To JD or Not to JD: Should You Pursue a Joint Degree? Part I
In today’s competitive job market, even an MBA might not seem like enough to get you the kind of job that you want. If you’re looking for something to set you apart from the crowd, a JD/MBA might be an appealing option to you. But what is involved in earning those degrees jointly, and what can holding them do for your academic experience and your career trajectory?
If you’re interested in pursuing a joint degree, the first obvious step is to look for schools that offer the JD and MBA programs together. Not all business schools work together with law schools to create joint programs, so you’ll want to carefully evaluate the schools to which you’re planning to apply. Usually, there’s a specific liaison for the joint program working out of either the law school or the business school admissions office. Get that person’s contact information and get in touch with him or her. Application practices, standards for admission, and specific program structures vary from one school to the next, and your best resource is an expert at that school.
Next, consider what you’ll need to do to get your application package ready. You already know what your B-school application will require; that’s why you’re preparing for the GMAT. But law school applications will require a whole other standardized test, the LSAT. You may not want to deal with that too much while you’re planning for the GMAT, because like the GMAT, the LSAT is a very intense exam. However, the LSAT is only offered 4 times per year, so you’ll need to take that into account when you’re planning your test scheduling. Even if you don’t manage to get a law school application ready in time to apply at the same time you apply for B-school, all is not lost; some schools will allow you to apply for the joint program during your first year.
But how do you even know if you want a joint degree? It’s going to depend a lot on your career goals. Specializing in both degrees will help make you more marketable; if you have a general MBA and a JD with no particular focus, potential employers might see that as an indication that you’re not firmly committed to either business or law careers, and could jump ship from one to the other. However, if you know what kind of work you’d like to do, and can sculpt a program that will be relevant to that, the joint degree can be a big boost. For example, if you’re interested in strategic mergers and acquisitions, labor relations, or consulting, the joint degree will set you apart from the crowd. Even if you choose not to take the bar exam and officially become a lawyer, the legal knowledge that a JD gives you can be a big help in transactional work like contract negotiations.
What else can a JD/MBA give you? Well, as everyone knows, one of the benefits of earning an MBA is the networking opportunities it provides. Your classmates will one day become business contacts, and mutual alumni pride can pave the way for career paths you might not otherwise be able to tread. Earning a JD essentially doubles your professional network, and that can mean valuable opportunities for you.
Now that you’ve considered whether to get a joint degree, and what it might mean for your career, you might be wondering what it would be like to pursue two demanding degrees at the same time. Look for Part II of this article, when you can hear answers straight from a current JD/MBA student!