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.

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