Chicago’s Booth vs. Northwestern’s Kellogg School

Curriculum: Chicago has one of the most open and flexible curriculums of any business school in the world. There is only one required course for all MBA students: it’s Leadership Effectiveness and Development, known as LEAD, a series of classes and exercises on such core management skills as negotiation, team-building and giving feedback. Other than that, each Chicago student choices what courses to take and when to take them based on his or her experience, previous education, and goals. So you don’t have to sit through elementary accounting or basic finance if you already have an undergraduate background in them. The downside of this approach, of course, is that there is relatively little bonding with your incoming classmates, each of who has different class schedules. At Kellogg, the incoming class is divided into cohorts of some 65 students, each dubbed a specific name, from “Poets” and “Cash Cows” to “Jive Turkeys” and “Bucket Heads.” You can opt out of one of the nine fundamental courses in the core and take a higher-level offering, a so-called turbo class, but you pretty much move through the core curriculum with your section. About half of Kellogg’s students waive at least one course. Both schools’ offerings are based on the quarter system in which you’ll take between three and five courses per quarter (with three quarters a year). Chicago requires a minimum of 21 courses for graduation; Kellogg requires a minimum of 24.5 courses.

Kellogg School of Management. Photo by John A. Byrne.

On-Campus Recruiting: Both Kellogg and Booth attract the top MBA corporate recruiters in the world and, just as importantly, both schools have best-in-class career services offices to help with job searches. Pretty much any recruiter who comes to Chicago visits both schools–not one or the other. So you’re exposed to an amazing array of world-class companies that actively recruit large numbers of MBAs. The only key difference is that Chicago tends to be stronger on the finance side (see table below for which companies hired the most MBAs from Chicago and Northwestern), while Kellogg has a very significant advantage on the consumer marketing side. As much as half of Chicago’s graduating MBAs often head for finance. Before their collapse, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch were both among the largest recruiters at Chicago. In fact, in the year that Lehman went bust, the investment banking firm hired more than 20 Chicago MBAs. Kellogg grads tend to go into more diverse fields. They also seem to do very well with the top management consulting firms, including McKinsey, Bain, BCG and Booz, probably because of the high level of interpersonnel skills Kellogg MBAs are known for thanks to those mandatory application interviews. The consulting industry as a whole hired an astounding 38% of Kellogg’s Class of 2009.

Alumni Network: Chicago probably has a clear and convincing edge if you want to work in investment management, commercial banking, or Wall Street. Its alums are all over the big firms and far more concentrated as a force in finance than Kellogg grads. The downside is that Chicago hasn’t done all that much in the department of bonding so that some grads have less affection for or loyalty to the school as alums. Chicago has a global network of more than 42,000 alums (that number includes part-time and Executive MBAs) in 101 countries. The school claims 5,400 CEOs and top officers at such companies as JPMorgan-Chase, ITT Industries, Pfizer, Gilette, Suzuki and John Deere, as well as entrepreneurial alums who have founded such companies as ZipCar, Harpoon Brewery, and Morningstar. Even though these are schools with awesome international reputations, the strength of their alumni networks is most apparent in their home territory of Chicago. Booth, for example, claims 12,656 alums in the Windy City alone, compared with just 2,300 in New York, 782 in San Francisco, and 783 in Boston. Kellogg, meantime, has 22,438 alums (a number that includes 3,315 who graduated from Kellogg’s one-year program and 970 MMMs). Of the total, Kellogg says 4,862 live in chicago, 2,733 are in New York, 1,955 are in the San Francisco Bay area, 300 in London, and 175 in Paris. Kellogg’s alums are chief executives of Campbell Soup, T-Mobile,  Mattel, Target, Allstate, Room to Read, among other business and social enterprises.