Booth Overhauls Its Highly Ranked EMBA

More global. More choices. And more expensive, too.

After a faculty review lasting nine months, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business today (Jan. 14) announced a series of significant changes to its highly ranked Executive MBA program.

The school is  increasing the international exchange portion of the program to five weeks from four, doubling the number of required electives so that students can specialize in a discipline, and tossing into the program a full menu of leadership exercises that has long been an entry hallmark of its full-time MBA experience.

Among other changes, Booth also is adding a three-month-long capstone course that will provide the opportunity for students to integrate concepts and tools from much of the curriculum in a multi-round simulation culminating in presentations to a panel of investor-judges. The industry-based simulation will involve a goal to maximize revenue for a fictitious company and have teams of students compete with each other.


The overhaul will likely come with a tuition increase. Booth now charges U.S. students $154,000 for the 21-month program, a fee that includes tuition, books and course materials, some meals and hotel accommodations for two residential weeks in Chicago, a week in London, and a week in Singapore. Only two years ago, Booth was charging $142,000 for the program. Still, the current price of Booth’s EMBA is significantly below Wharton’s record $175,678 price tag for its executive MBA program in San Francisco or its $171,360 cost in Philadelphia.

“We don’t see the changes increasing the cost of the program significantly,” says Patty Keegan, associate dean of Booth’s EMBA program. “But right now we are in the middle of tuition discussions.”

The changes occur after a faculty committee spent nine months doing peer reviews of other EMBA programs, conducting focus groups with recent alumni and current students, and an audit of course evaluations by EMBA students over the past five years. The review led to recommendations to Booth faculty last fall.


“We always thrive to make improvements where it makes sense,” explains Keegan. “The committee didn’t start over at ground zero (but rather built on what was already working). There is nothing broken. We wanted to find opportunities for students to customize within an EMBA which can be challenging because most EMBAs are lockstep programs.”

Students will now be able to take four elective courses, up from just two, and to specialize by choosing coursework in a particular academic area. Those areas are expected to be capital markets, corporate finance, entrepreneurship, strategy, marketing and leadership and management. Previously specializations were only possible by paying extra to take an optional week of classes at the end of the program. Keegan said students will now get to choose from among 12 to 18 different elective offerings and take four electives without an additional tuition fee.

The changes take effect for students who enter the program, which is taught at campuses in Chicago, London and Singapore, in June of 2013. The length of the program will remain at 16 weeks of instruction spread over 21 months. Booth has more than 500 students studying in its Executive MBA Program on campuses in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

With the exception of the elective courses taught at Harper Center on Chicago’s main campus, U.S. students take classes at Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago, while European-based students take their classes at the school’s London campus in the City and Asian-based students do their coursework at the school’s Singapore campus adjacent to Orchard Road.


“With these changes, students will be exposed to more members of our faculty, create closer connections with our other MBA programs and will spend more time studying alongside Executive MBA students from all of our campuses,” said Booth Dean Sunil Kumar in a statement. “Many students have told us the international exchange is important and creates a unique learning environment.”

  • thunderdan

    This is awesome, Booth has shown leadership in adding these changes to make the over all E-MBA experience more closer to their other programs.

    • The Titan

      You guys should look at UofI EMBA program. The highlight of the program is the 8 month long China capstone project, that will provide you an unique experience unmatched by any other top EMBA programs.

  • WEMBAImprovementsNeeded

    Congrats to Booth. Wharton needs to take a long hard look at their EMBA program. It has slipped in the BW rankings due to lower student satisfaction and the volume of discontent from existing Wharton EMBA students seems to be growing. Its a program on its way down. It won’t fall too far because they’ll eventually realize the problem and fix things but in the near term it isn’t the obvious choice. I suspect MIT will take the #1 ranking away from Wharton soon.

