Dual degrees allow students to combine two disciplines, completing two degrees in a streamlined, integrated fashion. Sometimes called joint programs or double degrees, students often choose these programs for their reduced credit requirements and tuition savings.
Compared to a single degree, dual degrees increase study times and costs, but not as much as pursuing two degrees consecutively. Joint programs often omit electives and allow interdisciplinary courses to satisfy requirements from both degrees, thereby reducing individual program lengths and tuition costs.
Not to be confused with double majors, in which students complete two majors within one degree, dual degrees provide two core programs and two degree titles. More complementary degrees offer more unified training.
Learners can find dual degrees at the bachelor’s and master’s levels, along with bridge programs between the two levels. They can combine many degrees and disciplines, including studies in law, engineering, and healthcare, but the MBA represents one of the most common, effective partner degrees. Read on to learn about the possibilities for an MBA dual degree, including strong degree pairings, career outcomes, and application processes.
Why Get an MBA Dual Degree?
MBA dual degrees can lead to many personal and professional rewards. Combining advanced business and management training with specialized training in other fields can open doors to boundless opportunities and growth potential. Joint programs may also suit learners who want to keep their professional options open.
However, students with specific career goals in mind, like aspiring public lawyers for example, may not need formal business training. Prospective students should consider the increased time and financial investment required of these programs, along with the following benefits.
Dual-degree MBAs can help professionals reach managerial and leadership positions faster than an MBA alone.
Professionals with dual degrees occupy a unique space with reduced competition, allowing them to acquire some of the highest positions in various industries.
Graduates with MBA dual degrees qualify for more positions in more industries than their single-degree peers.
Depending on the industry, graduates with dual degrees may gain access to more continued learning and professional certification options. The MBA and several other master’s degrees qualify candidates to sit for a variety of licensure and certification examinations.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, candidates with advanced degrees and specialized experience access the most job opportunities in business.
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Types of MBA Joint Degrees
Students can combine a variety of degrees to help satisfy their educational and professional goals. Thanks to their versatility, MBA degrees complement many programs and degree types. The following sections examine just some of the available MBA joint degrees, outlining what the programs might entail and to what careers they could lead.
MS/MBA Dual Degrees
MS and MBA dual degrees provide students with many concentration options. Depending on the school, learners may pursue MS specializations in areas like engineering, journalism, social work, or environmental services. The two degrees provide core sciences training, industry specialization, and advanced business training.
Professionally, this dual degree offers graduates a direct pathway to leadership within their chosen industry. Students may pursue this option to fast track their journey to management role. Candidates should note that some MS disciplines may require applicants to hold bachelor’s degrees in relevant fields.
Most MS and MBA joint programs feature similar course loads to individual degrees, but with increased overall study time. Many programs allow students to complete dual degrees in 3-4 years, usually focusing on one at a time in each of the first two years.
Seniors may engage in the more research- and project-heavy components of their degrees, such as thesis or capstone projects. Students typically complete interdisciplinary courses in their final year, as well. The following courses may complement both degrees in these joint programs.
– Global Public Health
– Entrepreneurship in Technology
– Technology and Operations Management
Graduates with MS and MBA dual degrees qualify for many careers in the sciences and business fields. The following list details some options available to these learners.
Architectural or Engineering Mangaer
These managers oversee production, design, and building at construction and manufacturing sites. They coordinate and organize the operations and manage the professionals who carry out the work.
Blending an MBA and a master of public health (MPH) takes students into the realm of public health management. Advanced public health degrees often provide administration training, but they do not reach the extensive levels of leadership and operational training provided by MBAs. Furthermore, these joint programs focus on healthcare management topics, delivering training in healthcare finance and human resources, for example.
Equipped with this training and skill set, graduates may pursue management careers in community health agencies or wellness departments in various organizations. Some schools may require applicants to possess healthcare degrees for admission.
Many joint programs offer condensed schedules, which increase semester workload and shorten the time it takes to graduate. In courses in which MPH and MBA knowledge overlap, learners may enjoy an advantage over single-degree learners studying the material for the first time.
