JD vs. MBA/PhD: Which Is Better?

Many college students and graduates debate between law school, business school and doctorate (PhD) programs. So, which is better, a JD, MBA or PhD? The most important consideration is the type of work you want to do in the future. Nevertheless, there are some definite benefits between one choice vs. the other. (Spoiler alert: I do think you get a lot more “bang for the buck” with a JD!) Please see my thoughts below.

  • To begin with, you may NOT need to choose between a JD and an MBA: many Universities offer a joint degree, allowing you to graduate with both a JD and an MBA in four (4) years, if that is of interest to you.
  • Assuming you are not going the joint degree route, a JD will take you three (3) years, an MBA typically will take two (2) years, and a PhD typically will take you four to seven (4-7) years.
  • A very significant factor to consider is that a JD is required if you want to be a lawyer, judge or law school professor. In contrast, you do not need an MBA if you want to run a business. Some employers may arbitrarily require an MBA for certain jobs, but a JD is mandatory if you want to be a lawyer, judge or law school professor.
  • Because a JD is a requirement to practice law, to be a judge or to teach law school, the supply of available candidates for these jobs is dramatically reduced. That provides you a significant benefit when it comes to securing one of these jobs and/or demanding a higher salary.
  • Normally, a PhD is required to be a college professor at most Universities. However, you also can teach as a college professor or law school professor with a JD, which also is considered a “doctorate” degree. In addition, the salaries for teaching law school with a JD typically will be higher than the salaries of most college professors with a PhD.
  • Bottom line: you likely will get a lot more “bang for the buck” with a JD vs. an MBA or PhD, but it still depends upon what type of work you ultimately want to do!