MBA or JD? Which Path Is Right for You?

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More Americans than ever before are pursuing graduate degrees, according to research from the National Center for Education Statistics. An estimated 773,000 completed master’s degree tracks last year. That figure is expected to surpass 790,000 by the end of the 2017-2018 school year and rise to 922,000 by 2027. What is the driving force behind this widespread embrace of graduate education? Increased earning potential. Individuals between the ages of 25 and 34 with master’s degrees take in nearly $5,000 more per month than peers who have only completed bachelor’s programs, analysts for the Pew Research Center discovered.

Among the most popular programs are the Master of Business Administration and law tracks. In 2016, more than 185,000 students graduated with MBAs, while just over 37,000 earned Juris Doctor (JD) degrees, the NCES reported. These programs are especially popular among working professionals looking to change careers or accelerate their climb up the corporate ladder. Which one of these tracks offers the most potential for working students pursuing new opportunities? There are several variables prospective enrollees must consider when choosing between MBA and JD programs. Here are some of those critical factors:

Calculating the Cost

Cost is one of the primary concerns for professionals returning to the classroom after spending several years in the workforce. The cost of college has more than tripled over the past three decades, according to research from the College Board. This year alone, tuition, room and board, and processing fees will increase 1.5%. With this in mind, individuals returning to the academic realm often look for the most cost-effective degree options that will get them where they want to go professionally.

Between JD and MBA programs, the latter usually come with fewer financial burdens, researchers for the student loan startup Earnest found. The average JD track costs $139,000, while an MBA comes with fees totaling around $90,000. Of course, prospective students can maximize their cost savings by exploring alternative instructional options such as distance learning. These kinds of programs, like the online MBA program from Rider University, cut extra expenses associated with room and board and travel. Additionally, these convenient yet powerful programs allow students to continue with their existing jobs, mitigating the financial impact of the loss of income that occurs with full-time MBA courses. This approach could shave tens of thousands off the cost of graduate education for some, while facilitating continued cash flow.

Evaluating Outcomes

Another critical factor prospective graduate students must consider when choosing between JD and MBA programs is the career outcomes each of these instructional pathways offers. Most JD program graduates go on to become lawyers, a profession with an average annual salary of more than $118,000, according to research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some graduates go on to work as legal researchers, law school instructors and judges, careers that can net similarly strong salaries.

Professionals with MBAs can assume a variety of roles in industries of all kinds. These individuals work in numerous departments, from data analytics and supply chain management groups to communications and human resources divisions, according to survey data from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). A considerable number rise up through the ranks and take on more significant positions, including corner office jobs that come with salaries of more than $103,000 on average, the BLS reported. Apart from working in established businesses, MBA recipients can use their wide-ranging expertise to start their own ventures, something 6% of the MBA graduates who completed their degree programs in 2016 did, according to the GMAC.

In addition to measuring the career satisfaction that comes with each degree program, professionals bolstering their academic credentials mid-career must measure the earning potential of JD and MBA degrees against their total cost. Individuals who complete JD programs cultivate an average debt-to-income ratio of 1.01 within 11 years after graduation, according to Earnest. Those who earn MBAs end up navigating DTIs of just 0.71 ― the lowest average DTI of the top six graduate degree concentrations.

Selecting the Right Program

With these variables in mind, many prospective students embrace MBA programs, as the aforementioned NCES data established. There are countless MBA tracks on the market, each with its own character. Prospective students who want to receive a relevant and up-to-date education from active business professionals can apply to the online MBA program at Rider University.

The 39-credit-hour program covers a variety of essential management topics, ranging from personal development, leadership, and accounting controls and systems to marketing management and business integration. The online MBA features Business Analytics, Finance and Global Business concentrations, allowing students to customize their experience.

Professionals who graduate with an MBA can use the new credential as a resume builder as they apply for new roles either within their current organizations or at new companies. These graduates can work their way toward influential new positions such as marketing manager, business operations manager or management analyst. These roles can serve as beginnings on a promotion track that may lead to the C-suite.

Interested in learning more about the online MBA program at Rider University? Connect with an enrollment advisor today.

Recommended Readings:

Advanced Degrees in Business: Is an MBA Worth It?

Top Small-Business Owner Responsibilities to Ensure a Responsible Business


Rider University, Online Master’s in Business Administration

Rider University, Online MBA Curriculum

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statsitics, Should I get a master’s degree?

U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News Data: A Portrait of the Typical MBA Student

Deloitte, Rewriting the rules for the digital age 

National Center for Education Statistics, Master’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by field of study: Selected years, 1970-71 through 2014-15

Graduate Management Admission Council, Application Trends Survey Report 2017

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Top Executives