fall 2011 and acceptance rates of doctoral applicants for 2011-12); faculty resources (student-teacher ratio; percentage of full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty winning awards or holding journal editorships in 2010 and 2011, and the ratio of doctoral degrees awarded in the school year 2009-10 to the number of full-time faculty members); total school research expenditures (separately funded research, public and private, conducted by the school) averaged over fiscal years 2010 and 2011, and average research expenditures per full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty member over fiscal years 2010 and 2011.

U.S. News also ranked schools in 10 education specialty areas based solely on nominations by education school deans and deans of graduate studies, who were asked to choose up to 10 top programs in each specialty area. Those schools receiving the most votes in each specialty were listed and ranked numerically in descending order based on the number of nominations they received as long as the school/program received at least seven nominations in that specialty area.

Pitt’s education school’s educational psychology specialty was 13th (tied for 18th last year) among 25 programs ranked by the magazine.


The Swanson School of Engineering was tied for 47th (tied for 52nd last year) with Case Western Reserve. The top three schools were MIT, Stanford and California-Berkeley.

Programs at 198 engineering schools that grant doctoral degrees were surveyed; 194 provided the data needed to calculate rankings based on 10 quality indicators.

U.S. News ranked the top 150 programs in its online edition. Data were collected in fall 2011 and early 2012. Engineering school deans and deans of graduate studies at engineering schools (54 percent response rate) were asked to rate programs.

In addition, corporate recruiters and company contacts who hire engineers with graduate degrees from previously ranked engineering schools (17 percent response rate) ranked the programs; for the purpose of calculating those ratings, the two most recent years of recruiters’ survey results were averaged.

Quality indicators for engineering schools included the same indicators used for education schools:  quality assessment, student selectivity, faculty resources and research activity.

Research activity was based on total externally funded engineering research expenditures and research dollars per full-time faculty member, averaged over fiscal years 2010 and 2011.

U.S News also ranked 12 engineering specialty programs.

Following the release in March 2011 of last year’s U.S. News & World Report graduate program rankings, the magazine announced that, due to several database errors, it had withdrawn 11 of the 12 specialty rankings of engineering programs and reverted to the specialty rankings released in March 2010 (the 2011 edition of the rankings).

In the current, 2013 edition, Pitt had nine engineering specialty programs listed among the nation’s best by U.S. News. Those rankings were based on assessments in each specialty area by department heads, whose names came from the American Society for Engineering Education. The magazine listed 12 engineering specialties altogether.

Pitt’s biomedical/bioengineering specialty tied for 15th (tied for 12th in 2010) with Columbia, Cornell and Washington University in St. Louis. Seventy-four such programs were ranked.

The Swanson school’s program in chemical engineering tied for 39th with Maryland, Michigan State, Southern California and Washington University in St. Louis of 99 such programs listed. The program tied for 12th in the rankings published two years ago.

The civil engineering specialty tied for 61st with Kansas, Nebraska-Lincoln, Oklahoma State, Tennessee-Knoxville, Utah State and Washington State. It tied for 58th in 2010. The magazine ranked 114 such programs.

Pitt’s computer engineering program, unranked two years ago, tied for 52nd with Auburn, California-Riverside, Polytechnic Institute of New York University and Rochester. U.S. News ranked 99 programs.

Pitt’s electrical/electronic/communications specialty tied for 57th with Delaware, Drexel, Lehigh and Polytechnic Institute of New York University among 124 programs ranked. Two years ago, Pitt’s program tied for 53rd.

In the environmental/environmental health specialty area, Pitt tied for 60th (tied for 55th in 2010) among 71 such specialties ranked. Pitt tied with Maryland-Baltimore County and Oklahoma.

In the industrial/manufacturing specialty category, Pitt tied for 19th (tied for 17th two years ago) with Arkansas-Fayetteville. Sixty-one such programs were ranked by the magazine.

This year, Pitt’s materials specialty tied for 46th (tied for 48th in 2010) of the 78 programs ranked. Pitt tied with Alfred University-New York State College of Ceramics, Dartmouth, Connecticut and Stony Brook University.

Among 123 specialty programs in mechanical engineering, Pitt’s program tied for 58th (tied for 59th in 2010). Pitt tied with Connecticut, Northeastern and Stony Brook.


For overall quality, Pitt’s School of Law tied for 69th (tied for 71st last year) with Cincinnati, Denver, Miami, New Mexico, Seton Hall and Tennessee-Knoxville out of a total of 195 accredited law schools.

The top three law schools were Yale, Stanford and Harvard. The online edition ranked 146 schools including ties.

Schools of law were assessed for quality based on a weighted average of 12 measures from survey data collected in fall 2011 and early 2012. Law school deans, deans of academic affairs, chairs of faculty appointments and the most recently tenured faculty members were asked to rate programs. According to the magazine, 63 percent of those surveyed responded.

Lawyers and judges also rated schools; 12 percent of those surveyed responded. For this group, the magazine averaged the responses of the two most recent years of surveys.

For the second year in a row, U.S. News surveyed 750 hiring partners and recruiters at law firms who made the 2011 Best Law Firms rankings produced jointly by U.S. News and the publication Best Lawyers.

Other indicators were student selectivity (median LSAT scores, median undergraduate GPA and proportion of accepted JD program applicants who entered in 2011); faculty resources (average 2010 and 2011 expenditures per student for instruction, library and supporting services); financial aid; student-teacher ratio; the total number of volumes and titles in the library, and job placement success (bar exam passing rate as well as employment rates for 2010 graduates at graduation and at nine months after graduation).

Last year, U.S. News modified the way it determines job placement success for recent law school graduates.

