Should I Get a JD/MBA Joint Degree?

| Nina Chamlou

Should I Get a JD/MBA Joint Degree?

Are you ready to discover your MBA program?

A joint degree program (JDP) is a graduate-level education program that allows you to complete two degrees at once.

The JD/MBA combines the juris doctor degree (JD), the standard degree needed to practice law in the U.S., with a master of business administration (MBA).

Many prominent law schools, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and University of Pennsylvania offer JD/MBA programs. But many more accessible universities have started offering JD/MBA dual degrees.

The degree is highly valuable for aspiring attorneys interested in helping business owners. Graduates of JD/MBA programs are eligible to take the bar exam and practice law at a firm — just like those who graduate from traditional JD programs.

A JD/MBA dual degree is also beneficial for those planning to pursue roles within corporations that require some law literacy.

Why Enroll in an Online JD/MBA Joint Degree Program?

JD/MBA programs are appealing to students for a couple of main reasons.

"The most significant advantage in pursuing a joint JD/MBA degree is that you can obtain both degrees in four years," says Cyrus Johnson, a JD/MBA-holder with more than 30 years of industry experience.

Traditional JD programs often take three years to complete, while MBA programs take around two years. Most JD/MBA programs take four years to complete, shaving time off gaining the degrees back to back.

Increasing availability of online programs draws students to JD/MBA degrees. Online programs offer students more flexibility and expand their access to out-of-state programs.

While some skills and competencies are difficult to master in a virtual environment, law and business are both highly conducive to online learning.

Activities like vocabulary memorization and case study analysis, major elements to JD and MBA programs, can largely be done from home.

Choosing a program that offers live lectures and frequent opportunities to interact with peers and professors is important to gaining a deep understanding of the complex course material. Research an online JD/MBA program's format before enrolling.

You should also check a program's accreditation, especially if you plan to take the bar to formally practice law. Visit the American Bar Association (ABA) website to determine if your program of interest is accredited.

Skills gained during a joint JD/MBA program include:

  • Critical thinking: Analyzing dozens of case studies helps students hone critical thinking skills that benefit them in all aspects of life and work.
  • Negotiating: In law school, attorneys spend time learning how to negotiate contract terms. But being able to negotiate does not benefit just attorneys — it can help business people become diplomatic in their professional relationships.
  • Recognizing legal restrictions: Understanding law means you can advise business leaders on staying within legal parameters. This helps your clients avoid wasting time on flawed endeavors and avoid costly mistakes.
  • Learning the language of business: Attorneys spend a lot of time learning legal terminology, but adding business acumen to your vocabulary can set you apart from other young lawyers.
  • Problem-Solving: Developing action plans and legal strategies helps law students develop keen problem-solving skills that can be applied in the business world.

What to Expect From a JD/MBA Joint Degree Program

JD/MBA programs give students the full credentials to pursue positions at law firms, high-level business positions, or roles that combine both fields.

If you are currently enrolled in either a JD or an MBA program, your university might allow you to apply your credits toward pursuing a joint JD/MBA program if they offer one.

It is not uncommon for first- or second-year law students to add an MBA to their course of study.

"I was in my first year of law school when I found out about the joint degree program," says Johnson. "… I thought it would help my career to learn the basics of business, while only adding one year to the three years of law school. So, I applied and was accepted."

And vice versa: some MBA students decide they would also like to pursue a JD after starting their MBAs.

JD/MBA programs are around 120-130 credits in length, comprised of two-thirds law courses and one-third business courses. About 90 credits are devoted to legal studies and 30-40 credits are devoted to business courses. This varies from program to program.

Degree and Concentration Options

Those with a particular career in mind as they pursue a JD/MBA degree may be interested in choosing a concentration.

Most programs allow you to choose a concentration such as accounting, finance, or entrepreneurship for the MBA portion of your studies. Many schools also offer JD concentrations, such as general law, intellectual property law, or tax law.

