For a small segment of Yale’s population, one graduate degree is not enough.
Students at Yale’s graduate and professional schools can pursue degrees on different campuses simultaneously if they are accepted to more than one program, but nine joint candidates interviewed said doing so involves overcoming significant financial and logistical challenges. For a select few, though, specialized professional goals or divergent intellectual curiosities may necessitate a dual degree. In these cases, those interviewed said the benefits of a joint program outweigh the costs.
“In developing our joint degree programs we have taken advantage of the strong ties across schools,” said School of Management Dean Sharon Oster. “For many students, the whole is far more than the sum of its parts.”
Earning a joint degree costs less than obtaining two degrees separately: students said they must pay at least three semesters’ worth of tuition at each school in which they are enrolled, but can choose to pay for more semesters of the less expensive program and only three semesters of the more expensive one.
As for juggling sometimes incompatible schedules, students often have to figure out these difficulties alone because Yale provides limited support for the needs of their small cohort, Julia Spiegel LAW ’13, who is pursuing a joint degree with the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, said in an e-mail.
Despite logistical obstacles and the challenge of blending disparate fields, all the students interviewed said the highlight of their Yale experience is finding where their two paths of study intersect.
FINDING THE ‘COMMON GROUND’
For Andrew Barnett FES ’12, who is also studying at the Divinity School, the study of theology and the study of the environment are intimately connected.
“Broadly conceived, the study of the environment is the study of what problems people face, what is causing those problems, and how we can intervene to make those problems go away,” he said. “Theology asks what is the right relationship of a person to the rest of creation, and what should we do about that? The common ground between them is ethics.”
He added that he has also had the opportunity to see his interests mix in the creation of the Yale Divinity Farm, a collaboration between Urban Resource Initiative and the Divinity School. He said the farm bridges the ideological divide between environmentalists and theologians, who work together to cultivate organic produce.
Nicole Cabbad SOM ’11, who is also a student at Yale Medical School, said she plans to be a doctor, but wanted the MBA to enhance her understanding of health care reform.
“I wanted the MBA while I’m still early in my career to see how business looks at issues like providing care, distribution of medicine, how insurance is provided, and more,” she said. “I think that with the way health care is going, a business style is increasingly necessary for leadership.”
She added that taking courses at both schools has allowed her access to two different cultures and pedagogical approaches. While at the medical school, students often study independently in the library, students at SOM must work more collaboratively with others. Very little knowledge is transferable between the two schools, she said, but added that learning to use her mind in the ways required for the two degrees has made her “well-rounded” and will be valuable in the future.
Hiromi Yoshida SOM ’11, who is also pursuing an MD-MBA, said the School of Medicine and SOM attract different sorts of people, although both communities are very supportive.
“At the business school, people are older and come from different backgrounds,” he said. “It is very interesting to hear about the very diverse things they have done pre- and post-graduation. I’ve loved it here.”
For some, like Dai Agawa GRD ’12, who is studying for an MBA as well as a Masters in International Relations, the second degree may simply satisfy an intellectual curiosity.
“It’s more of a hobby than anything else,” he said of his study of international relations. “[At home] in Japan, my concentration was in international relations, and I am just continuing that education now. I came to Yale because I wanted a broader education in the public sector.”
NO ROOM FOR UNCERTAINTY
All nine students interviewed said joint degree candidates should have a career path in mind before signing on for a double workload, or they will waste both time and money at two different schools.
Christopher Hurtado SOM ’12, who is a joint JD-MBA candidate, said students should not pursue a joint degree simply to add more letters to their degree.
“It’s not for everyone, and students should think carefully about their career goals and only do a joint degree if it makes sense,” he said. “If you just want to practice law, you probably don’t need the MBA. It’s not just another credential.”
Schools urge students to consider carefully before committing to a second degree. The Yale Law School admissions blog stresses that students do not need to do a joint degree to have an interdisciplinary legal education, as many courses are cross-listed between the Law School and other programs.
Christopher Hines SOM ’12, a JD-MBA candidate, said that students who pursue a joint degree without a clear career path miss out on taking elective courses in their preferred field.
“Since I have to take the core [classes] at both schools, I don’t have extra years for additional electives,” he said. “This works for me because I came in knowing what I wanted to get out of it, but for people less sure about their career, it would be a major drawback.”
For Hines, who wants to work in education reform, both degrees will serve a specific purpose. He needs the business degree because he wants to run a non-profit, he said, and the law degree will be useful because he wants to be able to address his organization’s legal concerns without outside help, and because he wants to understand the education reform that occurs in the courts.
The Master of Business Administration is a popular second degree. Forty-two students at the SOM are currently pursuing joint degrees, including 25 also studying at the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, six at the Law School, and five at the School of Medicine.
To receive degrees from two schools, students must apply and be admitted to each separately. At Yale Law School, they must petition the Faculty Committee on Special Courses of Study for permission to apply to another school, the admissions blog states. Tuition and financial aid for joint degree students are determined by the school at which they are “in residence” during a given semester.
Programs divide students’ residency in varying ways, but students spend some semesters on one campus or the other, and some taking classes on both. For example, JD-MBA candidates spend their first year at Yale Law School, their second year at SOM and their third year at the Law School while also taking business electives.
The joint JD-MBA program takes four years, or if students are accepted into the integrated accelerated JD-MBA program, three — the same amount of time as a JD on its own, and only one year more than an MBA. Most joint degrees take one year less than the time required to complete the two programs independently.
Cabbad said running between two schools can cause logistical nightmares. At one point, she said, she went straight from finishing classes at the medical school to take her US Medical Licensing Examinations, and then immediately had to start business school.
“People have to think about what the two degrees offer in terms of their own interests and where they want to develop academically or career-wise,” said Howard Chang FES ’12, who is also working towards an MBA. “It’s a big investment of time and money, but if it’s logical, it’s very rewarding.”
The integrated accelerated JD-MBA program, which takes three years to complete, was launched in 2009. The joint degree previously took four years.