You are not me. We have varied backgrounds, aspirations, interests, passions, and preferences. With variability across so many dimensions, should our educational paths really track lockstep? Absolutely not! Chicago Booth echoes this position, by giving students the flexibility to chart their own path through the MBA program.
I’m a second-year Booth student, concurrently pursuing an MS in Computer Science. The MBA/Masters Program in Computer Science (MPCS) joint degree drew me to Booth. In this post, I’ll fill you in on the details that made the joint degree program right for me, before diving into how the flexibility of Booth’s curriculum enables students to earn a technical degree and an MBA in two years.
Before Booth, I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana. Living in a 1,500-person farming village gave me loads of time to consider what I wanted to make of my life. I knew I wanted to have an impact, undertaking real challenges and solving real problems at scale, but I had no idea how position myself to do so. I explored options. One week, I saw myself as a future psychologist, and the next week, the life of a beekeeper was the life for me. I was seriously confused.
I love to learn, so I turned to one of few resources available to me in my internet-free home: a textbook for programming in Java. I dove in headlong and developed a deep appreciation for the art and science of communing with technology. As I spent more time in Ghana, I came to recognize that the entrepreneurs who were launching businesses and bringing new technologies to the country were making a significant impact and creating jobs, serving as the tide to raise all boats.
My burgeoning interest in technology and my recognition of business’s impact-potential gave me the direction I sought. Though this presented me with two problems. One, I didn’t have the background to lead technical teams, and two, I didn’t feel prepared to succeed along business dimensions outside of accounting and finance (where I’d spent my pre-Peace Corps career). After many hours of research in Ghana’s internet cafes, I came across the page for the Booth MBA/MPCS joint degree program. What an opportunity! An MBA and computer science master’s degree, all in two years! I’d bolster my business skills with classes in strategy, marketing, and management, while building a technical foundation through the CS department.
So, all that’s just preamble for the main purpose of this article: to describe how I’ve leveraged Booth’s flexibility to get what I wanted from my education. The MPCS program involves seven to nine courses (depending on whether you test out of the beginner programming and discrete math prerequisites). Six of those courses count toward the 11 required Booth electives. Essentially, Booth treats the MPCS program as a concentration requiring six courses. I don’t know of another program that allows students to take such a high volume of courses outside of the MBA. Adding to this flexibility, students can intersperse their CS classes among Booth classes, taking the classes they want to take when they want to take them.
Many Booth students knock out their three Foundations courses (accounting, microeconomics, and statistics) in the first or second quarter of year one. I had a strong accounting and solid economics background coming into the program, so I opted to focus primarily on CS classes early on, holding off on microeconomics and accounting until the fall of year two. In my most CS-heavy quarter, I took courses in Applied Data Analysis, Mobile Software Development, Databases, and Data Driven Marketing (a Booth elective). I felt no pressure to take specific Booth classes at specific times, and throughout the program, I’ve been able to take the classes that I’m most interested in taking each quarter.
The benefits of Booth’s flexible curriculum extend beyond the MPCS and other joint-degree programs. Within Booth, students focus on the areas they’re most interested in, while avoiding classes they already have expertise in. Booth is all about maximizing value for each student, and the administration recognizes that a cookie-cutter approach to the curriculum would leave a ton of value on the table. Students interested in building a highly technical background can take classes like Quantitative Portfolio Management, while those focused on developing as leaders can veer toward courses like Interpersonal Dynamics. Most students mix-and-match disciplines to get the general business education that best meets their preferences, background, and goals.
Students often come to business school seeking something specific. I came to build a unique combination of skills, and I knew that Booth’s flexibility would enable me to do so.