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JD vs MBA – Is it better to go for a Joint Degree Program in Law and Business?

JD vs MBATwo in one. That’s a Juris Doctor/MBA or Joint Degree Program in Law and Business. Most commonly it is referred to as JD/MBA. As the name suggests, it is a joint degree of Master of Law and Master of Business Administration.

Instead of taking two degrees separately, you may decide to opt for a joint degree in both law and MBA. You can complete it within four years’ time and get a distinctive degree on your résumé.

Program Introduction

A Masters of Law degree takes two years to complete. The traditional (U.S. style) full-time Masters of Business Administration degree also takes up two years. An Executive MBA can take 3 years.

When you sign up for a JD/MBA (designed as a three-year degree that may get extended to the fourth year as well), you can essentially complete two degrees in one shot and save yourself an additional year.

The program is neatly spread out to enable you to do some careful course planning. In most universities like the NYU, you will spend the first two years at the law school, followed by one year in the school of business and the last year shuttling between the two. Basically, one year studying law and business each and the last year together.

Admission Requirements

Most universities offering the JD/MBA would want you to get accepted by the two schools, law and business, separately by meeting their minimum eligibility requirements. This includes work experience, GMAT/GRE/LSAT, and the other basic aspects of the application process.

With some relevant work experience to your credit, you will be able to convince the individual schools that you are ready to pursue the JD/MBA.

Work prospects

Pursuing two degrees simultaneously is a very time-consuming and intensive process. While the schools don’t usually insist that you quit work while pursuing this course, they wouldn’t recommend juggling work and study either. If your mind is diverted, you may find yourself struggling to successfully complete the course on time.

Graduates of JD/MBA degree holders may find job opportunities in investment companies, accounting firms, corporate counsel office, lawyer with a corporate, NGOs or government institutions.

Once you get hired by a company in the legal team, chances are you will probably not be the first one to be fired when the going gets tough for them. They’ll need your expertise to save their skin and stay afloat. But again, you cannot be assured of guarantees in life or business.

Costs / Fees

When you combine two degrees into one, the costs are bound to be higher. The tuition fee for one year alone is upwards of $50,000 and you have to factor in the total duration as well.

This does not include living expenses, and you can’t work while pursuing this degree for reasons mentioned earlier. So, you better check your bank balance before taking the plunge. Financial aid is also generally offered by the university, but it differs from institute to institute. Be sure to check with the admissions team before you start working on the application.

Skills you will learn in a JD/MBA

Here’s the skills list you may end up with if you work diligently over the 3 years.

As a legal expert, you will learn to be proficient in the art of pinning down your opponent with your legalese. You will get trained in logical and critical reasoning, an important skill when you are navigating the complexities of law.

You will be able to break down an argument into smaller components with relative ease. You will be able to do this without arrogance as you master the art of negotiation. As you make your way through the piles of legal documents, your command over the written word will get honed.

As a business graduate, you get some of the above, as well as additional qualitative and quantitative analytical skills. You will be able to support your argument with well-researched and relevant numbers.

As you will be interacting with peers from a variety of roles, right from the senior management to clients, your communication skills will get polished and you’ll become an effective speaker.

Put the two together and you get the best of both the worlds.

Pros and Cons of a Joint Degree

The pros

First and foremost, getting in-depth knowledge of both the subjects is enriching. It gets easier for your CV to get shortlisted when you have a superior qualification than the rest. For any management team, the kind of knowledge you come with will be an asset.

And then, companies find the combination of business acumen and legal know-how unique and rare. When your boss knows that you can effectively play the business and legal game with equal ease, you can become a little more indispensable compared to your colleagues, paving the way for a better career graph.

With two highly specialized degrees, the job opportunities for a JD/MBA can be limited, but you can consider either of the two as your plan B career option. Transitioning from law to business or vice versa would be an option if the situation demands it. Entrepreneurship is an option too. You can start your own business of providing legal aid.

If you are keen to have both the degrees and wish to have them separately (along with your job) then you will end up studying for a good five-year period. Doing both together saves you at least one year.

Pursuing two degrees puts you in touch with a greater number of fellow students in business and law school. This can enhance the breadth of your alumni network who may take up powerful positions as corporate heads, entrepreneurs, and senior officials.

Money is of course good when you are hired after an MBA or LLM from a reputed international school. But the graph goes up when you are a joint degree holder in both the disciplines. You come armed with two degrees which ups your salary potential. The starting point could be from somewhere around $100,000 annually (around the same for an MBA-only grad) and can go up with time and your experience + negotiation skills.

