Chicago Booth International MBA (IMBA)

6 05 2009

Chicago Booth CampusThe Chicago Booth International MBA (IMBA) is a very interesting and wonderful diploma for those MBA students that, like me, are interested in international topics.

To cut it short, the IMBA has the particularities with respect to the Booth MBA:

  • Students must take 5 international courses. Note that the number of courses required for the International concentration is only 3.
  • Students must take a part in a academic exchange program in one of the 33 schools, all around the world.
  • Students must demonstrate fluency in a foreign language, which could be English.

Comparison of Booth IMBA with other programs

This is no doubt a great program, which is only comparable to the Lauder Program at Wharton. I would like to comment about the differences of these two programs:

  • Language courses: language courses at Lauder are much more structured than at Booth. At Lauder there is a summer immersion program and weekly courses. At Booth languages are not included in the curriculum and students must study them in private schools or in other departments of the University. Lauder: 1 point – Booth 0 point
  • Language requirement: the language fluency requirement is higher at Lauder than at Booth. Lauder: 1 point – Booth 0 point
  • Academic exchange: at Booth the exchange is compulsory, while at Lauder this exchange is not really possible (from a schedule point of view). Lauder: 0 point – Booth 1 point
  • Flexibility: Lauder is a program for people who are already very familiar with a region of the world (like East Asia, Western Europe, Latin America, Middle East…), and the curriculum is going to be mainly focused on that region. As a result, I would say that Lauder has a “regional approach”. On the contrary, Booth is absolutely flexible (as everything is in Booth). You can make your exchange in a region of the world that you are familiar with or not familiar with. You can take courses about one region and make your exchange in another region or in the same. You can study a language of that region or, if it makes sense to you, you can study one of another region. As a result, I would say that Lauder is for regional managers while booth is for both regional and global managers. Lauder: 0 point – Booth 1 point
  • Community: Lauder has more students and more alumni than Booth. Lauder: 1 point – Booth 0 point
  • Brand: I know many US students will not agree to this, but I think Chicago brand is better outside the US than Wharton or Lauder. Out of America, people just do not know what Wharton is and associate Lauder with lipsticks. Lauder: 0 point – Booth 1 point

Result: Lauder 3 points – Booth 3 points.

Advantages and disadvantages of Booth IMBA

On the other hand, I would like to comment also about the advantages and disadvantages to taking the Booth IMBA instead of the normal MBA:

  • Advantages: (I will not explain the advantages because I think they are quite straightforward)
    • International exposure
    • Language learning
    • Individual attention and coaching from the International Programs department
    • Easier to get an internship or job abroad
    • Differentiate from other competitors at job search
    • Be surrounded by internationally minded people
  • Disadvantages: (I will explain the disadvantages in detail)
    • Taking part in an exchange abroad involves that you will not be at Booth for some time and you may not be able to benefit from the Booth experience and the exceptional faculty at Booth (many Nobel prizes). On the other hand, you make not be able to strengthen so much your relations with other Booth students. Imaging that you are a non-US student, like me, studying at Booth is already studing abroad, it is already like a 2-year academic exchange. Why don’t make most of it by staying there?
    • The exchange abroad might interfere with your recruiting. This is why most people do the exchange after recruiting is over in any of the 2 years. Typically the summer internship recruiting takes place during winter quarter of the first year.  If you’re successful with recruiting during winter quarter, then studying abroad during spring quarter (first year) would be fine.  That said, it’s not always a guarantee that you would have secured something by then. Additionally, on campus recruiting for full-time positions takes place in autumn quarter in the second year.  This is the reason that 99% of the Full-time students participate in the exchange abroad during winter quarter (second year).
    • Taking part to an exchange to the country where you come from is not allowed (for non-US students) because the spirit of the program is to get to know other cultures. However, for some people it may make a great sense to go back to their country for an exchange. Think of me: I come from Spain; I have been living abroad for 7 years and have never worked in Spain. I am really thinking of working in Spain after graduating at Booth and an exchange to IE, IESE or ESADE would really help me to develop my network in Spain.
    • It is necessary to take quite a lot of International Courses and IMBA students can take fewer courses of other areas.

Further Questions

I have not yet decided if I am going to do the IMBA or just the normal MBA. I will make the decision once I arrive to Chicago. By the way, in July I will take part ion an event for admitted students here in Hong Kong with Julie Morton, who is the head of career services at Booth and an Associate Dean. I will ask her about the differences between MBA and IMBA in terms of career perspectives.

There is another question I have about the Booth IMBA and, for me, this is the most important question: Who is the Booth IMBA intended for. The answer to this question will make me decide if I go for the MBA or for the IMBA

  • For students who do not have a lot international experience and would like to get some.
  • For students who do have a lot international experience and would like to get even more.

Probably the answer is for both of them. But I want to find out more. I am very exited about this and I am looking forward to arrive in Chicago!

The IMBA according Booth

“We embrace the challenges of global business. With campuses on three continents, Chicago Booth is one of the most global of the world’s top business schools in terms of programs, investment in infrastructure, and the profiles of our faculty, students, and alumni. Most important – we leverage that diversity to prepare you to succeed in all functions, all sectors, and all regions around the world.” Dean Ted Snyder, May 2006

Image: Chicago Booth Winter Hall. The picture belongs to Chicago Booth



7 responses

13 08 2009

Good luck with you MBA study.

3 04 2010

Great insights! Any additional perspectives on the Booth IMBA program since you joined?

10 05 2010

Dear Vik,
Sorry for the late reply. I was organizing a conference in Booth ( and then I had my exams. The IMBA program is great. I know people doing it and they are delighted. The point for me is that I am already international enough and I do not need it. Companies do look for internationally minded people but I am already like that and that’s why I can make more from the MBA than from the IMBA. But I have to say the IMBA is a great program

9 08 2010

Nice post. Just a couple things I wanted to point out …

- Regarding international exchange, you mention that the Lauder program doesn’t allow for an international exchange, but this isn’t quite true. The summer before the normal MBA starts, Lauder students spend several months in their region, taking classes at a local university (combination of Penn and local professors). Additionally, a handful of Lauder students go to INSEAD or other exchange schools during their time at Wharton (although this isn’t required).

- Brand: I have to disagree with you that the Booth brand is stronger than the Wharton brand internationally.

- Another big plus for Lauder is the additional degree (MA in International Studies).

Again, great post. Chicago’s IMBA is a remarkable program!

19 12 2010


I think I will have the opportunity to ask you this in person soon ;) , but in case some other people are also interested, lets ask it here.

Regarding the exchanges in the country you come from (I know it’s not allowed), do you think it would be possible to somehow “convince” the school to let you do it? For example, in case there are more spots open than candidates.

I’m very interested in exchanging in Spain to develop my network there (I have also been abroad for 6 years and never worked in Spain), and that may be a good opportunity.


27 07 2011
Rahil Hanif

I’m Impressed with the story published..It’s very informative and helps understand International MBA with detail explanation.

3 10 2011
Ralph Fernandes

Very well written…Th article is informative and highlight the benefits of International MBA

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