What Is Harvard Business School?

Harvard Business School is an internationally renowned business school located at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts. Founded in 1908, it admits roughly 930 students to its MBA program per year and regularly ranks among the top business schools in the world.

In addition to its Master in Business Administration (MBA) program, the school also offers various other doctoral and executive education programs, some of which are provided in collaboration with partnering institutions such as Harvard Law School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Key Takeaways

  • Harvard Business School is one of the most famous and highly-rated business schools in the world.
  • It is principally known for its MBA program.
  • The school has a network of 85,000 living alumni, many of whom are employed in management positions in areas such as finance, management consulting, and professional services.

Understanding Harvard Business School

Like all institutions, the exact standing of Harvard Business School on domestic and international rankings will vary from year to year. Nevertheless, it regularly ranks in the top five graduate business programs internationally and is undoubtedly one of the best known business schools in the world.

One reason for its substantial brand recognition is the many books and other publications put forward by the Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation (HBSPC). In addition to publishing the scholarly works of Harvard Business School’s roughly 250 full-time faculty members, the HBSPC is also responsible for publishing the famous Harvard Business Review.

As is typical of the so-called Ivy League universities, Harvard Business School is very selective of who it admits into its program. In 2020, for example, the school rejected over 90% of the over 9,000 applications received by its MBA program. The doctoral program is typically even more competitive, with a 96% rejection rate in 2017.

For those students whose applications are accepted, the financial cost of attendance can pose a substantial barrier, with the school itself estimating that the cost of attendance for its 2019-2020 MBA program would likely be over $110,000 per year. Of this, roughly $75,000 is attributable to direct tuition fees while the remainder is due to ancillary costs such as health insurance, course and program materials, rental accommodation, and other living expenses.

Real-World Example of Harvard Business School

The Harvard Business School's stated mission is to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. Some notable alumni include Salman Khan, founder of the self-education website Khan Academy; Meg Whitman, former president and CEO of eBay; and James D. Wolfensohn, former president of the World Bank. Alumni and friends of the school have provided a high level of support for the school throughout its history.

As of 2021, Harvard Business School had 85,000 living alumni collectively representing 173 countries. Among them, the most prominent industries in which they worked were portfolio management, manufacturing, professional services, and management consulting; with "General Management" being by far the largest occupational area within these industries.