How to Use the 2017 Best Graduate Schools Rankings Wisely

Use our data, including admissions test scores and job placement rates, to compare graduate schools

By U.S. News Staff
Posted 2016

The 2017 U.S. News Best Graduate Schools rankings spotlight the country's academically excellent graduate programs and can start you on the track toward picking the right school for you.

But many other factors that cannot be measured also should figure in your decision, including the course offerings and culture of departments that interest you, the advising or mentoring you can expect to receive, career opportunities, cost of attendance, the location and campus life.

So, why study our data at all? Because, for instance, you can see at a glance where your undergraduate academic record and admissions test scores might take you and where you would rise to the top of the applicant pool.

You can look up GMAT, LSAT, MCAT and GRE test scores and compare them between schools. You also can see how deans rate the schools in terms of academic excellence, which may matter to job recruiters.

In the 2017 edition of Best Graduate Schools, prospective students can explore the first-ever U.S. News ranking of Doctor of Nursing Practice programs, in addition to our ranking of master's programs in nursing. DNP programs, which are rapidly growing, prepare nurses for the highest level of clinical practice.

The data in the ranking tables now allow you to compare medical, law, engineering, business,education and nursing schools on many key characteristics, which will almost certainly open up further lines of investigation in your graduate school search.

Someone interested in law, for example, can examine how successfully schools prepare graduates for the bar exam or how likely students are to get a job after graduation. Applicants to MBA programs can see how diplomas from various schools will affect their earning power. Future engineers can get a sense from a school's research expenditures of how cutting-edge an experience there might be. You might even discover possible choices that were not on your radar screen before.

In addition to the six main professional disciplines we rank annually, we also periodically rank graduate programs in science, social sciences and humanities, health and many other areas based solely on the ratings of academic experts.

For the 2017 edition, U.S. News has published fresh rankings of graduate programs in public affairs, in fine arts and in seven selected health-related fields: audiology, clinical psychology, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physical therapy, social work and speech-language pathology. These rankings were last updated in 2012. New reputation-based rankings of nurse midwifery and nurse anesthesia programs have also been published in the 2017 edition.

Rankings can inform your thinking – but they won't hand you an easy answer. The rankings should only be used as one tool in finding the right graduate school or program. You need to consider many factors, including cost, location, job prospects and course offerings.

The Best Graduate Schools rankings should not be used as the sole criteria in deciding where to go to graduate school. We urge you to use them wisely. —The Editors