You might pursue a JD/MBA with a concentration in finance if you want to enter the financial sector. Or opt for a JD/MBA with a concentration in property law if you want to carve out a niche for yourself in the real estate industry.

You will also find that many law schools offer other types of joint degrees with the JD besides the JD/MBA. Some allow you to combine your JD with humanities, history, philosophy, or foreign affairs.

Curriculum for JD/MBA Joint Degree Programs

The standard JD/MBA curriculum consists of fundamental classes in business and law, such as accounting, statistics, and finance, as well as civil procedure, constitutional law, and legal writing.

"Law school and business school were very different," Johnson says. "While both taught you how to identify key facts in a case, law school focused on teaching you how to analyze the facts and how to apply the applicable law to that set of facts."

"Business school focused on teaching you the skills to a set of facts to analyze, and set out an optimum strategy to address the identified issues."

The more advanced courses taken within JD/MBA programs may include:

  • Operations management: covers the logistics of running a business — forecasting, financial planning, and project management
  • International business: introduces students to concepts related to franchising internationally and doing business with multinational organizations
  • Organizational behavior: examines how people within an organization interact to help business leaders build morale and achieve corporate goals.
  • Decision-making and negotiations: teaches negotiating and how to help parties to come to a mutually satisfactory agreement or contract. Students learn negotiating tactics, strategies, and contract language.
  • Venture capital finance: explores the legal angle of venture capital relationships created between investors and recipients.
  • Constructing a corporate deal: dives into the laws and best practices of writing deal-making and business transactions. This course is sometimes called structuring business agreements,

Admissions Process

Applying to a JDP can be more complicated than applying to a traditional graduate program. Applicants often need acceptance to both the university's law school and the university's business school.

However, some universities have streamlined the process for those interested in the JDP programs so that they only have to submit one application. Each institution's process is different, so check with each school you plan to apply to.

Law schools often require completion of the law school admission test (LSAT), while business schools require the GMAT or GRE. Applicants may need to take two standardized exams to pursue a JD/MBA.

However, an increasing number of law schools are allowing students to submit GRE scores instead of LSAT scores. This would allow you to take only one standardized entrance exam.

In addition to test scores, students need to meet other requirements, such as a certain GPA — 3.5 or above. Programs ask for undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a resume.

The ROI of a JD/MBA Joint Degree Program

Earning a JD/MBA is less expensive than earning two separate graduate degrees. But it is still a substantial investment.

"My advice to someone thinking of pursuing a joint JD/MBA program is to carefully consider the time, resources, and effort required to successfully complete the programs," Johnson says.

Depending on which program you choose, a JD degree can cost from $100,000 to $200,000 or more without scholarships.

Consider the opportunity cost of obtaining a JD/MBA. Intense class workloads keep most students from working while in school.

Lack of income might require taking out additional loans to cover living expenses for the four years you will spend in school.

Many JD/MBA holders are able to pay back student loans fairly quickly thanks to high starting salaries and upward income mobility. But there is no guarantee that you will land a high-paying position just because you have a JD/MBA.

Be sure you are making a smart investment. Analyze whether or not earning a JDP will be worth the time and cost.

Make a list or spreadsheet breaking down every expense associated with gaining your JDP, versus the post-graduation benefits. Make these estimates based on quantitative data to keep the analysis realistic.

Costs include:

  • Tuition
  • Additional student loans (for living expenses)
  • Student loan interest rates
  • Lost salary from taking time for school (opportunity costs)
  • Lost investment opportunities (where could your money have gone if not towards school)

Benefits include:

  • Expected salary after graduation (based on market data)
  • Likelihood of career growth/salary increases

If necessary, speak to an academic or financial advisor who can help you make a more informed decision.

JD/MBA Career Opportunities After Graduating

There are various career opportunities well-suited for JD/MBA degree holders. This can make it difficult to narrow down your path.

