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Exploring Joint Degree Programs: The JD/MBA

Posted in Test Prep on May 7, 2011 by

In recent years, business schools have begun to offer more joint and dual degree programs. This series will chronicle the advantages, challenges, and requirements of tackling two degrees at once.

What it is:

The JD/MBA provides students the opportunity to earn a Masters of Business Administration and a Juris Doctor degree at the same time.

Who offers it:

A significant number of schools now offer JD/MBA programs (as of 2009, the Wall Street Journal claimed that some 42 programs were currently in operation). While there are no comprehensive lists of joint degree programs, many schools which have both a business school and a law school offer some form of joint degree program.

What it entails:

Joint JD/MBA programs traditionally last four years, although a growing number of schools have established three-year programs in recent years.

The specific structure of the program varies among individual schools — at many four-year programs, students can choose to begin their first year in either the law school or the business school. They then spend the second year in whatever program they did not complete the year prior. During the third and fourth years, they will often be given the opportunity to take electives from both programs. The summer months are spent in either legal- or business-related internships. One advantage of a four-year program is that it provides students with one more summer to use to gain experience in their desired field.

Here’s a sample four-year schedule from Cornell (which also offers a three-year program):

Three-year programs also vary in their structure; some require a summer session to ensure students are able to complete all the necessary coursework in the abbreviated timeframe. Three-year programs offer both advantages and disadvantages. The tuition costs are lower, and students do not need to take as long a break from jobs and other responsibilities. However, condensing what would otherwise be three years of law school coursework and two years of MBA coursework into a three-year timetable also means that students will be making a fair amount of sacrifices: they will only have one or two (depending on if they have summer coursework) summers to complete an internship, and they will likely not to be able to participate in certain extracurriculars or take many electives.

Here’s a sample schedule from Cornell’s three year program. Again, remember that every JD/MBA program has its own structure:

The degree of integration of the legal and business coursework will vary depending on the program; at some schools, there might be some coursework that counts toward both degrees, while at others you may have to complete entirely separate requirements.

Getting in:

Admissions requirements vary depending on school. Some law schools and business schools with joint programs will allow students to apply for the other degree during their first year at the school; others require applications for both schools to be submitted simultaneously.

There are also several “fully integrated” JD/MBA programs — Penn and Northwestern are notable examples — for which application requirements vary. Penn, for example, requires candidates to submit applications to both Wharton and Penn Law, while Northwestern’s joint program has a separate application process specifically for joint degree applicants.

Who should consider it:

There are a variety of reasons that people are drawn to JD/MBA programs. In today’s faltering economy, one common motivation is a desire to stand out and to improve job security and marketability. Of course, a JD/MBA isn’t something to jump into lightly (it requires a lot of work, time and tuition!), and most joint-degree candidates are also drawn to the programs as a result of their interest in some intersection of law and business. Pursuing a multidisciplinary education can prepare students for careers in a variety of roles, as lawyers, consultants, public servants, bankers, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and more. Law school coursework will certainly help develop your writing, research, and critical thinking skills, which will be useful in any business application. The joint degree is particularly useful for business roles that include a fair amount of legal knowledge, such as strategic mergers and acquisitions or labor relations.