With the proliferation of specialized master’s and new application options, more and more bschool applicants are being enticed to expand their horizons and try for simultaneous degrees. There have long been available certain specialized combinations that were geared towards specific industries or tracks, including the MBA / MPH (Master’s in Public Health) or the MBA / JD (law school and bschool simultaneously). Many of these joint degree programs shave time off the total years needed to earn both degrees, so that you get through all your requirements more quickly than you would if pursuing them separately. There’s a new trend right now with the engineering Master’s in conjunction with the MBA that makes a lot of sense for the schools to offer, given how much emphasis there is on tech these days. Does one of these combos make sense for you? How will it affect your chances of getting in if you try to pitch this in your MBA apps?
Before we get too far with this, it’s important that you realize that each school operates differently, and you’ll need to research the requirements for your targets directly. Many schools will now accept the GMAT more globally, including as one test requirement for the JD/MBA. Other schools still need an LSAT for the law school side. Other types of master’s programs have traditionally only accepted a GRE score and not a GMAT, and in those cases, you may decide to apply for the MBA with a GRE instead of going through the hassle of both tests. In addition, some schools have standardized rounds and deadlines for their other master’s apps to match their MBA program, but others have not (again, law school and med school tend to be the exceptions). All this is to say that there are wide variations in requirements and processes, and you’ll need to research them separately school by school and program by program.
Is it easier to get into a competitive MBA program if you are applying as a joint-degree candidate? Is it harder?
There are no easy answers to this, not just because it can vary widely by which joint degree we’re talking about, but also because certain programs offer multiple points of entry.
In many cases, the schools ask for you to apply to both programs you’re interested in simultaneously, in the same admissions round or at least in the same admissions season. But there are some programs where you can apply and be admitted to one program, and start your coursework there, and then while you’re a current student in your first year of studies, you can apply to the second degree program in the other school on campus. (Note: The word “school” in this sentence means a distinct school WITHIN ONE INSTITUTION like the School of Law and the School of Business both at Stanford University.) You can do it this way with, say, Columbia Law: You can apply and get accepted to start their JD program, and then as a 1Y, apply to the Columbia GSB for their 3-year JD/MBA. You’d then start with Columbia business in the fall of your second year if you got in.
Similar situation with Harvard Kennedy School and their MPP program, which offers a joint degree with the MBA at HBS, Stanford, Wharton, MIT and Tuck: You can apply to HKS and if accepted, start your studies, and then during that first year, apply to the MBA program at those sister schools. (In this case, “school” could mean either Harvard Business School, which is across the river from HKS, or it can mean those other bschools at different universities that we just listed out. Those are the only MBA programs that you can do the HKS joint degree with.)
Both of those scenarios can work out nicely for an applicant, primarily because yes, it is way easier to get into Columbia Law, or to Harvard Kennedy School, than it is to the MBA programs at those places right now. It certainly didn’t used to be easy to get into a top tier law school like Columbia, and when we say “easy” it’s really relative. It’s still very very competitive for any law school admissions. But the law school market has softened considerably, and gaining an admit to any good law program in the U.S. is a totally different story than pulling off the same at a bschool on that school’s same campus.
So, yes, relatively speaking, one of those paths would be much more doable for a lot of BSers than trying to get into the MBA program straightaway.
Does that mean you’re a shoo-in for the bschool program if you’re already a student at another grad program on campus? No, not at all. We’ve seen plenty of candidates try this strategy, and it doesn’t pan out. If you want to go this route then you’d best be confident that the first master’s you’re trying for will be sufficient for you based on what you want to do with your life. You can’t bank on the MBA being a guaranteed part of the package.
What about the programs that require simultaneous apps to both master’s programs at once? Is it an advantage or a liability to try for those?
The answer here is “it depends” – and the details are complicated. We’ll need to come back to this when we can devote ourselves to laying all of it out for you separately.
For now: Questions about your plans for a joint MBA + Master’s? Any schools and specific programs you’re targeting? Lay them on us in the comments, we’d be curious to hear what you’re considering!
Here's what others have said about this:
What fun timing – it was during just these past couple of days that I started to consider applying to the joint MBA/MILR program at Cornell.
At first, I thought of the MILR program as a nice supplement for the MBA, but I’m now thinking more and more that it might be the other way around – where an MBA will give me a holistic context around the purpose and function of HR in business. I was pleasantly surprised to stumble across Cornell’s treasure trove of webcasts and the more I watch the more convinced I am that MILR offers the core of what I want to study.
Would you guys know whether the recommendation letters are the same for both programs? I know the MBA app uses the Common format but I haven’t been able to find the set of questions for the MILR application. In any case, I’ll keep looking and there is an upcoming admissions event where I’ll be able to ask.
@iodinedrops, the MILR program is great! We’ve helped a number of BSers with their apps to that in the past. (For those of you unfamiliar, it’s a “labor relations” degree which originally was focused on stuff like management ← → union negotiations and has now evolved in a broader way around human resources and the people part of an enterprise.)
Unfortunately we’re not familiar with the LOR requirements specific to that program, however many other non-MBA master’s programs ask for literally a letter of recommendation — like, literally they just want a recommender to write a letter about you. Usually, that same-exact letter can then be used for all the graduate program apps. The MBA programs have a much more structured process where they want specific questions answered and they typically do NOT want “a letter” – but requirements vary tremendously by school. We track these differences on this page. (You probably know all this already, we’re just being thorough here in our response for anyone else who wanders in!)
Sounds like you are knee-deep in the research phase, which is fun! There are so many programs out there that it can be overwhelming and exciting, all at the same time. We’d be curious to hear back when you learn from the MILR folks what their recommendation requirements are.