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Double or Nothing: Exploring Dual Degree Programs

Perhaps you’ve seen law school websites and brochures emphasizing their interdisciplinary offerings, including their joint degree or dual degree programs. And maybe you’ve wondered, “Dual degrees? Like a regular J.D. isn’t enough?!”

Well, for some students, a J.D. alone doesn’t totally cover what they want from their graduate education and future careers. Dual degree programs offer other in-depth study tracks that can complement your legal education.

What Are Your Options for a Dual Degree?

Every law school typically offers something different, so we recommend checking out law schools’ websites, especially if this is an important factor for you in choosing a law school. Sometimes, schools (like the University of Michigan School of Law) will even let you create an ad-hoc dual degree program for yourself—say, J.D. / American Pop Culture, because, why not? If you think you might be interested in a dual degree but don’t know where to start, here are some common dual degree programs for law students:


For students interested in business and the law, a joint J.D./MBA might be for you. A Master’s in Business Administration provides students with key business skills. MBA programs dive into the concepts of finance, accounting, marketing, human resources and development, risk management, and more. Within the law school, J.D./MBA students might focus on tax law, intellectual property, or other legal areas that affect businesses (future Harvey Specters might find this option exceptionally appealing). With comprehensive knowledge of business and law, many J.D./MBA graduates go on to become consultants, CEOs, or Big Law attorneys.


For the true academics who love research, in-depth learning, and possibly enjoy teaching, a J.D./Ph.D. might be right for you. J.D./Ph.D. programs offer students the opportunity to pursue a Ph.D. in their desired specialization in addition to their law degree. Some common PhD programs that pair well with the law include economics, political science, and philosophy. However, students have been known to chart their own courses here, studying more niche fields like anthropology or communications. Those who receive JD/PhDs may go on to be professors, work for think tanks, or serve in the government.

J.D./MPH or J.D./MPP

Calling all public servants! If you’re interested in using your law degree for a career in government or public administration, a dual degree program with a Master’s in Public Health or Public Policy could be calling your name. These dual degrees are best for law students who want to work in public policy or health, especially if they have a specific policy interest. With a joint degree in these programs, students can specialize in fields like public health, education, and foreign policy. Many graduates from these programs work in local or Federal government positions, either as attorneys or policy leaders.

J.D. / M.D.

This option definitely requires some patience and strict dedication, as it takes at least six years to complete and you will need to get accepted to both the law school and the medical school. A J.D./M.D. program will immerse you in law and medicine, which will ultimately open up career paths not readily available to every lawyer. Some options include forensic pathologists, in-house counsel at biotech firms, medical malpractice litigation, and food and drug law. Some graduates forgo the law side altogether and instead choose to practice medicine and even open a private practice.


This program might sound niche, but many schools offer joint J.D. programs with a Master’s in Social Work. A J.D./MSW is highly useful for law students who want to work in child and family law. Alternatively, these programs are beneficial for those who want to be social workers and also have a deeper understanding of the law as it relates to their patients. We’d especially recommend these dual degree programs to students interested in the intersection of law and mental health. J.D./MSW graduates can work as attorneys, social workers, or in public health services.


This one’s for the science whiz kids. A J.D. and a Master’s in Engineering might sound random, but they’re actually pretty common among law students with preexisting science or engineering backgrounds. A joint degree with engineering may be especially helpful for law students interested in patent or technology law. By supplementing a student’s legal education with in-depth research and engineering knowledge, graduates will become powerhouses in these legal fields.

While these are some of the most common dual degree programs for JD students, law schools often offer a range of other programs. Depending on the school, students may have their pick of J.D. and master’s programs in a number of fields, like environmental sustainability, bioethics, criminology, and more.

What’s Required to Receive a Dual Degree?

Well, first, you have to apply. For the law school side, you’ll likely have to take the LSAT. The application process for each dual degree program depends on the school. Some dual degree programs require prospective students to apply for both degrees together. For others, you may be able to apply for the second degree program during your first year of law school. If you’re thinking of creating a bespoke dual degree program for yourself, you should demonstrate an interest in that field and, if you’ve already started law school when you apply, be in good academic standing.

While many dual degree programs like J.D./MBAs or other master’s programs can typically be completed in three years, they require a higher credit load and potentially some summer classes to finish within that timeframe. Other programs require several years of study in addition to your law degree. Some schools even require that students begin their second degree a few years before matriculating to the law school. The time and credit commitment ultimately depends on the school and its program, so we strongly encourage interested students to do extensive research.

What Are Some Pros and Cons of a Dual Degree?

As with everything, every dual degree program has its benefits and drawbacks, and the decision to pursue one depends on you.

Let’s get the cons out of the way first.

For one, finishing a J.D. on a typical three-year timeline is a long and grueling process on its own. Full-time law students can expect to study at least 40 hours a week in addition to their classes.

Adding a second degree adds more stress, more credits, more studying, and potentially more semesters. Not to mention, a dual degree would take even longer for part-time law students to complete, making it less accessible to those who cannot go to school full-time.

Finally, a second degree means more tuition to pay. Even if your law school grants you a scholarship, it may not extend to dual degree programs, meaning you could have a separate financial aid situation with the second school.

None of this means that a dual degree is impossible or not worthwhile; however, it does mean that you must be passionate about both degrees for it to be worth it.

Now for the dual degree’s many pros!

First and foremost, if you’re pursuing a specific interest area within the law, a dual degree in that field is the perfect way to supplement your education. For example, a Master’s in Public Health will provide far more context in that field than a single law school elective on healthcare law.

A second degree also allows passionate students to fully pursue their academic interests with twice the mentorship opportunities. One great benefit of law school is networking and getting to know your esteemed professors. If you’re a student who’s interested in, say, public policy, a J,D./MPP would help you find mentors who have worked as U.S. Attorneys and policy advisors. Thus, combining two graduate degrees has the potential to expand your horizons and guide your career in ways a law degree alone may not.

If you have a specific legal interest upon entering law school but don’t want to spend time and money fully diving into a second graduate degree, explore whether your law school provides specialization or certificate programs. Many law schools provide graduate certificates to expose students to interdisciplinary education without the cost or course load of a full second degree. Certificate requirements often comprise around four or five courses that are typically included in the cost of law school tuition. These programs are perfect for students who want some specialization but less commitment.

So, Should You Pursue a J.D. Dual Degree?

Dual degrees are a lot of time, work, and money. The decision ultimately comes down to this: Can you reach your career goals within the legal field, effectively and efficiently, with just a law degree? If your answer is no, you might want to look into the various dual degree programs out there and factor them in when applying to law school.

But before you do any of that, you’ll need to clear a big hurdle: the LSAT! Blueprint has you covered with free LSAT prep and even law school admissions workshops with our consultants for when you’re ready to apply!