The Pros and Cons of a Dual/Concurrent MBA Degree

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An increasing number of business school students are now completing their MBAs as part of a dual degree program that will award them another graduate school degree. Popular dual degree options include JD/MBA, MD/MBA, Master of Public Health/MBA, Masters of Public Policy/MBA, and all sorts of other MA and MS programs from education to electrical engineering. But what are the pros and cons of these programs? 

Pros

Another brand name school on your resume

Attending the Tuck School of Business in Hanover, NH gives you all the access and prestige of Ivy League Dartmouth College. Attending as part of the dual degree program at Harvard Kennedy School, just a bus ride away on the Dartmouth Coach, would give you access to the resources and network of Harvard University as well. If you're only as good as the last school you attended, dual degree programs are excellent opportunities to pump your resume full of brand names and broaden the alumni networks to which you have access. One friend of mine completed the dual program at MIT Sloan and HKS and went to work in China, where his boss inevitably introduced him to clients as "our new hire from Harvard."

Diverse network in two career fields

Attending a world-class MBA program will give you a robust network of business leaders across traditional private sector industries such as consulting, finance, and technology. Adding in a dual degree program in public policy will also give you access to leaders across local, state, and federal government, as well as diplomats, non-profit leaders, and academics. As more of the world's challenges become interdisciplinary, individuals who can straddle the line between the public and private sectors will be the ones best able to capitalize on the opportunities. Or, if you plan on going into a technical field such as quant hedge funds, distressed equity, healthcare management, or hardware start-ups, having colleagues from programs in mathematics, law, medicine, and computer science will give you an incredible leg up against the traditional MBA competition.

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Efficient use of time (completing two degrees in 1 fewer year)

Almost all dual degree programs allow you to complete two degrees one year faster together than you could if you did them separately. For example, a JD from Yale Law School takes three years while an MBA from Stanford GSB takes two. Separately, it would take five years to complete, but together you can complete them in four. If you are gung-ho on attending two different programs already, completing them in a dual degree program is a much more efficient use of your time. You'll pay one fewer year of tuition, and get back into the working world making a good salary one year faster.

Balanced curriculum

Business Schools teach students how to lead others and develop processes that will make their organizations more efficient. Government Schools teach students where to lead and inspire them to spend their lives tackling the most difficult challenges of our times. Other graduate programs confer specialized knowledge that will prove invaluable in gaining the credibility to lead experts.

More opportunities for honors and scholarships

An often overlooked benefit of graduate school is that it provides you with the opportunity to apply for scholarships. These are ostensibly for money, but often come with great prestige as well -- the kind that would look good on your resume. Many scholarships, however, do not accept applications from MBA students, so a dual degree gets you around that. Also, if you apply to schools that confer graduations honors for GPA, theses, or other work, going to two schools gives you two bites at the apple.

Flexibility on when to apply

Not everyone knows exactly what they want to do when they arrive at business school. As you settle in for your MBA at MIT Sloan, you might decide that you actually are drawn less to the engineering, technology, and logistics disciplines of MIT and more to the pubic sector work of government and non-profits. Fortunately the dual degree program at Harvard Kennedy School lets you apply to HKS in your first year at Sloan. And vice versa. Say that you are going through the core curriculum at HKS and decide that you're much better suited to consulting. You can apply to MIT, add in an MBA, and then be better positioned to recruit for McKinsey or BCG.

Cons

Tuition cost and opportunity cost of work

Getting another degree is an amazing opportunity, especially if you can save an year of time and tuition when doing it in a dual degree program. However, when compared to doing a solo-MBA, the added cost of another year of school (in the case of a three-year program) can be daunting. You'll have to pay ~$60k of tuition and fees and forego one year of salary at the starting MBA rate ~$125k. That's a large chunk of money to make up over the course of your working career. Of course, MD and JD students who have already prepared themselves for the long-slog of school see the marginal cost as relatively lower and the benefits of the additional MBA on their future careers is great.

Unintegrated program means extra work of building your own path

Unlike integrated "joint degree" programs where academic deans have established well defined pathways for pursuing two degrees, often bolstered by a steady pipeline of concurrent degree students who can help show you the way, unintegrated programs mean that you have to fend for yourself. If you're not the kind of go-getter who can coordinate with two different sets of graduation requirements and two different registrar offices, this option may be a little stressful.

Takes time away from your MBA cohort

Depending on when you sequence business school in your dual degree program, you may not graduate with your MBA class or spend much time with them after the core curriculum part of the degree is over. This can be a serious downside considering that the network is a key part of value proposition in MBA programs.