The following courses highlight some of the best dual-nature elements of this joint program.
– Management of Health Services Organizations
– Project and Policy Management
– Healthcare Analytics
Combining medical and business training prepares graduates for positions in healthcare and business. The following list outlines a few career possibilities.
Medical and Health Services Managers
These managers supervise and coordinate activities within medical clinics and departments. They improve care delivery and make sure medical professionals within their facilities have everything they need to do their jobs.
Epidemiologists study and investigate the nature of diseases and seek to reduce impacts of diseases on the public. With MBAs, epidemiologists may rise more easily to managerial or leadership positions.
Top executives oversee the activities and operations of their organizations. They may work for large hospitals, outpatient clinics, or businesses dealing in medical or healthcare products and services.
A master of health administration (MHA) and MBA dual degree delivers advanced business and specialized healthcare administration training. These programs focus on the management and organization of various healthcare organizations, molding future healthcare leaders who understand how organizations can effectively improve healthcare delivery services.
This joint program accommodates learners who wish to engage professionally with these two industries, either independently or at their intersection. Like other healthcare master’s programs, the MHA portion of this dual degree may require applicants to hold bachelor’s degrees in healthcare-related fields.
Joint program course loads rarely differ from single-degree course loads, but some programs offer condensed schedules for quicker finish times. Many dual-degree programs focus on one degree at a time, completing one year of the MBA and then one of the MHA. Students may also complete a thesis, capstone, or internship for one or both degrees during their senior year.
The following list highlights some crossover courses in this dual degree:
MBA and MHA dual degree graduates can pursue management positions in the healthcare sector or business world, particularly within the medical industry. The following career options highlight just a few of the possibilities.
Health Information Manager
These professionals manage all patient records and data. They ensure that their organizations’ systems and databases adhere to all patient information laws and systems stay updated and secure.
These administrators supervise nursing home staff, residents, and facilities. They also handle administrative duties, such as financing, patient admission, and staffing. Most of these professionals need a license to practice, and the requirements to sit for the licensure examination vary by state.
Chief executives go by many different titles, but they all manage organizational operations. They may establish new policies, set goals, and work with other executives and managers. These professionals also report to the board of directors.
The master of science in nursing (MSN) and MBA dual degree provides students with advanced training in two in-demand fields. The training aims to develop future healthcare leaders, managers, consultants, and administrators. Graduates may also apply their nursing expertise to the business world, especially in fields that engage with medical professionals, devices, or patients.
For the nursing half of the joint program, applicants need nursing degrees and unencumbered nursing licensure for admission. They may also need professional experience for the business degree. For nurses looking to take on managerial roles or pursue more business-focused professions, this dual degree blends both disciplines.
The coursework for a dual MBA and MSN degree varies between schools, but many programs offer similar work loads as individual degrees. Students often start with the first degree in year one, start the second in year two, and complete research and capstone requirements in their later years.
Joint programs may also include courses that intersect both disciplines during their senior years. Students may find some of the following courses in their MSN and MBA dual degrees.
– Healthcare Policy
– Health Economics
– Health Informatics
An MBA and MSN dual degree can lead to management careers in hospitals, clinics, and the pharmaceutical industry. The following careers outline some of those options.
Chief Executive in Healthcare
One of the leading industries for chief executives, healthcare features some of the most competitive salaries for professionals. Chief executives in this industry manage facility operations, budgets, and policies. They may report to the board of directors and contributors, as well.
Nursing consultants provide support for healthcare organizations. They analyze operations, performance, policies, and records, looking for inefficiencies or areas needing improvement. Consultants may require additional licensure in some states.
Hospital administrators manage various hospital operations, including finance, policies, and staffing. They may set plans for improved practices and operations, along with running training and human resources responsibilities.