    • Guest

      Or, as John Byrne has mentioned in other forums, the better the school the higher expectations the students have. Wharton EMBAs probably have a higher expectations because it is viewed as the best program around. In addition, you are mistaken about updates to the Wharton program. The school has piloted updates to its full time MBA program that it will be implementing into the EMBA program this year. In effect, Wharton and Booth are doing very similar things. However, Wharton has not yet announced all the updates. But if you look on the site, they have only released the first years schedule because they are trying to figure out which updates are going in for the second year.

      As a prospective student, I can tell you that Wharton is still my number 1 choice…no question. I don’t think this will change for the majority of applicants any time soon. For me, Wharton is tops, a couple schools like MIT and Booth are a distant second, and then there are the rest.

      • bayareabob

        The problem is Wharton EMBA recently was not giving the ROI even similar to the distant second schools you are mentioning. I am a WEMBA graduate from 2010, not much changed for many in my class(but it did provide a decent framework to operate at a Senior Manager level). To the contrary, I have seen colleagues and friends from Kellogs and Booth making various moves and getting good help from their respect career services to have that take place. My sincere hope is that Wharton makes the career services more available and helpful as opposed to increasing the fees each year and squeezing heck out of the breath of the students experience with tons on work during the program.

        • Enthusiast

          @ bayareabob,
          Nice post. The Wharton eMBA is indisputably one of the world’s finest – and so many congrats to you on the accomplishment of graduating. My question to you is:
          Do you believe that the reasons for your comment that “not much changed for many in my class” is purely a function of career services, or is it more reflective possibly of some concerns that people have expressed with respect to the lower average age of Wharton eMBA students…ie less potential executive level candidates/experience and so not potentially the same accomplishments when compared with some (not all) other Programs? Obviously, I am not speaking of academic abilities – as I am confident that students in the top programs are all academically qualified despite suggestions sometimes made otherwise.
          As background, I ended up choosing to attend a different school than Wharton (the Philadelphia eMBA) and am a current student in another top eMBA program (think Kellogg, MIT, Cornell, Chicago Booth – not really important which). I selected this other program for a variety of reasons including fit, career services, logistics, but also very much based upon average age and experience of candidates. As further background, I am currently 41 years old (40 when I started my Program) and am the Chief Investment Officer for a relatively small publicly traded company (financial services industry).

          • Reality Check

            The whole age/work experience myth is getting ridiculous. Look at the stats of the most recent business week profiles. Just to pick a few, average ages are: Duke and NYU, 38; Chicago, Kellogg, and Georgetown, 37; UCLA 36; Cornell and Wharton, 35, Columbia, 32. Other then Columbia, this is a pretty age-similar group. For those who want to go to a program with more experienced people, why go to Kellogg or Booth? Obviously, Duke or NYU would be the best choice because the students are older, right?

            Age-fascists, get over yourselves and use facts. The differences in average ages are miniscule,.

          • plutus

            Reality Check, good info and it confirms my general perception when I visited several of the programs you mentioned above. I had never looked at the age differences across the schools, and I may have overstated the age differences in past posts. However, I wouldn’t consider myself an “age-fascist.” 🙂

          • bayareabob

            I personally felt Kellogg had more seasoned and older pool of current students when I visited them before starting at WEMBA. BTW my 225k comment comes from travel plus friday non chargeability while working as Management consultant and while I was outside the valley. After going thru the program, my personal end opinion was:

            1. Good curriculum with strong professors.

            2. Genuine program that tries to push your boundaries(for normal admits), for me it was same game as I was already doing similar stuff at work

            3. A lot of pushing the boundaries is not needed, compared to imparting the fundamentals strongly.

            4. Good connections that can also be gotten from Haas since comparision would be with valley schools.

            5. Not well honed for entrepreneurial kick start or grounding because too much emphasis was given to other aspects of the program, at the expense of this.

            Hay, my bar is much higher than many others on this discussion thread and many in my cohort and WEMBA did not reach that bar. Individual perspective of mine and many in my class…thus contributing to the less than stellar feedback and ranking for the program from business week.. Just sayin.

