Dual degrees like the JD-MBA offered by the Kellogg School of Management and Northwestern University’s School of Law can be a great way to learn about two disciplines that have more overlap that we generally assume.
However, compared to the regular 2-year MBA programs, these longer and more expensive joint degree options can seem more mysterious than they are. Apart from the data available on the school websites, there’s not much information about JD-MBA programs.
Jeremy Wilson had a very eclectic background – engineering, politics, consulting, startups, archaeology – before he decided to attend the JD-MBA program at Kellogg. In this interview he answers many of the frequently asked questions about the program.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am currently in my final year of the JD-MBA program at Northwestern Law School and the Kellogg School of Management, where I am focusing on the intersection of law, business, media, and social enterprise. Before school, I worked at the Attorney General’s office and helped on a political campaign. Before that, I worked as a consultant in Boston and San Francisco. Before that I worked with a few dot coms in Silicon Valley. Before that I was an Archaeologist in the Southwest part of the US. And before that I graduated from Stanford, where I studied Anthropology and Engineering.
How is a joint-degree (JD-MBA) different from the regular full-time MBA program?
In some ways the programs are quite different. Earning the dual degree costs extra tuition, and it also takes a year longer to complete. Further, the students tend to be a little busier, as we take the shuttle back and forth between campuses and tend to take a higher number of classes each term. But as far as our activities at the respective schools, the JD-MBA experience tends to resemble that of the rest of the student body. We get involved in the same clubs, take many of the same classes, and have the same friends. We also tend to pursue many of the same jobs as our MBA classmates, as most jobs do not require both a JD and an MBA.
Why did you choose this program?
The decision to pursue a JD-MBA was easy for me. Early on I knew I wanted to go to law school both out of intellectual curiosity and because I was interested in the public sector. And I knew I was interested in businesses because I enjoyed working with people and found success in the industry after graduating. For me, the JD-MBA program as a way to combine both interests and gain different skills at the same time. It was also a good way to spend a bit more time in school and watch the changes taking place in the economy. Fortunately, I had a number of great options to choose from when considering. In the end, I liked that Northwestern had the most established joint program and I also liked the culture and people that attended Kellogg.
What are the pre-requisites to get into a joint-degree program (and specifically Kellogg)?
There aren’t generally any pre-requisites to get into the joint program. Just like MBA programs look for a diverse class, the JD-MBA program also looks for a diverse set of students from different walks of life. And just like MBA applicants have to take the GMAT, JD-MBA applicants must also take the GMAT. However, one thing that differs at Northwestern is that you are not “required” to take the LSAT to be admitted. While some JD-MBAs do take the LSAT exam, others tend to have very high GMAT scores, which would alleviate any concerns on ability to score well on both exams. And finally, while not a pre-requisite, it is helpful to your application if you carefully discuss your reason why you want both degrees.
Are the internship and career opportunities different for joint-degree grads?
In terms of recruiting, no job would typically require both a JD and an MBA. So JD-MBAs would either pursue a job in the legal field or the business world and have access to the same opportunities as the students at the law school and business school respectively. Certain companies put a premium on the dual-degree, and some law firms will even offer you JD-MBA bonuses or second year status. While this can certainly be appealing, in general it’s not the best way to choose a full time job.
Personally, I’ve worked a law firm and a management consulting firm since being in the program. Other JD-MBAs have worked in judicial clerkships, corporate in-house legal divisions, hedge funds, consulting firms, and law firms. The opportunities available to the JD-MBAs tend to not only be diverse but also jobs that are highly desired by the student population.
Considering double-degree grads are ‘more qualified’ than regular MBAs, do the post-graduation salaries differ?
On its own, a degree doesn’t really qualify you to do anything. You see students from both programs who are all over the spectrum in terms of qualifications and abilities. Instead, the skills, insights and experiences pursuing the degrees are what end up being helpful. That’s why most top business schools require applicants to have some real-world experience before they apply.
Is the typical class profile as varied as a regular MBA class or does the program mainly attract folks with a legal background?
The class of JD-MBAs is just as diverse as the MBA class. In fact, many of my JD-MBA and MBA classmates came from the same industries and companies. As a result, no legal background is required to gain admission to the program, and in fact, very few people worked in the legal industry prior to school. But we all understand the value of legal training, and consider it worth the investment to get both degrees.
Within the curriculum, as there is a strong emphasis on legal topics, does it restrict global career opportunities where the legal system might be considerably different?
More important than the laws themselves, law school teaches you certain skills that you can apply across industries in any country. Among other things: the ability to think critically, analyze a complex set of facts and work with a diverse set of people. These skills can be leveraged not just here in the US but also abroad. Likewise, the skills are valuable in the business world and legal world.
What are your career plans after completing the program?
In the short run, I’m interested in both business and law, and see myself working at a law firm and in the startup world. In fact, I’m currently working on launching an Internet-based nonprofit in the education sector. So keep an eye out for our Education Matters Project over the next few weeks. Over time, I plan to do more blogging, speaking and writing, which is something that I’m already working on. And in the long run, I’m interested in the public sector. I not only want to work in business, but I also want to give back to my community and help improve the country.
I live by the motto, the greatest risk in life is not taking one. So I hope to take some pretty big risks early in my career after graduating and see what comes of it.
Any other questions that you think JD-MBA applicants should be asking themselves so they can decide if this is the right program for them?
A lot of JD-MBA applicants are interested to know what industries JD-MBAs go in after graduation. Historically, there has been a nearly even split between those going into law and into business. This number ebbs and flows a bit with the economy and the set of students in the program. For example, far more students from my class will go into business than law. On the other hand, the class after us has almost twice as many going into law for the summer. Not only is this a sign of the changing legal market today but also the composition of the class.
What motivates students in the program?
Some people are motivated by the challenge of law school. After a few years of working in the industry, it’s a way to really engage academically a second time. For others, the endless sets of activities at Kellogg are often motivating. Some people love the free time, and are motivated to work on companies or recruit for highly specialized industries during their three years here. And finally, all of us are a little motivated by the tuition bill. I can’t think of any better motivation to work hard and do well.
Where else can interested applicants go to learn more about the program?
To learn more about the JD-MBA program as well as ask any questions you’d like, feel free to see my blog at www.jeremycwilson.com. I look forward to hearing from you.
Jeremy’s website, with loads of interesting posts on a variety of topics, is an excellent resource for MBA applicants and current students. So do check it out.