An MBA and a master of public administration (MPA) dual degree allows students to develop skills and expertise in both the private and public sectors. The MBA focuses on business training geared toward private organizations, while the MPA explores government agencies. Graduates can access management positions with organizations that rely on public-private partnerships and government lobbying.
Ideal students for this dual program are interested in policy reform and strengthening government and business relationships.
MBA and MPA dual-degree programs usually deliver traditional degree training throughout the first couple of years. During the third year, the emphasis shifts to capstone projects, thesis courses, and internships. Students also complete courses exemplifying the interdisciplinary nature of the joint program during later semesters.
The following courses represent some examples of courses blending the MPA and MBA disciplines.
– Business and Government
– Economic Analysis of Public Policy
– Grant Writing and Proposals
Many careers rely on business and public administration skills. The following list outlines several career opportunities for graduates with a MBA and MPA dual degree.
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers
These managers oversee communications and materials that influence an organization’s external perception. Professionals may organize press releases, coordinate events, and serve as mediators between their organizations and the public.
Economists study the movement of goods and services within a market. They look for trends, make forecasts on production and distribution, and provide advice and solutions for businesses and governments.
Political scientists specialize in political systems, ideas, and their effects on various organizations. They evaluate current systems and operations and forecast future trends based on their findings. They may work within government organizations or the professional and technical services industries intersecting with government agencies.
An MBA and psychology dual degree equips professionals with the expertise needed to excel and advance through the ranks in either discipline. Graduates can manage psychology clinics and centers or use their psychology skills to become effective business leaders.
Though program length varies by school, an MBA and psychology dual degree can take longer than many other joint programs, especially those leading to Ph.D. degrees. Candidates with sufficient psychology backgrounds may reduce their overall study times, but extensive studies within master’s in psychology programs often take more than three years to complete.
MBA/Psychology Dual Degree Coursework
Coursework in these programs depends on psychology degree type and students’ educational background, but master’s degrees in psychology typically feature rigorous study plans. In many cases, the two degrees do not overlap much, and students must make the connections themselves.
Some programs, like organizational psychology, feature many intersections. The following list highlights some courses that examine concepts in both disciplines.
– Organizational Psychology
– Training and Development
MBA/Psychology Dual Degree Careers
With expertise in psychology and business, graduates enjoy a wealth of career opportunities, several of which we outline below.
Marketing managers evaluate the market to determine demand for products and services. They assess customer wants and needs and determine marketing and pricing strategies to meet those demands.
These professionals apply psychological principles and strategies to improve performance and morale within workplaces. They observe behavioral data and performance metrics to implement performance, counseling, training, and performance plans as solutions.
Sales managers oversee and supervise a sales staff. They set goals and performance metrics, develop training programs, and resolve customer and staff problems. They may establish sales techniques and strategies based on market research or psychological research.
The MBA and MS in finance dual degree provides an excellent foundation for aspiring financial professionals. The complementary nature of these programs means students may reduce their typical joint-program study times through courses satisfying both degree requirements. For admission, applicants may need some mathematics prerequisites, along with some foundational business training.
Organizations and individuals seek professionals who can manage assets and make smart financial decisions. For students with analytical interests and abilities, this dual degree can lead to desirable, rewarding positions in the business and finance world.
MBA/MS in Finance Coursework
The coursework at any given time for this joint program should resemble that of a single-degree program, but students should expect to tackle a great deal of work to complete two degrees within three years.
Since both programs emphasize business components, learners may find many courses overlapping and building off each other. The following courses outline some examples of topics that could satisfy both degrees.
– International Financial Management
– Corporate Actions and Reactions
– Organizational Economics
MBA/MS in Finance Careers
Graduates with a dual MBA and MS in finance degree enjoy access to careers all over the business and finance world.
Financial managers oversee organizations’ financial health, monitoring all activity and preparing and reviewing financial documents. They analyze operations and the market, seeking ways to reduce costs, increase profits, and capitalize on opportunities.
Insurance managers look for ways to reduce financial risks for their employers. They handle all insurance issues, disability payments, and lawsuit payouts. These professionals may manage teams of insurance professionals or work with external organizations.
