Last month, I started a blog series on dual degrees – “JD and…”. As a dual degree student, I wanted to share with you some thoughts on the advantages/disadvantages of an “extended educational experience” as I like to call it. In the first post, guest blogger Michael Cannella, shared his experience as a JD/MPH at Boston University. In this post, I thought I’d give you a different perspective, as a JD/MALD at Boston University AND Tufts University. [Note: “MALD” is just a fancy term for Master’s Degree at my school – The Fletcher School for Law and Diplomacy.]
Why I chose a dual degree
When I graduated from college, I knew I wanted to do international human rights work. But I was torn between going to law school and going to grad school. Law school was very appealing, but every job posting that drew my eye required a Master’s Degree in International Relations. I felt that I had to choose one or the other – I didn’t think they made sense as a pair.
That’s when I landed a job at the Center for Reproductive Rights – CRR is a non-profit organization that focuses on legal advocacy as a means to promote women’s reproductive rights in the US and abroad – aka every person on the program staff is a lawyer. After speaking with a few people at CRR, I realized that having a Master’s Degree AND a JD could be very useful in this type of work. One law school fellow told me that she wished she had done a JD/MA program because the market is so competitive; having an MA would set her apart from all the other JD applicants.
And the more I looked into it, the more connections I made. If you’re interested in anything having to do with international development, human security, post-conflict development, I highly recommend that you consider a joint degree program. If you’re interested in working with foreign parliaments on drafting legislation (like in BU’s Africa iParliaments clinic), or helping countries draft new constitutions (think Nepal or Egypt), or even working in law and development (here’s a great student run program at Harvard Law School).
Mo’ schools, mo’ problems?
So, I chose to do a degree at two different schools, but in the same city. I did a lot of research and thinking into this. Here are a few tips/considerations:
1. Pick the programs that are best for you. I compared the BU International Relations program and the Fletcher School and I found that Fletcher was a better fit for my career goals in terms of its faculty and course offerings on human rights and conflict resolution.
2. There will be some road blocks. One of the worst parts about going to two schools is the commute. I had to choose one school to live close to; I chose BU, but that means my commute to Tufts is over an hour by public transportation. Also, I ran into a few hiccups regarding financial aid – nothing major, just some confusion and a delay in getting my disbursement. You have to be prepared to do some leg work. But I think it’s worth it if you get self-design the right program for you.
3. Double the resources. As a student of Tufts and BU, I get to use the facilities at both schools. Two libraries, two career offices, two alumni/faculty networks, two school mascots. This also relates to the next point…
4. Same city, different schools. I considered going to law school at UC Berkeley, but then I would’ve had to move across the country once, if not TWICE to finish my degree. I know someone who has done it, so it’s not impossible…but that was more than I was willing to do. By staying in the same city, I have had access to both universities, their career offices, alumni/faculty networks, etc. throughout my four years. This has been a HUGE advantage.
5. The social part matters. The nature of grad school and law school is that you’re going to make some great friends in your graduating class (Go Class of 2014!). As a dual degree student, you make friends and then they graduate; then you go back to square one. I thought it wouldn’t make a difference, but it is hard to continually make friends when you’re split between schools.