          • WEMBA East ’10

            Bayareabob, I can understand your points. Obviously, we have a difference of opinion, and that is alright. From what I understand, the school has made some strides, especially on the west coast, to make the program even better for entrepreneurs. I am hoping that you (and anyone that agreed with you) provided your opinion to the school. The administrators on the east coast have been incredibly supportive of updates and improvements to the program, and I hope you gave them the chance to make it better for future years.

            I want to note that you really have no idea what other people’s bars are, and to assume yours is higher may be perceived as rather offensive or arrogant. Did all of my classmates blow me away? Of course not. But as a whole, they were easily the most intelligent, hard working, and successful group that I had met. And yes, the business week ranking dropped probably because we have very high expectations of the program.

            Finally, I am going to be honest. Two things you said makes me think that you may not actually be a grad of the program. If you were, you would have known that when we went through, Haas didn’t even have their own EMBA. It was a partnership with Columbia (a partnership I considered). The network of that EMBA was incredibly small and wouldn’t have helped much, although the larger Haas network would have. Second, you mentioned that you really didn’t need to be pushed academically because you were doing similar things at work. Every consultant I knew who was in the program learned an extraordinary amount of information on things they hadn’t worked in. Unless you are an master of all consulting fields including operations, strategy, management, finance, etc., I find it hard to believe that you were just learning the same things you practice on a day-to-day basis. You mentioned a few things in early posts that set off my radar, hence why I even posted at all since I almost never partake in these forums. I could be off the mark, but I don’t think so.

          • bayareabob

            Sure, for us bar area folks Haas is Haas(even if as a partner program). I think you have not worked with consultants that do span their work in various domains in a field. Why do you think my point is about a field than about the overall expected output by the program from you..

          • Enthusiast

            @ Reality Check,

            I appreciate your post but please do not get angry or call people names like “Age-Fascists” – this type of name calling may only serve to confirm why people are in fact concerned about this topic – your post does not advance the case.

            I have the utmost respect for Wharton and all top eMBA programs and was interested to learn more based upon the information provided in this forum from a Wharton eMBA grad who posted. So sorry to have been so provocotive.

            That aside, we do agree that sources and facts are important. So in looking in looking at the actual school websites for work experience versus BusinessWeek – the following IN ORDER OF LEAST TO MOST was revealed: The respective websites show that Columbia indicates an average of 9 years, Wharton indicates 10 years, Cornell indicates10-15 yrs, with 12-13 as the average depending on which of their 2 eMBA programs are being examined, Kellogg shows 12-15 years, Chicago Booth indicates that most of their students have between 13-15 years of experience, and MIT shows average work experience at 16 years.

            So I think you are correct in saying that there are general similarities – but there are differences, and so some of the perception or “myth” is in fact based upon some reality – as slight as it may be. Some folks with 9-10 years of expereince may or may not have the same perspective as someone with 15 or 16 years…and we are talking averages, but that does have some impact for prospects to consider – at least as much as the wide variety of criteria people consider when judging amongst such great choices..

            Lots of great choices out there to consider and this is a forum to exchange ideas and not call people names.

            Thanks and best wishes!

          • plutus

            Enthusiast, agreed about name calling being innapropriate. I have to disagree with you a little bit though, just because Reality Check’s post is inflammatory doesn’t refute the facts that it brings. Just as we have to do in life, we have to wade through the emotions to get to the facts even when we don’t like the source.

            That being said, I have a couple points. First, when the average age is about equal (35 or 37 for example) but the work experience is further apart, then there has to be a reason. The most common would be previous advanced education. WEMBA often accepts a class where 35-40% have a previous masters, so this isn’t too surprising.

            Second, when a school publishes an age ranges on their school websites they are more indicative of what the schools want (as a minimum) rather then what they actually have. Compare that to the businessweek profiles, which are actual averages. I am not saying that the schools are lying, but some may exaggerate their marketing a bit to attract a certain clientele.

            Third, work experience can be counted differently depending on how ‘flexible’ the school is. For example, did the student work internships during their undergrad summers? Did they work while going to undergrad? Does the school count this as work experience.

