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Thinking of a Joint Degree? Think Twice

Senior Consultant Susan Brooks notes that joint degree programs are becoming more common at U.S. law schools.

Although combining a J.D. with a graduate degree in another field makes good sense for some applicants, Susan advises most people to think carefully before taking the plunge.

"If you are considering pursuing a joint degree program, you need to be aware of their impact on your wallet and career choices," says Susan.

"Undoubtedly, many such programs offer students incredible intellectual opportunities. For example, Stanford Law School recently announced that it now has 11 dual or joint degree arrangements with other schools and departments around the wider university. That's great. After all, a school's motivation is to increase the intellectual breadth of its offerings, providing students with greater course choices. And what could be problematic about having more choices?

"Well, a couple of issues spring to mind:

  • "One  Most joint or dual degree programs require additional time enrolled as a student. Thus, the cost of your education will increase by one or more years of tuition and, at, say, $50K per year that is no small amount of money!. You need to carefully consider all of the benefits intellectual, professional and, yes, financial of this decision.

  • "Two Consider the marketability of your joint degree. It is not the case that future employers either in the private or public sections will necessarily see the value in your joint degree. In fact, the opposite is true. You will more likely be asked to justify the need you saw to pursue this 'extra' education. Unless you can give a clear and coherent explanation for why you pursued these two degrees, you will seem scattered and unfocused intellectually and professionally. So, before deciding to pursue a joint degree, be sure you understand your motivations clearly and be sure that you can articulate them not only to yourself but also to the admissions committees."

Contributed by Senior Consultant Susan Brooks. Susan was the Associate Director of Admissions at Georgetown University Law Center.

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