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School v. School: Vanderbilt Owen vs. Washington U. St. Louis Olin

Vanderbilt vs. Washington St. Louis

When you have two highly competitive and comparable MBA programs on your list, which one do you choose? You have to look at everything from location to rankings, ROI, and program offerings. It’s how everything comes together that makes a program the best fit for you.

The good news is that our School v. School series is here to simplify your decision-making process with a point-by-point comparison of two stand-out programs: Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management and Washington University’s Olin Business School. We’ve collected everything you’ve always wanted to know about each program to see which is best for you.

Vanderbilt vs. Washington St. Louis: Location

Both Vanderbilt Owen and Washington Olin are located in beautiful cities that have a lot to offer. In Nashville, Music City, you have Vanderbilt Owen. And in St. Louis, which is known for baseball, beer, and the famous arch, you have Washington Olin. Both schools are in the heart of downtown within easy reach of public transportation, shopping, restaurants, and business.

As for how the two very different locations match up when it comes to cost-of-living? Overall, St. Louis is a far more affordable place to live with slightly more focus on education. However, when it comes to obtaining a job post-graduation, you might have better luck in Nashville where future job growth is almost 15% above the national average and 24.4 percent above St. Louis.

  • Cost of Living: St. Louis is 19.7 percent less expensive than Nashville.
  • Housing: St. Louis housing costs are 53.1 percent less expensive than Nashville.
  • Education: St. Louis spends 27.8 percent more per student, and they have a 10.6 percent lower student to teacher ratio than Nashville. 
  • Commute: Residents in Nashville and St. Louis both commute about 25 minutes one-way.
  • Jobs: Future job growth for Nashville is 48.3 percent compared to 23.9 percent in St. Louis—a 24.4 percent difference.

Vanderbilt vs. Washington St. Louis: Rankings

As for the rankings, Vanderbilt Owen and Washington Olin directly compete with each other. While Olin barely takes the ranking for the U.S. News & World Report and Forbes, it loses out in Bloomberg, the Financial Times, and The Economist. The point is that both schools are regularly in the top 50 and occasionally make it into the top 30. Rankings should be a deciding factor here.

PublicationVanderbilt OwenWashington St. Louis
U.S. News & World Report2926
Bloomberg (Global)2237
Forbes4935
Financial Times (Global)5254
The Economist (Global)2637

Vanderbilt vs. Washington St. Louis: Cost

If budget is your most significant concern, then Vanderbilt Owen is the best choice when it comes to saving money. Tuition at Owen is $36,925 less per year than at Olin, saving $73,850 over two years. And even though the cost-of-living is more expensive in Nashville, Owen budgets just $11,394 for rent and utilities compared to $17,696 at Olin in St. Louis.

It’s also important to note that there are more scholarship opportunities available at Vanderbilt Owen. Since it’s a private university, scholarships are largely funded by private donors and include a mix of merit-based and diversity scholarships from $5,000 to full-tuition. On the other hand, the Olin offers fewer scholarship opportunities that can cover partial or full-tuition, the Dean’s Scholarships being the most well known.

Annual ExpensesVanderbilt OwenWashington St. Louis
Tuition$56,150$93,075
Full Costs (tuition, books, fees, etc.)$84,378$122,798

Vanderbilt vs. Washington St. Louis: Post-Graduation Employment

Alongside the lower cost to attend Vanderbilt Owen, graduates earn more post-graduation for a far better return on investment (ROI). Owen graduates can expect to earn around $4,000 more per year than graduates. But, combined with a signing bonuses, the overall compensation is almost $15,000 higher. As for getting a job offer three months post-graduation, it happens for 92 percent of Owen graduates compared to 88 percent of Olin graduates.

However, you should take into consideration where graduates are employed based on your industry of interest. At Vanderbilt Owen, graduates head into consulting (25 percent), healthcare (21 percent), financial services (13 percent), and technology (13 percent). At Washington Olin, graduates choose financial services (22 percent), pharma/biotechnology/healthcare (20 percent), consulting (15 percent), and manufacturing (12 percent). Making both schools an excellent choice for healthcare careers but Owen is better for consulting while Olin is better for financial services.

CompensationVanderbilt OwenWashington St. Louis Olin
Average Annual Salary$56,150$93,075
Median Signing Bonus$84,378$122,798

About Vanderbilt Owen

Vanderbilt Owen enrolls about 179 students each year into its Full-Time MBA program. (Vanderbilt Photo / Rusty Russell)

Located in the heart of Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management offers a well-ranked MBA program with a focus on your future career. As part of this, the program offers concentrations in accounting, finance, general management, healthcare, human & organization performance, marketing, operations & analytics, and strategy. There are also specializations available in brand management, corporate finance, human & organizational performance, and investment management. This customization allows students to focus on those disciplines that matter most to them.

MBA Programs

  • Full-Time MBA: The two-year, full-time MBA program features several MBA specializations and concentrations and many immersion-learning opportunities.
  • Executive MBA: The Executive MBA program is 21 months in length and designed for working professionals already in leadership roles.

About Washington Olin

Washington Olin enrolls around 135 full-time MBA program students each year.

Located in downtown St. Louis, Missouri, Washington University’s Olin Business School offers a mid-tier MBA experience focused on a global worldview. The full-time MBA program is best known for its six-week global immersion experience in Washington, DC, Barcelona, and Shanghai. It’s a unique experiential learning opportunity that gives students experience outside the program in an “Amazing Race”-style competition. Another highlight of Olin includes the ability to graduate in just 14 months in the accelerated program.

MBA Programs

  • Full-Time MBA: The two-year, full-time MBA program at Washington Olin includes a six-week global immersion and hands-on experiential learning.
  • Professional MBA: The part-time Professional MBA program offers weekend or evening classes and can be completed in three years or less.
  • Executive MBA: There are three Executive MBA programs including a program in the U.S., Shanghai, and Mumbai. Each option requires either 18 or 20 months to graduate.

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About the Author


Kelly Vo    

Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and personal development.

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