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How to choose between an MBA or a JD?


Matthew Basile Brooklyn, NY

I have recently graduated with two bachelor degrees (Political Science & Economics). I am having a difficult time deciding which path to choose, most of my passions and interests lie on a thin line between the two fields. Any and all input will be appreciated.

11 May 2016 24 replies General



Venkat Narayanan San Jose, CA

Hi Matthew,

They are both a big investment in time and money and emotion. If you have solid business acumen, either one is a good option. You'll have the potential of getting interesting and rewarding assignments with either a MBA or a JD. You have to decide if this is to be a business decision, or an emotional one.

Do you want to go broad? or do you want to go deep? MBAs education is best suited to create general managers as it touches on a number of areas. JDs education will likely give you skills that you can apply right away. With a JD, you can always learn competencies that an MBA has, but the other way around is difficult, if not impossible. For example, you can't practice law without passing the bar, but you can become a manager with a JD.

I'd start with the end in mind. Are you looking for a job or pursuing a personal vision? You could speak to people who are doing what you'd like to be doing. Ask them what path you should take in today's economic climate. Remember, you can rarely duplicate another person's path, you'll have to create your own path. Jobs are being created that never existed and jobs we know are becoming obsolete. I'd suggest reading selecting chapters from Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat" to get some ideas.

As Timothy and Laurence suggest, the quality of the university is crucial, the better known ones tend to attract talented and high potential candidates. A high quality network is really what you are acquiring when you go to school, not just the knowledge.

Best wishes in your choice.

16 May 2016 Helpful answer


John Ervin


You should look into a PMP program. The skills sets you learn in the PMP are applicable to any industry. A program can be completed online or in person. Thee are several PMP programs tailored for veterans. The university of Syracuse as a VCTP program that offers frees online PMP training. The online modules are great and they also pay for the exam once you are ready.

There are other PMP programs for veterans as well.

Best Regards


15 May 2016 Helpful answer


Tim Keefe Washington, DC

Temper "passions" and "interests" with what the job market is telling you.

Lawyers are having a tough time finding work now, so you have to ask yourself if you want to spend the time, money, and effort getting the JD when it can constrict you to working in very narrow fields, or if you could be consigned to unemployment for a long time.

The MBA might be the better of the two, but not a golden ticket to great job options. In general, the MBA might provide you with business knowledge and skills that you're lacking.

Also, you want to be mindful of what kind of program to choose, and where the school is located. If you want to work on Wall Street, then nothing less than the top 10 will suffice. If you want to focus regionally, then it might not matter as much where to attend school as long as you can focus on the core business skills.

13 May 2016 Helpful answer


Eleanor Southers Santa Cruz, CA

Are you aware that some law schools now award both MBAs and JDs at one time. I know Santa Clara Law School (ABA approved) here in Santa Clara CA does. Sure there are others in the US. I always say: "You can't have too much paper on your wall". Please feel free to give me a call if you want to talk more. 831 466-9132

12 May 2016 Helpful answer


Laurence Schnabel Templeton, CA

If you lean towards starting out in a corporate job and working your way up the corporate ladder, then maybe an MBA. I received my JD in 1967 and then practiced trial law in Los Angeles for 40+ years. a law degree gives you a lot of options - practice law or do that for awhile and then go-in house with a corporation and then migrate over from its legal dept to its corporate side. So much litigation and legal issues in corporate life require legal training that I think a law degree is more flexible than an MBA. Some universities have a 4 year JD-MBA joint degree program ( Stanford had one, ? if it still does). Whichever degree you seek here is a cardinal rule: go to the very highest rated school that will admit you. The better the school, the more job openings. U.S. News & World report gives rankings of various grad schools. Top schools tend to open up jobs all over the country, whereas a local/lower ranking school may pen you into to a local-one state choice of jobs. Plus-my bias- law school is far more interesting than studying how to sell soap or cereals.

12 May 2016 Helpful answer


Jose Ivo Houston, TX

Matthew, if you have recently graduated, I would suggest you leverage your current degrees and find a job in a field that you like, and only contemplate the possibility of an MBA in 2 or 3 years'time. Who knows, it may just be that your career path takes you towards where you want to be what necessarily making this big investment. The reverse by the way is true: investing in a MA or JD des not guarantee you the career that you are seeking.



WOW! This question I will answer. Go LAW!!!! Maybe even a JD/MBA program. Like some other respondents I have three degrees, (3 1/2 if you count graduate studies in finance). Do you want a career in Industry? Go LAW! After working in various senior positions in a number of industries and founding and running for 32 years my own business consulting company, my opinion is this: corporations are very heavily regulated. Corporations are continually sued by the Government and by their suppliers and contractors. (See every daily issue of the Wall Street Journal). Corporations need executives, not in their Law Departments, (How about Vice President International Contracts), that KNOW the Law and can keep them out of trouble. Contact me if you like: I am on the Board of the University of San Diego School of Law:


DF Jackson Washington, DC

A Hot Certification might be a better idea in a marketable area. Research wisely.
Thank you for your service.