Lawyers and business professionals often seek ways to rise above their competition, and a joint law and MBA degree can provide that opportunity. This demanding program can take up to four years to complete, still allowing learners to receive two reputable degrees in less time than it would take to complete them separately.
Candidates may pursue master of law (LL.M.) or juris doctor (JD) degrees, and admission requirements for each may differ. Typically, applicants need bachelor’s degrees and strong LSAT scores for admission to a law program. They should hold a bachelor’s degree and relevant professional experience for the business program.
Students often take traditional course loads through the first couple of years. After year two, learners may experience heavier workloads dealing with capstones, research assignments, and internships.
The following list features examples of courses that delve into both sides of the joint program.
– Financial Institutions Law
– Intellectual Property
– International Business Transactions
On their own, JD, LL.M., and MBA degrees can lead to rewarding careers. As a dual degree, this combination of training can help graduates access some of the highest positions in law and business, including the following:
These lawyers manage all legal issues surrounding corporations, including their formation, regulations compliance, and governance. They may work in consulting roles from outside firms or for single corporations.
Securities attorneys manage cases and issues surrounding organizations’ finances. These professionals often specialize in Securities and Exchange Commission regulations. They may also oversee financial lawsuits, mergers, and issues regarding investments.
Esther Magna received a joint MBA and MPH from UCLA’s Anderson School. For over 10 years, Esther has coached higher education applicants in her work as principal with Stacy Blackman Consulting (SBC), a leading MBA admissions consulting firm.
At SBC, Esther provides initial assessment for 900+ applicants annually; these applicants aspire to top MBA programs in the U.S. and around the world, including joint degree programs, such as JD/MBA, MBA/MPP, and MBA/ MPH. Esther’s schools of expertise span Harvard University, Stanford University, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and INSEAD.
What were your initial impressions of dual degrees? What made you interested in one?
Truthfully, my initial impression of the dual degree was that I loved the idea of having two degrees on my bio more than just one degree, and that I was very excited for a three-year commitment to education and all the fun experiences of being a student.
I decided to apply to both MBA and MPH programs when I was four years into my career, and while I was working in healthcare project management at Kaiser Permanente. I selected the joint degree program because it was an extension of what I loved most about my work. My role was to spearhead patient safety initiatives across the organization of hospitals and physicians.
My work had a double-bottom-line mission, where I was advocating for the company’s business priorities and also for impact, which was the improved quality of care for patients of the healthcare enterprise.
I knew the MBA degree would afford a rigorous tool kit around business principles, while the MPH degree had an entirely different paradigm focus around community health and societal priorities. I remember meeting with a dean at UCLA’s public health school in the application process, and his message to me was that the ethos of the MPH education would be complementary to that of the MBA. I enjoyed understanding how the two ideologies, MBA and MPH, meshed within the joint degree experience.
Why did you decide to pursue this particular dual degree?
I was working professionally just based on intuition and often felt I was “winging it.” I knew I needed to professionalize my skills through higher education. I wanted to acquire the knowledge, tools, frameworks, and networks to advance my career short and long term. The MBA and MPH was an ideal extension of my desire to do work that reflects the priorities of both business and societal good. I also valued the higher education degrees for the credibility that they afford within professional settings. It is like a stamp of approval or legitimacy, and that has ignited my career ever since.
What was the deciding factor in selecting your specific school?
I applied to the joint degree programs at both UCLA and USC, which entailed four separate applications and essay sets. I was accepted across the board with a full scholarship offer to USC. I declined the full-ride scholarship to USC’s joint degree program to attend Anderson at UCLA, because I valued its brand, student class, and location on the Westside of LA, where I knew I wanted to raise my family.
Did the dual degree coursework seem to differ from a 'regular' program? How?
Most dual-degree programs offer the coursework separately. In other words, there aren’t “dual degree” courses. Rather, there are courses in the MBA program and then courses in the MPH program, including required and optional courses. I was one of three MPH/MBA joint degree students, so I didn’t see my joint degree peers in my classes. Similarly, the MBA/MD or MBA/JD students were so few.