            Finally, one needs to actually match the average age to the average work experience. For example, the businessweek profile for Booth claims an average age of 37 and 15 years work experience. For Wharton it is 35 years old with about 10.5 years work experience. For Kellogg it is 37 with 14 years of work experience. Lots of inferences in this information. Do lots of Wharton students have extra schooling? Do a good portion of Kellogg students? Do Booth students lack previous advanced education? Probably not, and it is probably some combination. But you can make your own inferences.

            I am not saying that all the schools are about the same when it comes to age and work experience. What I am saying is that they aren’t that far apart and to take all the info with a grain of salt. From my personal experiences when visiting the programs, there wasn’t a huge difference in the age and years work experience makeup of the classes.

          • Enthusiast

            @ Plutus,

            Nice response. Also, I hope you are admitted to Wharton – I see the enthusiasm in your posts on P&Q and BW. You are very pro for the school, and I can appreciate that.

            We agree that there as general similarities – but we disagree that they are mean little – I think that depends entirely on the person in question and so do many other applicants. For some it matters and for others it does not. It mattered more to me – as I am an old man now (41) and I have a prior advanced degree in a non business field. Many do in the programs we are all discussing.
            However, you slice it – 10 years vs 15 yrs can be significant – it means one applicant will have worked 1.5 times longer – maybe or maybe not in an interesting or exciting area of course.
            Again, my points are not criticisms at all – they just are information that people do not ignore and do in fact recognize when judging programs. Lots of great choices out there and people should work to find the best fit for them. Many thanks and best wishes and good luck to u!

        • WEMBA East ’10

          As a fellow WEMBA 2010 grad, I am sorry to hear that you haven’t found the ROI as good as you would have hoped from other schools. I am assuming you were west (“bay area bob”), but I was east. Personally, I got out of Wharton exactly what I wanted: an excellent education, great network, and the career progression I was looking for. I have a different view then you, and I think my peers have been doing pretty well. Most have since been promoted, a bunch have moved to better companies, and a couple have started entrepreneurial ventures. Like you, I know of others who went to other top tier programs, but I didn’t notice that they were doing any better then the Wharton alumni. For career services, there is always more to desire, and I hear the same gripes and complaints from WEMBA students as I do from a few of my friends at Booth and Kellogg. However, so much at the EMBA level is your previous experience. We just aren’t going for the same positions as the full time students, and so much of getting that next job is dependent on you ability to network.

          I tell prospective students to go to the school they are most comfortable with. The school really doesn’t matter after graduation. Going to the “top school” is much more important to prospective MBAs/EMBAs then it is to the graduates. As most grads know, whether someone graduated from Wharton, HBS, Stanford, Chicago, Kellogg, or Columbia, they are equally respected amongst the grads of the other top programs. Trust me, I don’t look down on those who have graduated from any of these programs. I even had classmates that turned down great full time programs to go to WEMBA, and there were plenty that had undergrads from the above schools. There is no fine line between one school and another, and I believe admissions is 50% personal background, 20% how you present yourself in the application and interview, and 30% luck. That’s a lot of luck.

          That being said, if someone wants to be challenged and truly stretched for a couple years, and at the end have a great network and knowledge base, then I tell them that WEMBA is great and by far the most challenging program around. BayAreaBob, you are right, it is not for everyone, and it is a difficult two years. If someone is looking to just gain some knowledge, get access to career services, and enlarge their network, then all the top programs will do great – Wharton’s included. Wharton’s difference is that it will give you an unparalleled “framework to operate at a senior manager level” through the education (I stole your words there). I couldn’t be happier with being a WEMBA grad, and I am glad that I chose it over the other top two programs I was accepted.

          • bayareabob

            1. I do not think getting promoted and getting a framework to perform well at a senior manager level does not mandate a 225k investment and tons of your time(couple of good courses coursera etc, internal reflection and personality changes may help do that)

            2. Couple of guys starting companies of their own is pretty consistent with my side of WEMBA as well and almost all turned out to be duds on the initial cycle.