The cons

Interesting as it may sound, a dual degree is not always needed for everyone. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for all business problems. Before jumping head on, step back and assess why you need two degrees.

Would the job you aim for need you to have the knowledge of both the subjects? Or you want to become an entrepreneur in the field of law? Then everything falls in place with your business acumen combined with in-depth knowledge of the legal world.

It will be a good idea to do some market research to find the demand for JD/MBA degree holders for a senior profile and well-paying job? In other words, is there really a market for the combination of skills you are hoping to gain?

It may turn out that there are better job opportunities for an MBA, but less for a lawyer, for the specific career goals you are targetting.


Once you know your reasons, and if they seem good enough, then absolutely go for a joint degree.

The admissions process for the elite business schools or any top law school is intense, and you know that already. At most places, you will be required to apply separately for admissions, and get independently admitted to the same. That reduces the odds of getting in even further.

Among the most important questions that admission officers would have for you is – what’s prompting you to opt for two degrees, that are technically not related to each other. Be ready with a convincing answer.

It also comes down to time and money. Pursuing two degrees together invariably will take more time to complete. Most joint degrees will jack up the fees and general expenses and it will take three to four years to reach the finishing line. Make sure you factor in the living, travel and other expenses, especially if you have a family joining you.

As a full-time student, you will be out of touch with the professional world. This means there’ll be a (work experience) gap on your CV, something the HR recruiters will be cautious about.

It also means you will be competing with a much larger pool of applicants for a job when you go out there armed with your joint degree.

Other factors include the opportunity cost that needs to be taken into account as you are most likely to be unemployed while studying. In case you’re opting for an education loan, you have to plan for its repayment.

Here are some key points that can help you take a more-educated decision:



Duration Degree is usually designed as a three-year course, but gets extended to another year owing to the rigorous study involved. You are done with the degree in two years’ time.
Costs A four-year course can cost roughly over $200,000, while three years may be over $150,000. It is just the tuition fee. A higher ranking institute will offer MBA for upwards of $100,000.
Format If it is a four-year course, you’d be required to spend first two years studying law. Then next one year in the business school and fourth a mix of both.
In case of 3-year course, first year you study law, followed by second year in the business school and then last year doing both.
A two-year program usually touches upon all general aspects of management in the first year. One year is further divided into fall and spring wherein you start working with fellow classmates on projects. The second year, again divided into fall and spring allows you to choose from a number of elective courses that you specialize in.
Skill Development Grasp on legal terminology as well as business jargon. Logical and critical reasoning, excellent negotiating skills, good writing abilities. Qualitative and quantitative analytical skills, business development, number cruncher, good communicator, effective speaker.
Salary Could start from $130,000 and go up depending on your negotiating skills. A graduate can start making anything over $100,000 annually.
Job Opportunities Get hired by investment and accounting firms, corporate counsel office, become corporate lawyer for a company, NGO or government body. With a business degree, one can even start one’s own law firm. However, there are limited job opportunities that require specialization in both law and business. Scope is pretty wide. With specialization in Sales, Marketing, Finance, International Relations, HR, Trade, Business Development and the like, you can explore job opportunities in pretty much any industry right from banking to retail, government bodies, non-profit, and what have you.

Read these related articles:
JD-MBA Program – Kellogg School of Management : Dual degree FAQ
All about the Wharton MBA Dual Degree
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About Swati
After working for over a decade in technical and managerial roles in the corporate world, Swati now works as a freelancer and writes on a variety of topics including education, career guidance and self-improvement.

2 thoughts on “JD vs MBA – Is it better to go for a Joint Degree Program in Law and Business?”

  1. Hello sir,
    Right now I am in 2nd year of my degree..
    Did my 10th in 2010 and 12th in 2014 there is a gap of 2 years between. 1 year was coz I got failed in first attempt and 2nd due to lack of money (my mother is a single parent) so 2 year gap.
    After that got admission in Chanakya national law university, Patna by clearing CLAT studied ther for 2 years then again can’t complete the whole degree. So in 2015 I took admission in and dropped law College.
    Right now my college is going great and I am doing good in studies too.
    And after that I am thinking of having my MBA from any forgein universities.
    Could you please tell me what to do next.
    I mean will they accept my application with these huge year gaps between?

  2. Mona: Hats off to your mom for supporting you through your studies despite being in such a tough financial situation. And kudos to you to for persisting with your efforts in completing your graduation.

    Now that things are finally going well for you, I’d suggest avoiding any distractions or detours and focussing on completing your B.Com degree with flying colours. After that try to get a job and start earning.

    The option of going abroad for studies will be there later as well. Here’s more about justifying the gap in your education, shared by an Ivy League business school admissions officer:


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