The MPH courses were very different from the MBA courses in many ways. For example, the age/work experience of the typical MPH student was much younger than that of the MBA, which usually expects 3-5 years of work experience prior to the program. The MBA courses were usually larger in size, likely due to the higher demand for the program, and were often case study-based. MPH program courses often went into clinical or societal aspects of healthcare, such as population health or community organizing.
The MPH program courses were held inside the UCLA hospital network facilities and were often taught by clinical research-based faculty, so the education was influenced heavily by the medical system that surrounded it.
How did your degree program prepare you for your current career?
I had my first child during my second year of my joint degree program, and I had my second child one week after receiving my diploma at my graduation ceremony. I was the odd duck in grad school, as I was the only one who was pregnant for most of my higher education experience. As a result, I didn’t participate in on-campus recruiting during my third year, as I elected to be a stay-at-home mom in the years immediately after receiving my two degrees.
The value of the MBA/MPH for me wasn’t seen until I returned to my career seven years later, just after the 2008 economic downturn. Through a lucky encounter with Stacy Blackman via social circles, I began this work full time in MBA admissions consulting. The role actively relies on my graduate degrees. I could not have this career without those degrees and feel grateful that I had taken the time to attain both degrees when I was younger.
As a consultant guiding higher education applicants, I draw upon my knowledge from the joint degree experience constantly. The MPH has become more relevant for MBA applicant inquiries because so many are applying from healthcare industries and/or from social impact domains. Many clients are aspiring toward post-graduate career paths in social impact. I can relate to a wide array of higher education applicants because of my joint degree.
Did you feel your dual degree gave you a leg up over just pursuing an MPH or MBA by itself? How?
The MBA is essential to my current career, no question. The MPH is an incremental value-add because of the rising demand for healthcare careers and the imperative for healthcare leaders to be trained in both business and healthcare disciplines. I could do my work without the MPH degree, but it’s certainly valuable and the MPH also has parallels to other joint degree programs such as public policy. While I don’t work in public health, I invoke the learnings from the MPH degree in relating to grad school applicants who are nontraditional in career path and/or aspirations.
I was recently selected to be an industry influencer by ETS, the company that administers the GRE exam. I participated in a social media campaign that included a YouTube video produced by an ad agency in New York. I asked the producers why they selected me. It was because of my joint degree. I loved the experience and it was a reminder that the MPH degree is continuing to benefit me.
Are there any areas where you feel you didn't get as in-depth an education as you would've liked?
Years after the MBA, the most valuable tools aren’t the equations, calculations, or models from the lectures. The true value is the critical thinking that I learned from the joint degree — the level of higher and broader thinking that stands the test of time.
I remember powerful moments in my education.
For example, I remember the complexity of a “how to create a healthcare research study,” from an MPH course. Since then, I am more critical around analyzing reports in business and healthcare, as I learned extensively about bias, sample size, research methods, etc. I don’t take things at face value because of that course.
I remember feeling mesmerized by a healthcare utilization class in the MPH program because the costs of screenings (e.g., MRIs) for cancer patients were hotly debated against the compassionate need to offer those screenings to patients who asked for them. Tradeoffs around choices and appreciation for disparate points of view have since then been a hallmark of my approach professionally.
I remember a family business class at my MBA program taught by a psychologist, who skillfully taught us about how senior executives, despite robust pay packages, often fall prey to burnout and experience deep unhappiness. He shared the secrets to career paths that are sustainable and fulfilling.
I remember the negotiation class at my MBA program where I learned how to identify and invoke leverage in successful negotiations and how to optimize negotiation scenarios. I use those skills often.
What was the job search like after graduating with your dual degree? How did prospective employers react to it?
