The Rise of Dual-Degree MBA Programs

Students can combine an MBA with a degree in another complementary discipline, such as engineering, law or medicine

Traditionally, an MBA has been the go-to qualification for high-fliers looking to acquire a strong foundation in essential areas such as finance, marketing, strategy and leadership. However, as industries have become more interdisciplinary, the demand for professionals with specialized expertise has increased. Dual-degree MBA programs address this demand by allowing students to combine an MBA with a degree in another complementary discipline, such as engineering, law or medicine.

Students enrolled in these programs not only develop a multifaceted skill set but also the ability to integrate diverse perspectives, think critically across disciplines and navigate complex problems.

Create your own dual degree 

A growing number of business schools around the world are now offering dual MBA programs. At Michigan Ross, there are 22 formal dual degree programs and students can also create their own dual degree. Some of the more popular programs include: medicine, public policy, environmental sustainability and law. 

“One of the benefits of being part of a large, public university is the opportunity to create your own educational experience,” says Matt Ganderson, managing director of full-time and global MBA programs at Michigan Ross. 

“MBA students at Ross can build both a general, foundational skill set while also specializing in a certain area, building a depth of knowledge,” he adds. “Pursuing a dual degree allows students to specialize in two areas but reduces the number of individual courses required for each.”

Academic advisors from Ross and partner schools provide coaching and resources to ensure that students meet the requirements of their dual degree program without feeling overwhelmed. 

“They also rely on other students in their dual degree program for tips, advice and best practices,” Ganderson says. “Some programs even have student clubs dedicated to supporting the dual degree experience, leveraging the knowledge and mentorship of second and third-year students in the program.”

Maximizing impact in your chosen field 

Harvard Business School offers several dual-degree MBA programs in conjunction with other Harvard schools, including a Master of Science in Biotechnology/MBA with the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and a Juris Doctorate (JD)/MBA with Harvard Law School. Joint-degree students can also pursue electives at both schools during the final year of their studies. 

“The joint-degree programs provide opportunities to collaborate with Harvard partner schools to arm students with the skills and knowledge they need to maximize their impact and effectiveness in their chosen field,” says Jill Fadule, director of joint-degree programs at Harvard Business School.

She continues: “Often, the problems MBA students seek to solve and the opportunities they are excited to pursue are complex, thorny and multi-faceted. By arming themselves with two bodies of knowledge, they’re in a better position to make progress.”

But she points out that the MBA program alone is a rigorous, full-time endeavor, let alone combined with another masters. “For some programs, students arrive early and/or participate in winter term courses to be sure that all degree requirements are met. For others, students participate in late-afternoon seminars.”

Strong student demand for niche studies 

In Washington D.C, the McDonough School of Business offers, among other dual-degree options, the MBA/Master of Public Policy, and MBA/Master of Science in Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Students do not take more classes at one time, rather, the time they are in school lengthens in years.

The creation of these programs was based on student demand, as well as the McDonough School’s understanding that there are certain niche industries where overlapping skills in two areas is helpful. 

“An MBA gives you business skills, but when you combine a business degree with other offerings, you’re able to add a specialty to manage law like a business, or public policy like a business,” Shelly Heinrich, associate dean of MBA admissions at the McDonough School, adding that “MBA skills are universal and applicable to all industries”.

If you pursue the degrees separately, she says it will take longer and be more costly. “With a dual degree, part of the electives overlap so you get more bang for your buck. Plus, you can utilize the career centers in the two schools simultaneously to maximize your probability of success,” Heinrich says.

In the UK, the Oxford 1+1 MBA gives candidates the opportunity to combine a master’s degree from selected University of Oxford departments, with the one-year MBA at Saïd Business School.

“We offer more than 30-degree combinations, partnering with departments including the Blavatnik School of Government, the School of Geography and the Environment, and the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine,” says Amy Major, associate director of MBA program delivery at Saïd Business School.

Full tuition scholarships for dual degrees 

The Oxford 1+1 MBA program allows students to gain deep expertise in their specialist field during their first year, and then develop a comprehensive understanding of business in their second year when joining the MBA.

Many of the Oxford 1+1 MBA candidates apply for the Oxford-Pershing Square Graduate Scholarships. These cover the full tuition fees and support outstanding students who demonstrate the potential and commitment to finding scalable and sustainable solutions to global challenges in society.

The scholarships also come with various additional benefits beyond the money, such as attending prestigious conferences and access to mentorship opportunities.

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