The JD/MBA Student: A Professorial Perspective

There are some real benefits to a dual JD/MBA, in terms of JDA MBA salary and jobs. But beyond the MBA JD salary and jobs, is this degree worth it? As a JD/MBA professor, I’m happy to give you my perspective on this unique type of program: its structure, its costs and rewards, and the learning experience it provides.

The dual-degree JD/MBA: Degree structure and top programs

Law and business graduate faculty would probably agree that this joint program is probably the most challenging in the educational community. And, from an employer’s perspective, this duality is probably the most commercially relevant.

This blog post speaks to the prospective MBA candidate who is curious about law school, the time/energy commitment, and the benefits of this joint degree, the most marketable dual degree now being offered at many graduate schools across the country.  Want a four-year adventure? Then embark upon the most challenging and rigorous graduate program available.

Typically, the first and fourth year of the program consist solely of law courses while the second and third year are an integration of law and business. (However, the Kellogg School and Northwestern University’s School of Law tout a three-year, fully integrated, joint program.)

Per U.S. News & World Report, strong rankings included the well-recognized, familiar-name schools.

Harvard: business school (1), law school (2)

Stanford: business school (2), law school (2)

University of Chicago: business school (2), law school (4)

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University of Pennsylvania: business school (4), law school (7)

Northwestern University: business school (5), law school (12)

UC Berkeley: business school (7), law school (8)

Yale: business school (8), law school (1)

Columbia: business school (10), law school  (4)

JD/MBA dual degree in terms of extra cost… or savings

Tuition structures for JD/MBA dual degrees vary a lot at different universities. Generally, a JD/MBA dual degree costs more than getting just an MBA. Surprisingly, sometimes this dual degree can cost slightly less than getting a JD alone. And getting a dual JD/MBA will always cost less than completing a JD and an MBA separately.

Schemes for tuition and fees can be a bit complex, almost convoluted. To give you an example, I’ll walk you through the current tuition structure and total schooling costs of the top program in the list above: Harvard.

Harvard’s JD/MBA program takes four years to complete. In the first two years, students study for one year at the Harvard School of Business and for one year at the Harvard School of Law. During those years, JD/MBA students pay full tuition at whichever school they’re taking classes in for the year. At Harvard’s current tuition schedule, JD/MBA scholars pay $48,600 for their first year at business school and $59,550 for their first year in law school. This means a total tuition cost of $108,150 for the first half of the program.

In years 3 and 4 of the JD/MBA degree path, students study simultaneously in both schools, but take the equivalent of 1 additional year of courses in the business school and one additional year of law school classes. During these upper-level years in the degree, students pay 40% of current business school tuition rate and 56% of current law school rate. Right now, that means an additional $19,440 in tuition for business school and an extra $33,348 in law school tuition.

So the total tuition cost for Harvard’s JD/MBA is $160,938. A Harvard JD on its own takes three years, costing $178,650. The MBA at Harvard is a two year program, priced right now at $97,200 in total tuition. If you decide on a JD/MBA dual degree at Harvard but you had originally planned for a JD, you save $17,712 in tuition and spend an extra year in school. If your original choice would have been just an MBA, you spend an extra $62,738 in tuition and spend an extra two years in school. Either way, you ultimately spend more money. The $17,712 you save if you upgrade from a  JD to a JD/MBA will be eaten up by the cost of an extra year of living expenses and lost wages.

Not all universities offer Harvard’s exact arrangements. Still, JD/MBA dual degrees ultimately cost more than just a JD or just an MBA, no matter what campus you go to. At Stanford University, a JD/MBA takes four years and costs $245,238 in tuition, while a JD is 3 years long at $168,237. Then, a Stanford MBA is two years long at $133,080. And the University of Chicago estimates their total extra JD/MBA cost– in extra tuition and in lost time– to be $230,000 more than just getting a law degree and around $500,000 more than just getting an MBA.

JD MBA salary and JD MBA jobs

Is a JD/MBA dual degree worth the extra time and money, in terms of employment and pay after graduation? Again, this is a little hard to figure out. One thing that makes this a complicated question is the fact that no job really requires both a JD and an MBA. So if you get this dual degree, you’ll either end up working as a lawyer or a business manager after graduation. Obviously you won’t be holding down both of these jobs at the same time.

To get an idea of the kind of money you might make right after finishing a JD/MBA, let’s look once again at the top three schools listed at the beginning of this post. According to Forbes Magazine, Harvard MBA graduates make around $239,000 a year immediately after graduation, Stanford MBA graduates make $255K coming out the door, and University of Chicago MBA holders have average entry level pay of about $250K. Forbes also reports that those with a JD from Harvard make $130,00 a year to start, while Stanford lawyers pull in $147,000 right after school, and University of Chicago JD graduates make around $132K.

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Post MBA JD salary and fringe benefits

These post-degree salary figures don’t tell the whole story, though. In the long run, JD/MBA holders have much better prospects for promotions, increases in pay, and general upward mobility. Those with both a JD and an MBA can switch between business management work and law in the course of their careers, and can use their degree to negotiate better entry level pay, better raises, and more frequent promotions.

Ultimately, dual-degree graduates may also enjoy a wider spectrum of job opportunities, often finding work in the general counsel’s office of a large corporation or in the business litigation division of a large law firm.

The JD/MBA dual degree: My perspective as a professor

From a professorial perspective the JD/MBA students, usually 12-14 in a class, were always a delight to teach. I always expected a certain level of preparedness and they consistently delivered. And they had expectations for me as well: they wanted topical, seminal law cases assigned for discussion. As a group I noticed a given student would lean toward or favor a particular discipline. Those who were more business oriented were older, more practical with considerable work experience. Those who considered themselves law students first were more irreverent, talkative, and generally better writers most often with a liberal arts undergraduate degree. And they formed tribal groups early on sometime arguing loudly across the classroom.

If you are considering the JD/MBA engage a graduate school counselor, check your finances, ponder the job market, and think carefully about a radical change of lifestyle.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published by Professor Dave Scalise in March 2012 and has since been updated by David Recine for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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  • Professor Dave

    Professor David Scalise, JD, was a Full Professor of Business Law, School of Management, University of San Francisco. In addition to his university teaching (BS, MBA, EMBA, JD/MBA B-Law classes) and research commitments Professor Scalise wrote several books, articles and created several videos on GMAT/GRE Test Prep. Professor Dave passed away in July 2013 after a courageous battle with cancer. He is deeply missed.

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