My peers from both programs found awesome jobs through on-campus recruiting. If I worked in a traditional corporate setting, I’m certain the joint degree would be a value-add for recruiters in any healthcare or social impact domain. For all industries, two grad degrees shows intellectual horsepower, range, and relatability. Like anything, a higher education degree is not the secret sauce on its own. It’s work ethic, character, ambition, diligence, networking finesse, and other traits that are the dealmakers and are essential to optimize recruiting potential, even with the higher education degree.
What advice would you give to students considering pursuing a dual MBA degree?
Keep in mind a joint degree isn’t ever a requirement for a given job. One higher degree often is required, depending on the role. Two grad degrees can open more recruiting doors due to the breadth and range of training. It’s an investment in yourself toward long-term opportunities.
Evaluate and embrace what the second degree will offer that the first grad degree alone will not afford. Many higher education programs, such as the MBA, have become well-balanced across courses and allow for electives at adjacent programs, such as MPP (master of public policy) or MPH schools. A deep dive education into the second degree should be welcome and exciting for you, given the additional year it requires.
The joint degree would take a third year, inclusive of costs, and place you into a different cohort (subsequent year of MBA graduates) for recruiting, networking, etc. You will want to leverage the connections you will make within your MBA program, and a joint degree may take you away from the MBA student group to some extent, so stay engaged in the student groups of both programs to maximize relationship-building and networking. You can catch up on sleep later in life!
How to Select a Joint MBA Program
Students should consider several factors when choosing the right joint MBA program, such as accreditation. Learners should seek both regional and programmatic recognition. Regional accreditation applies to an entire school, while programmatic accreditation applies to individual programs. Both credentials indicate that students receive a high-quality education. Accreditation also expands employment, financial aid, and education opportunities. To verify a school or program’s accreditation status, learners can search the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.
Students should also think about their ideal delivery format. Online programs offer more accessibility and flexibility than on-campus programs, but they usually feature less interaction and require more independent, diligent study.
Prospective enrollees should also examine their joint programs of interest to make sure they align with their individual goals, interests, and needs. They should consider overall program length, course and concentration offerings, tuition costs, and admission requirements. Learners might also explore faculty’s research interests and their prospective department’s reputation in its field.
Finally, learners should find schools offering strong student support services and resources, such as online learning resources, career services, and strong alumni networks. As a starting point, the following program rankings can help students identify some of the best programs and schools in their respective areas of interest.
Applying for MBA joint programs follows many of the same steps as standard degree applications, but students should expect to see some additional requirements and complexities in the process. Most joint programs require students to meet the requirements for each individual degree and department. All applicants need bachelor’s degrees, and most must submit GRE or GMAT scores, as well.
Applicants may also need to meet minimum GPA, test score, and professional experience requirements. For example, many schools require a minimum 3.0 GPA and above-average GRE or GMAT test scores. Nursing master’s programs require applicants to hold nursing degrees, and MBA programs may require business degrees or professional experience.
Paying for a Joint MBA Degree
Funding their education represents one of the most pressing considerations for aspiring students. For MBA dual-degree students, a variety of financing options exist, such as loans, scholarships, and grants.
MBA dual-degree candidates can take advantage of school-, location-, and program-specific scholarships, which can fund part or all of their degrees. The following links highlight these options and more in much greater detail.
An MBA dual degree combines two degrees, usually from complementary disciplines. Learners typically complete a core program within each degree. Many joint programs also include several courses that satisfy requirements for both degrees.
Is a dual degree worth it?
Dual degrees suit learners pursuing careers that intersect multiple fields, such as healthcare and business or engineering and business. Graduates often enjoy more opportunities with higher salary potential than those with only one degree.
Are joint degrees more expensive?
Joint degrees typically feature higher tuition rates than individual degrees, but some may offer comparable rates. In most cases, however, dual degrees offer considerable savings compared to completing two individual degrees.
How long does it take to complete a double degree?
Double degrees vary in length, but usually take 3-4 years to complete. Some programs offer accelerated schedules and/or part-time options. Typically, learners can complete a dual degree in less time than it would take to complete two degrees independently.