According to the magazine, “For the second year in row, both the at-graduation and nine months after employment rates are figured [for the 2010 graduating class] solely based on the number of grads working at that point in time full or part time in a legal or non-legal job divided by the total number of JD graduates.”

The bar exam passage rate indicator is the ratio of the school’s rate to the overall state rate, computed for first-time test takers in summer and winter 2010.

Eleven law specialty areas also were ranked by U.S. News. These specialty rankings are based solely on votes by legal educators, who nominated up to 15 schools in each field. Legal educators were selected from those listed in the Association of American Law Schools Directory of Law Teachers 2009-2010 as currently teaching in that field. In the case of clinical and legal writing, the nominations were made by directors or members of the clinical and legal writing programs at each law school.

Specialties were ranked in descending order based on the number of nominations they received, as long as the school/program received seven or more nominations in that specialty area.

In the health care law specialty, Pitt tied for 14th (tied for 12th last year) among the 19 programs listed.

In the “law firms rank schools” category, Pitt tied for 81st (same as last year) with 14 other schools. According to U.S. News, the category measures a school’s academic reputation. “For this list, legal recruiters at the nation’s Best Law Firms were asked to rank the academic quality of law schools,” the magazine stated. There were 131 schools ranked in this category.


U.S. News issues two separate medical school rankings, one emphasizing research activity and the other a school’s preparation of primary care physicians.

Pitt’s School of Medicine ranked 15th (14th last year) in the research category among 90 medical schools ranked in the online edition. Tops in this category were Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Penn.

In the primary care preparation category, the University ranked 18th (tied for 28th last year) among the 89 schools ranked. The top schools in this category were North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Oregon Health and Science University and Washington.

The magazine surveyed the 126 accredited medical schools plus 23 accredited schools of osteopathic medicine for both the research rankings and the primary care rankings.

For both categories, 114 schools provided the data needed to calculate the rankings.

Quality assessment indicators for both categories were based on peer assessment surveys conducted in fall 2011 and early 2012 of deans of medical and osteopathic schools, deans of academic affairs, heads of internal medicine and directors of admissions. The response rate was 43 percent.

Also surveyed in fall 2011 were residency program directors. One survey dealt with research and was sent to a sample of residency program directors in fields outside primary care, including surgery, psychiatry and radiology. The response rate was 13 percent.

A second survey involved primary care and was sent to residency directors in the fields of family practice, pediatrics and internal medicine. The response rate for that survey was 16 percent.

The source for the names for both of the residency directors’ surveys was the Graduate Medical Education Directory 2010-2011 edition, published by the American Medical Association.

In both categories those quality indicators included student selectivity (mean composite MCAT score, mean undergraduate grade point average and the proportion of total applicants accepted for the class entering in 2011) and faculty resources (ratio of full-time faculty to students in 2011).

In the research category only, research activity was included in the rankings. It was defined as total dollar amount of National Institutes of Health research grants awarded to the medical school and its affiliated hospitals, and the average amount of those grants calculated per full-time medical school and clinical faculty member, both averaged for 2010 and 2011.

In the primary care category, the magazine measured the percentage of med school graduates who entered primary care specialties, such as family practice, pediatrics and internal medicine, averaged over the past three graduating classes.

Among eight medical school specialties ranked by U.S. News, five of Pitt’s programs were ranked nationally.

Pitt’s AIDS medical specialty was ranked 14th (unranked last year) among the 19 programs listed by the magazine.

The geriatrics specialty at the University ranked 11th (10th last year) among 17 programs listed.

Internal medicine tied for 16th (15th last year) with Northwestern among 23 schools ranked.

The pediatrics specialty program was ranked 9th (11th last year) among 20 programs listed.

Pitt’s women’s health program ranked 8th (3rd last year) among 17 such programs listed.

Medical school specialty rankings were based on ratings by medical deans and senior faculty at peer schools, who were asked to identify up to 10 schools offering the best programs in each of eight specialty areas. Those schools with at least seven nominations were ranked by U.S. News.

Health program specialties

Six of Pitt’s health programs were ranked this year by U.S. News.

In the audiology specialty, Pitt tied for eighth with Northwestern among the 68 such programs ranked.

Pitt tied for 18th in the clinical psychology category among 177 such programs ranked by the magazine. Pitt tied with Colorado-Boulder, Emory, Indiana University-Bloomington, Iowa, Penn State, Southern California and Virginia.

Pitt’s program in occupational therapy tied for 6th with Colorado State, Thomas Jefferson University and Tufts University-Boston School of Occupational Therapy. U.S. News ranked 154 such programs.

Among 87 such programs ranked, Pitt’s pharmacy specialty tied for 14th with Illinois-Chicago and Florida.

In the social work health discipline, U.S. News ranked Pitt’s program tied for 11th with Fordham, Southern California, Virginia Commonwealth and Wisconsin. There were 200 such programs ranked.

Pitt’s speech language pathology program tied for 8th with Kansas among 237 such programs listed.

Public affairs

U.S. News ranked Pitt among the best overall academic public affairs programs nationally. Pitt tied for 33rd with Missouri, Nebraska-Omaha and Texas A&M. The magazine ranked a total of 180 such programs.

The top three schools were Syracuse, Indiana University-Bloomington and Harvard.

According to the magazine, the academic public affairs program rankings are based solely on the results of a peer assessment survey. The U.S. News rankings, completed in 2012 and based on surveys conducted in fall 2011, are based entirely on responses of deans, directors and department chairs representing 266 master’s of public affairs and administration programs, two per school.

The lists of schools and individuals surveyed were provided by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration and the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management. The survey response rate was 39 percent.

In program specialties within the public affairs discipline in city management and urban policy, Pitt tied for 19th with the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities among 20 such ranked programs.

—Peter Hart

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