DF Jackson Washington, DC

Only look at TOP MBA and JD schools. If you can't get in.....Don't Go!!! I have both MBA and JD and have not had a full-time job in 15 years. Effectively unemployable.


Jennifer Polhemus Santa Monica, CA

Why seek graduate education at all, at this point in your life? Do you love being in school? (I do.) Perhaps better to get some non-military work experience in either business or law, and THEN think about grad school. Work experience will give you context for what you will learn, ultimately yielding a better result. Also, think long and hard before beginning a grad program in either law or business if the grad school is lower-tier. Instead, devote your time to improving your "package" so that you can access a higher level educational institution. Keep pressing ahead!


Kevin Horgan Roswell, GA

If you have to choose between one or the other, then you should probably do neither. Half the world's lawyers are in the USA, with only 5% of the world's population. Half of the US lawyers either don't practice or are in a lesser job. The MBA of today is last generation's college degree... almost a requirement if you want to transport your earning power over the course of a career. I would suggest finding a niche you love, and that you are good at... and pursuing THAT degree or certification, passionately and without hesitation. One caveat: if you have a family to support, get your job prospects in order first, then pursue an advanced degree as a sideline. Your career satisfaction is second to their security.


Kate Weiner Wayzata, MN

I would go out and get some work experience first. I also had to make this decision early on in my career. My undergrad was in International Public Policy. I had every intention to go back to get my JD. After working for a few years I decided not to go to law school. No offense to lawyers on this, but the work was not rewarding to me. I ended up going a different direction and now work in International Trade with an advanced degree in Interntional Food Law and my Customs Broker License. I love my career and never racked up the loans that a JD would require.


Olya Schaefer Saint Petersburg, FL

I second the PMP option. Both of those degrees will take time, and a law degree is pretty much worthless unless you're in the top 10% of your Ivy League school.


Ben Magnano

Matthew - it really depends on what you want to do short and long term. Email me at to set up a time to speak live. I have an MBA, am married to a corporate attorney and interact with both frequently working in private equity. Best, Ben


Judith Kahn Saint Petersburg, FL

I come from a family of lawyers. My Dad was an old-fashioned general practitioner kind of lawyer & then was a judge for many years. My sister just retired as a public defender, worked in private practice out of law school & is married to a judge. I graduated from law school when I was 47 (after a couple of other careers). I was a trial lawyer in private practice till I retired. Law school is nothing like getting a BA. My study group once determined that we had to read, understand & be prepared to discuss the equivalent of 150 pages of dense legal opinions 7 days a week for the duration of the term just to keep up with the syllabus.
Then there are papers, keeping your notebook up to date, legal research, etc. (It gets a bit better after the first year.) Also legal practice is not what it once was. Unless you are VERY GOOD, connected or lucky, the money is nothing like it once was. The hours are brutal. The rules are a pain. Worth it if you have a love for the law or another desire that requires the degree. It is wonderful work but only if you have a true passion for it. If not, get an MBA or another graduate degree.


G. Rino Fazio Arlington, VA

I asked myself the same question and at one point I was trying to go for a duel JD/MBA program. Most reputable schools require the GMAT along with the LSAT, and at least for me both took a lot of time and effort to prepare for. If you can score well in those tests, then you should go for the JD/MBA duel degree (assuming that the military is paying for it). It looks like Brooklyn college offers a dual JD MBA degree:

I eventually settled on just an MBA, but if I had the time and resources (and brainpower) I would've gone for the dual JD/MBA degree.

I hope this helps.

- Rino


Basil Rouskas Long Valley, NJ

Since your interests and passions lie on a thin line between MBA and Law supported education, you cannot make a big mistake if you go with either direction.
You seem to be very successful in completing educational goals. This is a virtue as long as you don't make school going a mechanism for continuing vocational indecisiveness.
By now you have enough data to know which kind of work/subject matter combo is more exciting for you. You can have a couple of discussions with a career coach and take "the jump".
Let me know if you want to talk on the phone.


