The pros and cons of getting a JD-MBA dual degree

A JD-MBA dual degree offers both a Juris Doctor (law) degree and an MBA. We spoke with Zina Lawrence, Assistant Dean of the School of Business at the University of Albany, to learn more about the pros and cons of a JD-MBA, who it’s for and what to consider before applying.

In short

What is a JD-MBA dual degree?

A JD-MBA is a dual degree program that offers both a Juris Doctor (law) degree and a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA). It normally takes four years to complete and is mostly found at universities in the United States and Canada.

To learn more about the JD-MBA, we spoke to Zina Lawrence, Assistant Dean of the School of Business at the University of Albany. She firstly told us who the dual degree is generally aimed at.

“It’s an opportunity for students who want to get a law degree and want to be practitioners of law, but also want to have a really keen understanding of the business world…they’re able to get their JD from an accredited law school and an MBA from an accredited business school,” she says. 

It’s important to note that the JD-MBA is not a conversion program for qualified lawyers. It’s actually aimed at candidates who hold neither a law degree nor an MBA. Zina says that the program appeals to a specific type of applicant.

“I think it’s primarily for early-career candidates, for individuals who don’t have that exposure to a business environment and would like to get that through the academic setting,” Zina clarifies. (00:15)

The pros of a JD-MBA dual degree

At first, the worlds of law and business might not seem that closely related. And it’s true that there are big differences in terms of how they’re taught and the careers they lead into. But there are also many areas where they overlap – such as corporate law, for instance.

“Having that additional education really can make a difference,” Zina explains. “It opens up some doors that might have been closed to them because it’s such a competitive environment. Having that MBA, which is a powerful standalone degree, really puts those students at an advantage when they’re looking for job opportunities.” (05:54)

The benefit of a JD-MBA dual degree is that “you’re able to launch your career within a corporate environment with a credential that’s well-recognized and highly-valued. That is going to give you a level up in terms of higher ability, but it will also yield higher salaries when you’re launching your career.” (13:22)

The cons of a JD-MBA dual degree

Securing two of the most sought-after degrees in the space of four years is no easy task. It requires time, dedication, and a lot of money. Besides these obvious hurdles, Zina also highlighted a couple of other areas to be aware of before starting a JD-MBA.

“You’re adding on an additional year of study – so that’s an additional year out of the workforce for most people, and you’re adding on the expense of an MBA program,” she begins. (11:26)

“Another issue is obviously we’re talking about two different types of curriculum and two different ways of approaching [education],” Zina adds. “Law school has a very set way of delivering their lessons…but when you go into a traditional MBA program, you’re working with all different types of learning styles and you all have different curricula that you’re learning.” (03:49)

Ultimately, Zina says it’s important to do your own cost-benefit analysis to weigh up the pros and cons of the JD-MBA. There’s no doubt that it’s a huge undertaking, but the potential benefits in terms of career development and salary growth are huge.

What you should know before applying for a JD-MBA

Crucially, law degrees and business degrees are normally administered by different schools within a university. That can complicate the admissions process, sometimes requiring two separate applications to a university’s school of law and school of business. This means the requirements for both applications are different.

“Each program is unique in terms of the application and admissions process, so you want to make sure you know what’s going to be needed. [For example], most will use the LSAT, which is the placement exam for law schools, in lieu of a GMAT for the MBA,” Zina explains. (21:26)

Since the main focus of a JD-MBA is the law degree (which you spend three of the four years studying for), it’s important that the MBA component gives you a solid grounding in business. Zina says that when searching for an MBA, you should avoid specialized programs and find one that delivers you the business fundamentals.

“The knowledge that you get from the MBA program really needs to be foundational knowledge,” she explains. “It needs to be those core [business skills] that you’re going to need…so make sure that you’re looking for an MBA which is going to offer those foundations. A lot of them are becoming much more specialized and that’s not going to be of great value to someone who wants the JD-MBA.” (16:21)

The unique nature of the JD-MBA dual degree means that only a limited pool of people hold one. It could expand your career opportunities in law and business, but the rigorous nature of the program makes it a big commitment. In a competitive job market, a JD-MBA dual degree is the exact type of commitment that employers are looking for from prospective employees.

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