MBA Double-Degrees On The Upswing

Graduate School of Business Knight Management Center

Graduate School of Business Knight Management Center

It’s not as if a full-time MBA from an elite business school has lost its value. The highly sought after degree remains a catapult  – into the higher levels of industry, into rising startups, into innovative social enterprises. For most students aspiring to work in those realms at a much higher level than they would with just a college degree, the MBA is enough – for most, that is, but not for all.

Some seek a bigger catapult. Simultaneously with their business education, they take on another advanced degree. And while numbers aren’t available concerning the total number of U.S. MBA students taking dual or joint degrees, developments in top business schools suggest this difficult challenge is becoming more valued, and more popular.

Stanford’s Graduate School of Business is launching a new joint degree program, as Yale’s School of Management reports a record percentage of MBA students simultaneously taking two degrees.

In the past two years, Stanford has unveiled three new joint degree programs, the most recent of which, starting next year, combines an MBA with an MS in electrical engineering.

Typically, joint degree programs require students to complete the requirements for two separate degrees. Many schools offer “dual degree” programs for MBA students; these arrangements often allow overlap of degree requirements, with single courses counting for credit across both degrees. Tuition costs vary by school and program, from the simple adding together of each program’s price to more complicated formulas that make the combined program cheaper than the sum of both parts.


This year, Yale set a record for its percentage of MBA students taking joint degrees, with 15% adding another sheepskin to their business master’s, up from 14% the previous year.

Yale’s senior associate dean for the MBA program suggests the school’s output of double-dippers will help make Earth a better place.

“Combining business education with graduate study in another discipline gives them a solid foundation for addressing some of the most vexing problems facing our world,” Anjani Jain says.

And to be sure, the breakdown among the 47 Yale MBA candidates’ other degree fields shows most are concentrated in areas of potential impact in human affairs. Fourteen are going to law school to receive a JD along with their MBA. Sixteen are after a master’s degree in forestry, seven are pursuing a master’s in public health; three others are in medical school to add an MD to their MBA. Whether the single divinity student and the MA candidate in drama will go on to address important and vexing problems remains to be seen but is certainly not inconceivable.

At Stanford, seven students enrolled in a new joint degree program that will provide an MBA and MS in computer science to graduating students. Currently, about 13% to 15% of GSB students are in joint- or dual-degree programs, compared to fewer than 10% four or five years ago, says Madhav Rajan, senior associate dean for academic affairs. Rajan expects that once the joint computer science and electrical engineering programs become established, the proportion of MBA students doing double degrees will rise.


“We like joint- and dual-degree students,” Rajan says. “They’re usually very, very good students and they have diverse interest, and I think they add a lot. Having students stay more than two years and acquire a degree in another field is a positive thing. We want to encourage that.”

Administrators at a number of business schools have for many years recognized the value of offering double-degree options, and some of the programs are evolving along with economic and technological change. At MIT’s Sloan School of Management, a decline in U.S. manufacturing in the late ’80s led to the creation of the Leaders for Global Operations (LGO) dual-degree program, which gives students an MBA from Sloan, plus an MS in engineering. Students perform a six-month internship at a partner company – Amazon, Caterpillar, Dell and Boeing are among the partners – take “plant treks” to factories and distribution centers, and participate in “global operations leadership” seminars with company executives.

“The origins were to prepare students to become leaders in manufacturing in the U.S., to give them the business management skills that they need and the technical skills that they need and to put all those skills together,” says Jane Deutsch, admissions director for the LGO program, which enrolls about 50 students per year. Tuition costs $123,000 for the two years, minus an automatic one-time fellowship of $45,000 to $65,000. The tuition amount is slightly lower than for Sloan’s regular MBA – $127,500 for two years – because the LGO program includes a six-month internship off campus and a summer semester priced at the MIT graduate school rate.

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