Schools are Making it Easier to get a JD/MBA

The Wall Street Journal came out with a great report today detailing how schools are trying to make it easier for students to get their JD/MBA degree in a shorter amount of time and with less red tape that is usually associated with dual degrees.

According to the report the JD/MBA is offered at around 42 schools across the country. Total enrollment in such programs fell from 330 to 287 students between the 2005-06 and 2007-08 school years, according to a recent survey by AACSB International, which accredits business management and accounting programs. The numbers are dropping as more and more students realize they want to start their careers sooner and start earning money to pay back the graduate school loans they’ve accumulated.

In response, a handful of schools are offering fast-tracked, condensed programs. Starting this fall, the University of Pennsylvania will offer a J.D./M.B.A. in seven semesters squeezed into three years (as opposed to the usual eight semesters over four years), including one summer semester between the first two years.

In Northwestern’s shorter program, students complete the core requirements for both the law and business schools and then cherry-pick electives from either curriculum. This year, applications shot up 50% to 250, says Beth Flye, director of admissions for the university’s Kellogg School of Management.

Yale will offer its coming three-year J.D./M.B.A. program without any required summer classes. The shorter joint degree aims to develop analytic and quantitative skills that are beyond what law schools traditionally offer, says Sharon Oster, dean of Yale’s School of Management. The four-year degree will still be offered but will go deeper into certain subjects.

“Someone who’s interested in a career in something specific, such as real-estate finance, would probably want to do a four-year,” Ms. Oster says. “But for those who want something more general, the three-year is a great option.”

Of course, there are advantages of a longer program. One is the added time for forming relationships with classmates and professors or spending time abroad. The multiple summers also allow students to “test-drive” multiple career paths. Some of the shorter programs require students to take summer courses, meaning less time for internships. And students in three-year programs often have such jam-packed schedules they aren’t able to participate in law reviews or take as many elective courses.

Some schools are saying that the full four years are necessary to adequately prepare for a career in either law or business, let alone for a potential career combining both.

Larry Kramer, dean of Stanford University Law School, says the school thought about shortening its four-year program to three years, but decided against it. “We considered it because of the competition for students,” says Mr. Kramer. “Unaltered, the programs are five years’ worth of study. To cut 40% was just not responsible.”

(Updated! Listen to our JD MBA show here: http://www.mbapodcaster.com/MBA_MoreInfo/JD-MBA.asp?iEpisode=86)

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