Johnson was undecided about seeking employment in law or business after graduation — a similar experience for many JD/MBA students.

"I was advised by prior graduates that it was much easier to later move from a law firm to a business than from a business to a law firm, as a significant portion of 'learning to be a lawyer' occurred while you were an associate at a law firm," he says.

Johnson worked at a litigation firm, a government agency, and at a business law firm and eventually found a business law firm that best fit his interests.

Over the course of his career, he has represented individuals and businesses in corporate transactions. Johnson has also counseled corporations on fiduciary duty matters and shareholder/partner disputes.

Some other careers that utilize a high level of business and law include:

  • Corporate Lawyer: Corporate attorneys help the owners of large-scale businesses negotiate deals, write contracts, and make decisions in accordance with the law.
  • Financial Analyst: Analysts help businesses gain a better understanding of their financial standing by gathering and organizing financial information.
  • In-House Legal Counsel: Working in-house as a lawyer means being employed by a corporation as opposed to working at a law firm. Some prefer this type of work because you have one main client instead of multiple.
  • Chief Legal Officer (CLO): CLOs are members of the executive C-suite at corporations. This is a high-paying, dynamic position that requires an in-depth level of legal knowledge, as well as creativity and entrepreneurship.

These are just a few avenues that JD/MBA holders might pursue. Many choose to create their own paths, working as consultants or starting their own businesses.

Common Questions about JD/MBA joint degrees


How long does it take to get a joint MBA/JD degree?

Most JD/MBA programs take four years to complete when taken full-time.

Are there 3 year JD/MBA programs?

JD/MBA programs are often four years in length, but some accelerated programs allow you to complete the program in three years.

Is a dual MBA/JD degree worth it?

JD/MBA holders have a high income potential starting in the six figures. However, salary can vary significantly depending on what kind of role you pursue following graduation.

Is a JD/MBA program harder to get into?

JD/MBA programs are difficult to get into because most universities require you to be accepted to both the law school and the business school, which may have different standards and requirements.


Cyrus “Cy” Johnson, Jr., has more than 30 years of experience representing individuals and businesses in corporate transactions, including mergers and acquisitions. Corporate boards and directors rely on Cy to provide counsel on fiduciary duty matters and shareholder/partner disputes. His long-term clients are family-owned and privately owned companies in a variety of industries, including real estate development, hotel and restaurant development and management, and professional services including architecture, dentistry, engineering, medical spas, medicine, and pharmacy. He also counsels entrepreneurial clients in corporate formation, angel financing, private Regulation D offerings, including general solicitation offerings. His representative entrepreneurial companies have included a moissanite jewelry producer, a private educational institution, internet companies and a telemedicine provider. Cy served on the drafting committee for the original North Carolina Limited Liability Company Act, which was adopted in 1993, as well as on the drafting committee, which revised the North Carolina Limited Liability Company Act (effective January 1, 2014).
He assists clients in the formation of LLCs on joint ventures and in structuring business divorces among LLC members.

Reviewed by:

Alexandra is a driven, high-spirited, unapologetically energetic, and optimistic person. She prides herself on her devotion to becoming a better business leader and overall human. She has an insatiable hunger for knowledge, asks a million questions, and thrives on making change. She has reached many populations throughout her career. She's studied recidivism, helped prior criminal offenders reintegrate into society, and built trusting relationships while working at a homeless shelter. Her passion for education also shines through in her work. She taught younger children for many years, but has since turned her focus to higher education. She loves collaborating with others to be a disruptor in the education industry, creating and delivering programs that are unlike others — all while building a better future for her clients and students. When she's not working, you can find her in and around Washington, D.C., hiking on local trails, off-roading in the forest in her Jeep, or reading a good book with a homemade iced white chocolate mocha in hand (usually accompanied by her three dogs and three cats).
Tapia is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.
Page last reviewed June 17, 2022


Featured Image: ArLawKa AungTun / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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