            3. Following is indicative of how pitiful WEMBA is faring wrt Enterpreurship:


            4. I think the school made us better presenters and made us extremely confident but that can also be achieved by pushing the envelope yourself and increase your network to include proven entrepreneurs.

          • WEMBA East ’10

            To your points:

            1) So based on your input, I would assume that pretty much no top tier EMBA would be worth the cost. Most o f my classmates wanted to do better in their careers by either 1) getting promoted, 2) moving to a better position in another company, or 3) learning skills that will allow them to perform better in whatever position they have (entrepreneur, CXO, etc.), or 4) some combination of the above. I really am not sure what else you thought Wharton was going to do for you, or for any EMBA program for that matter.

            2) Most entrepreneurial endeavors fail. I tried my own hand before EMBA and had a similar experience. Out of all my friends that went to top tier EMBAs/MBAs, (I am the only one that went to WEMBA), there are only a couple ventures that have done ok. The great majority fail. WEMBA, nor any MBA program in a panacea for entrepreneurship.

            3)Personal opinion here, but specialty ranking are typically garbage. I have a couple friends who went to HBS and joined up with some military guys for a pretty cool venture. From their stories, I have been pretty impressed with the Rock Center (I think that’s what it is called) for Entrepreneurship. I would imagine that HBS cranks out some pretty good ventures, but you will notice them absent from the ranking as well. Some other usual entrepreneurial schools are missing too. I don’t like calling out other schools, but there are a couple on that list that are really questionable and make me question the rankings integrity.

            4) Maybe, maybe not. This really depends on your background. However, this comment, even more then the others, makes me think that you are a detractor from all MBA programs rather then just Wharton. If that is the case then fine, and you are in good company . However, I am not in that camp, and I am a big supporter of all the top MBA programs – especially Wharton.

          • plutus

            WEMBA East ’10, thank you for taking the time to discuss your experiences and perspective. You also seem very fair when comparing Wharton to the top MBA programs (and to not getting one at all). For many of the reasons you mentioned, Wharton is my top choice. If I am going to spend in the mid to high 100k on an EMBA, I am going to go to the best program I get in to. (I’m not sure where bayareabob got his 225k figure, since he shoulnd’t have had to pay for much airfare being from the bay area.)

            Your comments seem to echo many of the comments I have received from Wharton EMBA grads. I remember one guy warning me the program will be difficult, but that Wharton was the foundation for the skills he needed to become, and excel as, his company’s CEO.

            Thanks again.

    • plutus

      I linked here from a post on the businessweek forums. This is an interesting article, but none of the changes are groundbreaking.
      To summarize, here is what Booth is doing: They are adding a capstone
      simulation project similar to the full time program. Students can now
      choose four electives (up from 2) from a pool of about 15.
      International students spend 1 additional week at Chicago, up to three
      from two – which will bring the cohorts together for a total of five
      times. They are adding some additional in-class exercises.

      Booth has been in my top three choices for
      EMBA programs that I am applying to this year. However, the above changes are incremental rather than
      innovative. To be honest, a capstone, 4 electives (which is pretty
      paltry), and an extra week with the other cohorts doesn’t change my top
      three at all.

      Wharton has been undergoing a similar process. I talked to an admissions rep during a recent session, and I asked her what Wharton is doing
      to remain at the top. She said that they are undergoing a review of
      their curriculum similar to the full time program’s recent revision.
      Amongst a whole slew of issues, she mentioned that they are going to
      relook the international trips because there has been such a strong
      interest in the g-lab and the global consulting practicum. Long story
      short, she told me that they will likely be rolling out this
      curriculum this year – for the class entering in May. But to be honest,
      I don’t expect Wharton to be ground breaking either, and I would expect
      incremental improvements as well. Both programs aren’t broke, so no
      need to really change much.

      Also, it’s good to notice that most forum posters compare other
      programs to WEMBA (like those on the P&Q website). This is probably
      the best indicator for which program is really perceived as the top.