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Joint Degrees

Most U.S. business schools that are part of a university offer a vast number of joint degree MBA programs ranging from economics to medicine to engineering. If you can think of a reason why you would want to earn a joint degree, then you are likely to find a program for it. But just because a university allows you to earn such a degree, does not mean that it will be beneficial. Before you decide to pursue a joint degree, speak to people in the field that you are interested in to learn how the degree can impact your career choice.

The most widely pursued joint degree is the JD-MBA. Typically, the program is four years (one year fewer than if both degrees were earned separately). The first year is usually spent studying law; the second year is spent studying business; and the subsequent two years are a mixture of business and law courses.

Both lawyers and business people hotly debate the JD-MBA. Our research concludes that, with some exceptions, professionals in both fields dislike the degree; lawyers believe students interested in pursuing law are better off getting a JD and business people believe that students interested in business should earn an MBA.

Advantages of Earning a JD-MBA

  • Useful for students interested in working in corporate law (particularly in-house), international business or a start-up company
  • Business knowledge provides useful background for lawyers working on business deals
  • Earning both degrees simultaneously saves time and money
  • Several large law firms in major cities give JD-MBAs an additional year's credit for purposes of seniority, pay and partnership qualification

Criticisms of Earning a JD-MBA

  • Students graduate with fewer business/law courses compared to their single degree counterparts
  • A JD is really only useful for practicing law; if you earn a JD-MBA and go into business, you will probably still need to hire a lawyer to handle specific legal issues
  • Shows a lack of focus for both disciplines and conveys professional confusion
  • Joint degree seekers will spend more time and money than those earning one degree
  • Some big law firms feel that JD-MBAs tend to leave sooner than other lawyers to pursue opportunities in business and finance, so their training investment is wasted

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