US News reveals 2018 best graduate schools rankings

Going to graduate school requires people to bet on their own potential for professional growth – and it's a move that can dramatically increase annual salaries.

The median annual earnings of a full-time worker with a professional degree is $49,500 higher than the median income of an individual who only has a bachelor's degree, according to a 2016 report by the College Board. In addition to financial benefits, a graduate degree can also lead to professional advancement or a career change.

Calculating the potential return on investment for graduate school is one necessary step in deciding whether to attend, and it can also clarify what type of degree would be most marketable. Prospective students can refer to the U.S. News Best Graduate Schools rankings, released today, for guidance on identifying the right program to accelerate their career.

The 2018 edition of the rankings evaluates graduate schools of business, law, medicine, nursing, engineering and education. These schools are rated based on a variety of factors, including acceptance rates, standardized test scores and grade-point averages of incoming students, and academic experts' opinions about program excellence.

For the business, law, medicine, education and engineering rankings, U.S. News also incorporated feedback from hiring managers who assessed how well those programs prepared students for the working world. Each discipline's ranking methodology varies to take into account program differences.

Business:Harvard Business School tied for the No. 1 spot in the full-time MBA program rankings with the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, which moved up from No. 4 last year. This in turn bumped the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago down one spot to No. 3. Stanford University fell from a tie at No. 2 last year to a three-way tie at No. 4.

The Stern School of Business at New York University, whose rank was negatively affected last year due to omitted data on the U.S. News survey, jumped up eight spots this year, rising from No. 20 to a tie at No. 12. The Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University also rose in the rankings, soaring 18 spots from a tie at No. 83 to a tie at No. 65.

Among part-time MBA programs, the Haas School of Business at the University of California—Berkeley once again claimed the No.1 title, followed by Chicago's Booth School of Business. The NYU Stern School of Business and the Anderson School of Management at the University of California—Los Angeles are tied at No. 3.

Law: The hierarchy of the top law schools shifted slightly this year. Yale Law School is No.1 again, and Stanford Law School is still No. 2, but Harvard Law School, which was previously tied for No. 2, dropped to the No. 3 spot.

Both Duke University and the Pritzker School of Law at Northwestern University cracked the top 10 this year, tying at No. 10. The University of California—Berkeley fell out of the top 10, landing at No. 12. Farther down the list, Washington and Lee University climbed 12 spots, rising from a tie at No. 40 to a tie at No. 28.

Among part-time law programs, the No. 1 school is Georgetown University, as it was last year, but George Washington University and Fordham University switched places this year, with the former taking second place and the latter taking third place.

Medicine: In the research-based medical school rankings, Harvard was once again No.1, followed by Stanford University and Johns Hopkins University. The University of California—San Francisco and the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, which both tied with Johns Hopkins for third place last year, are now ranked fourth and fifth, respectively.

In the rankings of primary care medicine programs, the top three schools remained the same, with the University of Washington at No.1, the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill at No. 2 and UC—San Francisco at No. 3. Duke University fell in the primary care rankings, dropping from No. 8 to a tie at No. 34, and so did Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, which went from No. 15 to No. 33.

Nursing: Among nursing master's programs, there were significant changes at the top of the rankings. Duke took the No. 1 spot this year, climbing three spots from last year, when it was tied at fourth place.

Johns Hopkins, which was No. 1 last year, is now in second place and the University of Pennsylvania, which was No. 2 last year, is now in third place.

In the rankings of Doctor of Nursing Practice programs, Duke claimed the No.1 title, swapping spots with the University of Washington, which is now in third place.

Engineering: The top four spots in the graduate engineering rankings were claimed by the same schools as last year with the Massachusetts Institute Technology at No.1, Stanford at No. 2, Berkeley at No. 3, and the California Institute of Technology at No. 4.

Education: Harvard took the No. 1 title from Stanford, which is now in second place among graduate education programs. The University of California—Los Angeles now ties for third place, eight spots higher than where it ranked last year.

Searching for a grad school? Access our complete rankings of Best Graduate Schools.