Shuttling between campuses

If you decide to do a concurrent degree at two different schools, it is likely that you will have to pack up your apartment and move at least twice in a three year period (notable exceptions include the dual degree program between MIT Sloan and Harvard Kennedy School). For ex-consultants, living out of a suitcase for three or more years might not sound so bad, but for the rest of us this can have a negative effect on quality of life. Even if you decide to pursue two degrees at the same university, graduate school campuses are rarely co-located and so even if you keep your apartment, you still will have to shuttle back and forth across as variable commute (notable exceptions include programs between Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School, which are located just across a walking bridge from each other). Of course, if for some reason you would like to be in two different cities over the course of your study (e.g. to be close to two different sets of family, you didn't get into the desired program in your #1 city and are using a dual degree to form a back-up option), this can be a blessing. 

List of Best Joint/Dual/Concurrent Degree MBA Programs

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While a 2-year MBA program is the desire and envy of many a business school applicant, an increasing number of MBA students are now completing their studies as part of a "joint" or "dual" degree program. As far as semantics go, "joint" programs integrate two different degrees into a unified course of study, often housed within the same university, while "dual" degrees often span two different universities and are pieced together by the student.

Kellogg at Northwestern is pretty restrictive, offering only a 2-year dual masters program in Design Innovation, and its 3-year JD/MBA with their Law School. HBS is more open but still pretty restrictive, offering only joint degrees and only with Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical/Dental School, and (most recently)  Harvard School of Engineering & Applied Sciences. Stanford GSB is more open, offering concurrent degree options with Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Princeton Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Yale Law School, Yale Medical School, and any of Stanford's other graduate programs from Education to Electrical Engineering.

Top Concurrent MBA Degree Programs

The Best MBA Deferred Admissions Programs (to apply to when still in college)

College is a great time to apply to business school. Applying now gives you another opportunity for admission, a potentially less competitive peer group to compete against, and much greater flexibility on when to attend. An offer of admission from a top program also enhances your resume prestige and hedges your career risk. There really is no downside. Offers of deferred admission usually give students a guaranteed spot in a future MBA class provided they spend two or more years getting business experience (which you will need anyways to get the most out of business school). Here are the top programs that offer such deferred enrollment options: 

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Harvard Business School 2+2

Perhaps the most famous of the deferred admission MBA programs is Harvard’s 2+2, established by its famous former director Lee Leopold. Seen as a tactic to pluck out high-prestige students who might otherwise be attracted by the prospect of law school, 2+2 is now a leading feeder of STEM students, among others, into its rigorous case-based classes. 60% of 2+2 admits come from STEM backgrounds and 20% come from international students.

Students in college or graduate programs (attended directly after college, but not PhD programs, law school or medical school) can apply and defer attending the 2-year MBA program for between 2 and 4 years. To be considered for admission to the 2+2 Program Class of 2022 (entering fall 2020), you must graduate from your program between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018. 2+2 applicants save $150 on the application fee compared to regular applicants.

Stanford GSB Deferred Enrollment

An excellent way into the US business school with the lowest acceptance rate. Stanford actually offers direct enrollment opportunities for college students, however in almost every case this deferred enrollment option is more advisable. Deferred Enrollment is open to those graduating between October last year and September this year from either college or a graduate program you immediately enrolled in after college, as well as current law school and medical school students. In most cases the deferral requested by GSB for the student is 2 years. Candidates for this program can apply in any round, though Round 3 is slightly preferred, and the application fee is $100.

Stanford intimates that this enrollment option is aimed at college seniors who seek to work in post-MBA industries that either require work experience (consulting) or previous work experience in that same field (private equity, biotechnology).

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Wharton Moelis Advance Access Program

The newest deferred admission program on the market! Open only to undergraduate students studying at the University of Pennsylvania, the Moelis Advance Access Program is a deferred admission program that gives Penn undergraduates a guaranteed pathway to the Wharton MBA while they pursue quality work experience. Moelis Fellows access the Wharton network and resources during their deferment period and will be considered for a $10,000 per year fellowship during the 2-year full-time MBA program. Applications open in March with Round 3.

Yale SOM Silver Scholars Program

Truly unique among the “deferred admission” programs is Yale’s Silver Scholars. A three year program, Silver Scholars spend the first year completing the core curriculum at Yale, the second year in an extended internship, and third year taking elective coursework back at Yale before graduation. Extended internship placements include start-ups, government education departments, general management roles in large corporations, and investment firms. Though the Silver Scholar is different in character than the traditional MBA programs, it offers students a “first class ticket” at this prestigious business school that is rocketing up the rankings.

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Chicago Booth Scholars Program

Booth offers two programs aimed at college students. The first is the Booth Scholars Program, which provides fourth-year students studying at the University of Chicago a special opportunity to apply to Booth’s Full-Time MBA Program prior to graduation and defer enrollment for three years. During the deferment period, Booth Scholars are expected to seek substantive work experience that will position them to succeed at Chicago Booth and beyond.

