MBA vs. JD Programs

Those thinking about getting a master’s of business administration (MBA) or juris doctor (JD) degree have plenty of company. There are more than 1.3 million lawyers in the U.S., with about 150,000 students enrolling in JD programs every year, according to the American Bar Association. Similarly, an MBA is currently the most popular master’s degree in America, with almost 200,000 students graduating from MBA programs every year, according to a report by Fortune. Graduates of either degree are well-equipped to lead in a wide range of industries, especially in business—so much so that many universities offer joint MBA and JD programs.

An MBA is a generalist degree in business administration. Core classes cover broad areas such as financial accounting, strategic operations, marketing, and organizational leadership. While students can choose from a wide range of specializations, these and other electives offered at MBA programs make up a comparably small slice of the overall curriculum. Even MBAs that specialize in areas such as business law will only visit the topic in a cursory manner compared to a more intensely focused degree, such as the JD.

Juris doctor programs are designed to train students to become lawyers. First-year core classes cover fundamental topics such as constitutional law, torts, contracts, legal writing, and civil procedure. The skills one learns in pursuit of this degree—critical thinking, strategic decision making, and communication—are widely applicable elsewhere, but this is not a generalist degree. And while JD graduates will often work outside of a courtroom, they will almost always leverage their law education in the profession in which they choose to work.

Featured MBA Programs
Rice University MBA@Rice Online MBA View Full Profile
Texas A&M International University Online MBA - Management View Full Profile
University of California, Davis Online MBA (MBA@UCDavis) View Full Profile
University of Miami Online Master of Business Administration View Full Profile
Southern New Hampshire University MBA Online View Full Profile
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Online MBA View Full Profile

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Check out the side-by-side comparison chart below to learn more about the similarities and differences between the two degrees.

Matt Zbrog
Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog is a writer and researcher from Southern California. Since 2018, he’s written extensively about how new and aspiring business school students can best plan their education and careers. In the Two Views series, he conducts detailed interviews with recent business school alumni, with a particular focus on the choice between in-person, online, and hybrid learning models. His Femme-BA series highlights business schools that not only excel academically but also take unique and robust steps to support a diverse and inclusive learning environment for women.