Many schools offer combination JD/MBA degrees where students can complete both degrees in four years (as opposed to 3 years for a JD and 2 for an MBA). While the idea is tempting – if you are getting one degree, why not get two? – you should consider whether or not these programs are a good fit for you and your goals.
1. Application Process: For most JD/ MBA programs (with the exception of a few top schools, like NYU), you must apply to both the law school and the MBA programs separately. As a result, you should be prepared to complete both applications – including taking both the LSAT and the GMAT.
2. Time: While some schools like Columbia University or Penn offer a three year JD/MBA program, at most schools, a joint degree takes four years – as opposed to 2 years for an MBA and 3 years for a JD. This means that you will be out of the workplace for four years, a serious consideration if you are interested in business or other entrepreneurial positions. On the other hand, if you feel that you are in a good place to take the time away from your career, a joint degree may be right for you.
3. Career Goals: Most jobs do not require a JD/ MBA. You do not need a joint degree to be a partner at a law firm, for example. Many applicants assume that a joint degree will allow them to “split the difference“ and choose between two equally good jobs. This is a mistake. Instead, if you are applying for a joint degree, you should be specific about your career goals and be clear why you need both degrees. Joint degrees are very useful if you plan to enter non-profit management, for example, or work as a corporate general counsel, or plan to go into entertainment management where an understanding of licensing is as important as management skill (See Business, Law and Beyond: An Interview with John Engelman.)
4. Flexibility: On the other hand, JD/ MBA degrees are fantastic in terms of flexibility. Increasingly, the market is demanding that lawyers have business acumen, and a law degree can enhance your power in the business market. If you are interested in leadership positions, then this degree may be right for you.
5. Cost: The cost of a joint degree can go both ways. On one hand, you are paying for four years of school, which can be expensive. On the other hand, your earning potential may be higher when you graduate. Some law firms will give bonuses to individuals with JD/MBAs.
A JD/MBA is an appealing option for someone who has the time and commitment necessary to succeed in two challenging programs at an accelerated pace. If you are considering applying to a joint degree, however, you should think through your career goals and decide whether this degree is right for you.