Booth also accepts applications from college seniors looking to directly attend Booth after college. These candidate apply through the regular process, but their application fees are waived.

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BONUS secret program: MIT Sloan

Though MIT never explicitly states that it has a deferred admission program, it does! You can see implicitly from its FAQs, notably

  • "We offer fee waivers to the following applicants:... Current college seniors who are U.S. citizens and who will graduate from a U.S. university in 2018"
  • Q: "Do you offer deferrals?"
    A: "Our general policy is not to defer admission, except in the case of college seniors who wish to get work experience before returning to school."

Podcasts to listen to as you apply to your MBA

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin. (~2 min per episode)

  • Good for: studying vocabulary
  • The narrator of this podcast, Peter Sokolowski, combines wordplay and interesting facts in every one of his expositions. For the vocabulary-intensive GRE, I can think of no other podcast to listen to on the go that will expose you to a greater number of obscure and arcane words that you might encounter on your test. Sometimes you'll even encounter a word or two that will perfectly explain a concept that was previously ineffable
  • The episodes are interesting and very short, making them especially easy to binge consume when you're waiting for something -- like deboarding an airplane.

Finance Career Launch

David Mariano is a Director with Western Reserve Partners, a middle market investment bank in Cleveland, OH. David has spent most of his career working with business owners, CEOs, CFOs and Heads of Corporate Development as an advisor, part-owner and/or business leader. David has served in many other capacities, including Manager of Financial Planning & Analysis, VP of Finance, Head of Marketing and General Manager, and has made the transition from an entry-level, analytical role to one focused on leadership and business development. You and I and everyone else in the first 10-15 years of their career (and beyond, for those willing to admit it) would really like to be mentored, but mentors are impossible to find. I am frequently asked for advice about careers in finance and can do some of this in person or over the phone, but nowhere near as much as I'd like or as often as I'm asked. Finance Career Launch fills this void.

  • Good for: exploring careers in finance
  • Each episode gives an insight into what it is like to work in or recruit for traditional jobs in finance. Worth listening to as you do your due diligence on the future career you want to have.

HBR IdeaCast

A weekly podcast featuring the leading thinkers in business and management from Harvard Business Review. Produced by Harvard Business Review. (~15 min per episode)

  • Good for: interview prep, understanding the state of business research, due diligence on Harvard Business School
  • Articles from the acclaimed (and expensive) Harvard Business Review magazine come to life as the staff of the publication sit down with the authors and thought leaders behind the main articles of each issue. Topics are wide ranging, but can veer on the dry and academic side of things. These podcasts are great for finding topics to bring up in your MBA interview, especially if at HBS. You'll have a great answer if you ever get asked about the research you've done on the school.
  • Great for plugging in on long commutes.

a16z Podcast

The a16z Podcast discusses tech and culture trends, news, and the future -- especially as ‘software eats the world’. It features industry experts, business leaders, and other interesting thinkers and voices from around the world. This podcast is produced by Andreessen Horowitz (aka “a16z”), a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm. Multiple episodes are released every week; visit a16z.com for more details. (~30 min per episode)

  • Good for: understanding the VC, tech, and start-up industries. Specifically, what are the latest ideas, companies, and concepts circulating around Silicon Valley
  • Not so much journalism as advocacy, but you're getting it from a market leader in the VC industry. At the very least, it is worth knowing what Andreessen Horowitz is thinking about, especially if your stated goal involves working in the San Francisco ecosystem.

Bigger Pockets

Imagine you are friends with hundreds of real estate investors and entrepreneurs. Now imagine you can grab a beer with each of them and casually chat about failures, successes, motivations, and lessons learned. That’s what The BiggerPockets Podcast delivers. Co-hosted by BiggerPockets’ founder & CEO Joshua Dorkin and active real estate investor Brandon Turner, this podcast provides actionable advice from investors and other real estate professionals every week. The show won’t tell you how to “get rich quick” or sell you a course, boot camp, or guru system; instead, the BiggerPockets Podcast will give you real strategies that work for real people. 

  • Good for: personal finances, understanding real estate and investing.
  • Solid tips and advice presented in a no-frills way. Little frills, little fluff. Mostly conversations with those who have made it in the real estate industry. Criticisms include that the hosts talk too much relative to the guests and that the level of sarcasm becomes grating.
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Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

The DFJ Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar (ETL) is a weekly seminar series on entrepreneurship, co-sponsored by BASES (a student entrepreneurship group), Stanford Technology Ventures Program, and the Department of Management Science and Engineering. (~60 min per episode)

  • Good for: those who live on the east coast but want to speak the language of technology, entrepreneurship, and venture capital spoken on the west coast.
  • A good blend of thought leadership, high-information/low-noise conversation, and questions asked by an intelligent business school student body. Packed full of good lessons for tech entrepreneurs and inspiring anecdotes to motivate them when times get tough.