Susana Moraga Hayward, CA

I agree with Bill and everyone who commented; what do you want to do? It's obvious you like school, however, it appears you don't have a realistic perception of what an education can afford you.
One BA is sufficient; experience that employers are most interested in. What have you done as it relates to what you want to do?
If not having a graduate degree is holding you back because you have the necessary experience in the field you desire than professionals in your network have likely advised you which will best help you move forward.
My sense is that you don't know because you have done the occupational research to know .
Step one; what do you want to do? Do you have the skills and where have you evidenced them?
Step two: depending on your answer: Get a job to develop those skills and the years of experience or start doing informational interviews and research those career fields to see which degree will make you most competitive.
Don't know the answer to step one; start with self assessment and career exploration.
Good luck,



Whoa! There is no question. As a fellow original Brooklynite I can tell you the straight "skinny". I hold degrees in Engineering, Industrial Management and post grad studies in Finance, and a JD. My Law Degree put me in a whole different category. There are hundreds of MBAs around. Damn few JD's in Industry: but too many Lawyers in the Law Practice area. Try to combine your education with the ultimate target of senior corporate management: forget the corporate Law Departments. Companies and corporations are so heavily regulated now that management and senior management people who know the Law are valued more highly than an MBA. With a JD, get into management in a corporation: much excitement - doing deals, negotiating contracts. I started in major corporations as a Supervisor of Purchasing: then Manager of Supply Chain; then Manager of Contracts, then Manager of Engineering; then House Counsel; then senior management; then founded my own Consulting Firm; now retired. Without a JD it would have been impossible. I am on the Board at Univ. of San Diego Law School. Let me know if I can help.


Gregg Rieber Port Washington, NY

It is a tough question and one I had myself after undergrad. I personally went the law school route but it is not without challenge.

A couple of things:

As someone pointed out earlier many law schools offer both and it only takes an additional year. Question is can you afford the time or money.

Law school teaches you a different way to think and analyze problems. I believe the education is generically useful and more and more non legal careers value the background. I work in HR and my law degree is a big help and a strong selling point.

That said many people go to law school and become lawyers because they are good in an argument or debate and have dreams of what they see from TV. Big miss. Most lawyers rarely see the inside of a courtroom. Please keep this in mind as lawyer spend a lot of time drafting briefs, contracts......

I work in Financial services so I'm surrounded by MBAs. Excellent education but quality of school really matters when looking for work. So please keep that in mind.

My recommendation, if possible, is to work in the type of business/industry you want to be in. Determine if you like it and evaluate which degree program would be valuable.

Both degree programs are require a lot of time and money so the more you know about your end goal the better.

Happy to talk live if you feel it would be useful. Good luck.


Doug Bohrer Northbrook, IL

I have a lot of friends and family members that are lawyers. To get work after graduation, most started with document review. This means you read through document after document in huge litigation discovery cases looking for relevance. A few got lucky with jobs out of school in niche areas, like public school law or bankruptcy. The guy I know in bankruptcy was only working 30 hours a week and recently got laid off for lack of work. The most successful relatively recent lawschool graduate I know wanted to work in probate and what he calls "elder law." He had a job at a small firm for a short time, then went out on his own. He's doing very well because he genuinely likes his clients and wants to help them. It was a second career for him. He was a Marine veteran who had worked in healthcare for years.

I'm a programer with an MBA. I think the MBA helped me add value to the businesses I worked for because I understood both the technical and business considerations in project decisions. At the start of my civilian career, the MBA got me interviews that I might not have gotten otherwise. The MBA also polished my writing skills. Currently, I work on compliance and security for databases. I need to understand both the law and the technology.

I think the MBA has more practical value in today's market. But you didn't mention a third option, going straight to work. There's an opportunity cost to an MBA or a JD. You lose two or three years of work experience. You need to consider the opportunity cost as part of your decision. Good luck in whatever you decide to do. Thank you for your service.


Duane Martin Winfield, IL

Many good responses already but I would only lean toward a JD if you actually think you will be practicing law (even though the learning process is a terrific experience in logical thinking, negotiation, etc.). If you are headed toward business, I'd stick with the MBA. I went for an MBA and ended up getting a dual Masters, and MBA and one in Organizational Behavior. Perhaps your progress toward an MBA will help be the 'tie breaker' for clarifying your goals and maybe even enable a dual degree of some type. Duane


Bill Nobles Basking Ridge, NJ

Matthew, thank you for your service. Self-assessing your interests, capabilities, and aptitudes might help to answer your question. My April 23, 2013 posting on this website listed several tools other vets had used for that purpose and some of their experiences.
Good luck, Bill Nobles


Paul Dembowski Chicago, IL

My advice at this point would be for you to provide more details on your interests. Degrees aren't really paths, they are a means to an end. By paths did you mean politics or economics? The MBA has more broad applications and is sometimes required, but the JD is often required for several specific roles with less applications. Law is generally highly research oriented. The MBA seems more inline with your two bachelors. Once you provide more detail you will get better feedback.

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