5 Reasons Not to Get a Dual JD/MBA

Shawn P. O'Connor
October 1, 2012

As the global marketplace grows increasingly complex, professionals want to gain a diverse skillset, allowing them to thrive in diverse, rapidly-evolving environments. As a result, more and more people are pursuing dual degrees, including JD/MBAs.

[Read why business and law go hand-in-hand.]

I received my JD/MBA from Harvard University several years ago, and I have found it to be extremely worthwhile. As an entrepreneur, I rely on both my business and law education daily. However, this dual degree is not right for everyone, and you need to carefully consider it before making this investment.

This week, I will discuss the potential reasons not to pursue a JD/MBA. Next week, I will explain the substantial benefits of this dual degree.

Here are five reasons a JD/MBA may not be right for you:

1. Cost: Most JD/MBA programs are four years long and cost at least $50,000 more than a law degree alone.

[Find out how to pay for law school.]

In addition to the cost of tuition and living expenses, you also have the opportunity cost of the income you will forego during this program. Since JD/MBA programs sometimes require summer classes as well, you have even less opportunity to supplement your income.

2. Time: Going to business or law school means taking a two- to three-year break from the working world. Gaining a dual degree such as a JD/MBA often means even more time out of the workforce (though there are now three-year JD/MBA programs offered at schools including Columbia University, Yale University, and Indiana University).

3. Challenging curriculum: Law school is notoriously challenging, and often business school is equally as demanding. As a result, dual degree programs that pack extra classes into your schedule make good grades even more difficult to attain.

Since your grades in law and/or business school will likely be a deciding factor in your job search after graduation, if you are pursuing a dual degree, you must not let your grades suffer at either school.

[Get tips for law school success.]

4. Admissions competition: Both law school admissions and business school admissions committees can be slightly skeptical of applicants to dual-degree programs. They want students who are committed to their disciplines, not students who are simply hoping to add on another degree while they are at the school.

Overcoming this skepticism is a key part of the work I do when advising JD/MBA applicants on admissions strategy. The admissions committees' wariness makes the application process significantly more competitive, since at most schools you need to be separately admitted to both the law and business school.

5. Career imperative: Almost no job absolutely requires a JD/MBA. You should only pursue this dual degree if you know that both the JD and the MBA will be essential for your career path (though the two degrees may be relevant in different ways or at different times throughout your career).

For example, if you are positive you want to practice law throughout your career in a law firm, an MBA may not be as useful--unless you want to focus in corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, or bankruptcy, where an MBA could be very valuable.

If you are unsure of your future career path, gaining a JD/MBA just to "cover all your bases" may also not be the best investment. Take the time to first consider your future and what educational background you will really need to accomplish your goals.

Are you considering a JD/MBA or another dual degree program? Let me know why (or why not) in the comments, Tweet at me at @StratusPrep, or E-mail me at shawn.oconnor@stratusprep.com. Check back next week for the advantages of a JD/MBA.