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Joint Degree MA/MBA?


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Hi Everyone,

First-time post. I am planning on applying to Master's programs in IR next year. I am currently a Peace Corps volunteer and will complete my extension of service in June. I am wondering if anyone has any experience or knowledge about joint MA/MBA programs? Do certain joint degree programs have better reputations/cache/professional placement? My target schools are Fletcher, SIPA, SAIS, SIS, Elliott, and Korbel with the accompanying b-schools being Tuck, Wharton, Kogod, GW's b-school, and Denver's b-school respectively. I have eliminated a lot of the other top policy and business programs based on my desire for an international career. Programs like Michigan and Chicago are out for being too domestic-focused. Are there other schools I should consider? The MA is my priority with the MBA adding an extra skillset. Should I pay attention to business school rankings? Will I lose out on some of the community experience/second-year electives and specialization by dividing my time between two schools/programs? Does it even make sense for me to pursue an MBA when my career interests lie in humanitarian aid delivery and complex emergencies? Any thoughts or insight would be helpful. Thanks!

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Hi Everyone,

First-time post. I am planning on applying to Master's programs in IR next year. I am currently a Peace Corps volunteer and will complete my extension of service in June. I am wondering if anyone has any experience or knowledge about joint MA/MBA programs? Do certain joint degree programs have better reputations/cache/professional placement? My target schools are Fletcher, SIPA, SAIS, SIS, Elliott, and Korbel with the accompanying b-schools being Tuck, Wharton, Kogod, GW's b-school, and Denver's b-school respectively. I have eliminated a lot of the other top policy and business programs based on my desire for an international career. Programs like Michigan and Chicago are out for being too domestic-focused. Are there other schools I should consider? The MA is my priority with the MBA adding an extra skillset. Should I pay attention to business school rankings? Will I lose out on some of the community experience/second-year electives and specialization by dividing my time between two schools/programs? Does it even make sense for me to pursue an MBA when my career interests lie in humanitarian aid delivery and complex emergencies? Any thoughts or insight would be helpful. Thanks!

Hey, I'm a PCV also, going through applications right now (finish an extension/pc Response in May). I struggled with your same issues. Some other options to consider: Brandeis has a MA Int Sustainable Dev/ MBA dual degree option, and Univ. South Carolina has an International MBA program. Both waive application fees for PCVs and have scholarship opportunities for us too. I opted against the dual degree because most would end up being 3 years. I am applying to two of the MDP (Master s Development Practice) programs, Columbia and Emory, which offer a variety of skills, including some training in management/business aspects. I'm also applying to Fordham's IPED program, because it has a strong economic focus. And NYU's MPA PNP which has an international specialization. My guess is that for an international aid career, you could get many of the same skills as an MBA program pursuing an MPA. But I have to admit, I think the strong association people have with MBAs make them a strong pull, and indeed I am applying to USCarolina's IMBA program for that reason. Sorry if this is more rambling than helpful, but I've definitely thought about a lot of your same concerns! Good luck,

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Michigan is most certainly not too domestic focused, either within the policy school or the business school. If you're using the bush league Foreign Policy rankings as a guide then you are being misled. It is true that the Ford school is well respected as a social policy school and that may tend towards a domestic slant, however, it is an ASPIA member and the quality of the international courses are top notch. Furthermore, the quality of the electives at Michigan, within other programs such as law or public health, is top tier and stands up to the best of them.

Also, the Ross school of business is well regarded in the international sphere and I think that any combination of rankings would land it well ahead of all of the schools you are considering other than Columbia which would be considered a peer.

I would strongly suggest Michigan. There are at least a dozen RPCV currently in the program (the program has around 200 total, ~80-90 per cohort with the remainder being dual degree). Many of them are dual degree students with Ross. Check out the research, interests and CVs of Susan Waltz, Robert Axelrod, Melvin Levitsky, John Ciociarri, Phillip Potter, Alan Deardorff, Susan Collins, etc. All of them regularly teach courses in the Ford School. Look at the IEDP (but ignore the ugly page). Lastly, consider that around 25% of all internships for Ford School students are based in other countries. Compare the quality of internships to those at Korbel and tell me they are even in the same league.

At any rate, if you have any questions about the Ford School please feel free to PM me.

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Thanks for the responses. Cplanicka, congrats on your PC service and extension as well. I will take a look at Brandeis. I considered pursuing MDPs as well, but I'm wary because most of the programs are pretty new. The interdisciplinary coursework is tempting, but I think I am headed towards a more generalist-managerial role than a technical specialist one. I agree with you that MBAs/MPAs have a lot of skillset overlap, but I think the MBA will have more cache and more aggressive professional development/career placement.

fadeindreams, thank you for your input regarding Ford. I will look again. I don't doubt that it gives the requisite skillset to be successful both domestically and international; I just think that other schools that are more internationally focused seem like a better fit. And since I am planning on applying for joint-degrees at all of them, that ups the application quotient considerably. I will definitely check out the faculty you mentioned, but in perusing the available courses, not as many jumped out at me right away. I will look again at courses available through other schools. I am really looking to specialize in human security and humanitarian aid policy and practice and from what I can tell the closest Ford gets is having a focus area in international development.

To anyone else who may be reading this, I am really curious if anyone has experience or knows someone who has done a joint-degree. What does it do to your ability to network and socialize within your cohort? Does it have a negative effect on being able to do an exchange/study abroad or internship? I am also concerned about spending all of my time fulfilling first-year core requirements in each program and having less time/ability to specialize and take advanced electives. Also, in general, as someone primarily interested in IR and planning on working in the non-profit sector, will I be too out of tune with my private-sector destined b-school classmates? I am aware that pursuing b-school and not intending to go into the private sector means I'll have to work extra hard to make the program work for me, but what I'm really looking for is managerial skills and courses related to operational management and organizational behavior. For anyone currently enrolled in an IR/MPP/MPA program, do you know anyone who is a joint-degree student? Or do you know of any schools that haven't been mentioned that offer concentrations in human security with courses pertaining to complex emergencies/disaster relief/etc.? Any other thoughts, advice, insight appreciated. Good luck to everyone!

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What will an MBA give you that a MPP/MPA won't -- when most policy schools allow you to take electives in the business school -- that justifies a extra year of tuition and lost wages/career advancement? I suggest going over the curriculum at each of the business schools that you are applying to because they are likely to be very different. Some schools (chicago, mit) are quite analytical and quantitative in nature, while others are very "fluffy" with the courses you have to take. Some offer a great deal of flexibility, while others will make you take a standard first-year core with classes in IT and accounting that may be a waste of your time. If you are interested in something like finance or development economics, then I can see how a flexible MBA at a very quantitative program that is particularly strong in your focus area makes sense. If you just want a background in operations (why?) and organizational behavior, then maybe you can take a few classes as electives in the business school without losing a year of salary/career advancement and paying another year of tuition.

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