An MBA degree is valuable on its own, especially as MBAs continue to see a lucrative return on investment for their time in b-school. But, an MBA degree is like French Fries, it goes well with almost anything. Dual or joint degrees can help b-school hopefuls bridge industries in their future careers and enhance their skills on multiple fronts.
Many schools offer MBA degrees concurrently with degrees in medicine, law, and education, but the possibilities range from dual degrees in public policy, health, or administration, to engineering or international relations. If you’re considering pursuing an MBA alongside another graduate or professional degree, keep the following four questions in mind:
1. What are your ultimate career goals?
By starting with the end in mind, you can determine if adding an MBA to your legal studies or medical degree can enhance your career prospects, and how. Are you planning on going into hospital administration or pharmaceutical consulting? If so, having an MBA in addition to clinical and scientific expertise can give you a major edge.
Hospital administration is primarily occupied by MBAs while doctors are relegated to middle management, with corresponding salaries. If you can combine business expertise with the experience of a patient-facing medical doctor, you can bring a more holistic understanding to hospital dynamics. You’ll need to articulate this goal to admissions committees, because you’ll be undertaking a difficult and uncommon professional path, and each committee will want to ensure you know why AND that you’ll be successful.
If you choose this particular path, you’ll be in good company: Vivek Murthy obtained an MD/MBA and launched several ventures in biotechnology before becoming the 19th Surgeon General of the United States.
2. What is the additional cost and time commitment?
Obtaining a dual or joint degree can prove to be an expensive academic pursuit before it’s a lucrative career decision. Look closely at your chosen programs and determine what the tuition and expense schedule will be. Will you be pursuing degrees simultaneously? One then the other? Will you need to spend an additional year in school, forgoing full-time work? Will you end up “banking” a year of tuition by pursuing concurrent degrees instead of obtaining a Master’s and then an MBA later on?
According to GMAC data, three of four MBAs report that they could not have obtained their current position without attending business school. So while the ROI of an MBA is still strong, take the time to analyze the total program costs against your opportunity costs and future earnings.
3. What are the prerequisites and program requirements?
As a dual or joint degree student, you will be expected to complete coursework, reading, and internships to fulfill both degrees. Consider whether you’ll be able to take courses that will count for both degrees, and the fact that taking electives that count for neither degree track are difficult or impossible due to time and schedule constraints.
If you are not one already, you will need to become a master at organization, especially if your dual degree involves coursework at separate institutions. Academic calendars, deadlines, finals, all need to be coordinated between tracks. Remember that you will need to be admitted to each program separately and that admission to one does not guarantee admission to the other. You’ll also need to take two admissions exams, such as the LSAT and the GMAT for JD/MBA. (Psst! Still studying for the GMAT? Check out our GMAT Question of the Day!)
4. What are you giving up?
While you’ll be gaining expertise, the additional work and time commitment can have hidden costs, such as time socializing and networking with your section in b-school, or law school. Graduate school can be as much about networking as it is about case studies. Relationships built in graduate school lead to lifelong alliances, and you’ll need to plan to be a contributing member of each program’s cohort.
Are you planning on pursuing a dual or joint MBA degree? Tell us why in the comments below and share your story.