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Hi all,

I am an undergrad majoring in Sociology and Political Science and minoring in Chinese. I am debating whether to go for a Master in Public Policy or JD in law school. I read a lot on this topic and everyone seems to be saying different things.

Background Info: I am generally interested in areas of immigration, women's rights, domestic violence, human trafficking, LGBT rights, and much more into international issues. If go to law school, I would like to do immigration law or international law. If I do an MPP, I am thinking of becoming a policy/program analyst but do not know what field yet. I would like a job that balances between something I find meaningful and works to improve social justice,  and pays around $60,000-$80,000 per year (do they exist?). It seems that immigration law and certain policy analyst jobs provide that sort of $, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

Questions:
1. Many comments say that an MPP is very different from a JD and will give u skills a JD wont, and vice versa. What are the specific skills one will gain by doing each degree that one couldn't obtain doing the other degree? What are the advantages each have on employment?

2. I can find a lot of information about job prospects for law grads but not MPP grads. If anyone got an MPP, around what percentage of your class got jobs in related fields? How competitive is it to get a related job compared to lawyers?

3. Are there certain personality traits or working styles that would be more suitable for one type of career than the other?

4. How do the hours, work/life balance, and pay of a policy/program analyst compare with lawyers (especially immigration lawyers)? Does the average MPP grad make less, more, or equal to around $60,000-80,000 a year?

Any insights would truly help. Thank you so much!

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16 hours ago, DreamyMatcha said:

immigration law or international law.

Immigration law is a field that one can realistically expect to break into, but international law isn't. If you're talking about working for the Hague, UN, State, etc., those jobs are ridiculously competitive, and are typically only reserved for the top 10% at a T14 (+ moot court awards, review publications, etc.) or top third at Harvard/Yale/Stanford.

16 hours ago, DreamyMatcha said:

and pays around $60,000-$80,000 per year (do they exist?).

Yes, they do. If you're coming in straight out of undergrad, I wouldn't expect to necessarily be making $60k starting salary--a master's with no experience yields GS-9 in the government, which is $50k. But after a couple of years, you'll be hitting the $60-$80k range pretty quickly. Lawyers progress through the pay scales much faster than analysts/traditional civil servants--they may take 5 years to hit $110k+ range, vs. civil servants taking 10-20 years--but their jobs are A LOT harder to get in the first place. Federal government lawyering is more competitive than big law.

16 hours ago, DreamyMatcha said:

What are the specific skills one will gain by doing each degree that one couldn't obtain doing the other degree? What are the advantages each have on employment?

Fields are very different, and so there isn't necessarily an "advantage" in one or the other. I know that MPP programs are more about implementing/analyzing policy with regard to their goals/objectives. I'd imagine that lawyering is focused on complying with regulations, or if you're in the hypercompetitive like nat-sec constitutional law or clerkships, it's more about argumentation, regardless of whether the position you're fighting for is necessarily right.

16 hours ago, DreamyMatcha said:

2. I can find a lot of information about job prospects for law grads but not MPP grads. If anyone got an MPP, around what percentage of your class got jobs in related fields?

Depends on the school and the field. You need to look at the school's employment reports for this and what types of employers students are placed at. Different MPP schools will have different focuses (e.g. CMU Heinz is very focused on domestic, quantitatively analytical work; Michigan Ford is fairly strong in both domestic and foreign policy). I've considered both fields, and I feel like MPP jobs are not as competitive, partly because of the attitude of job seekers and the nature of the field. Because the jobs are so different, you really need to consider what you want and what you're probably going to be able to get out of your education.

16 hours ago, DreamyMatcha said:

Does the average MPP grad make less, more, or equal to around $60,000-80,000 a year?

Merit scholarships are something you need to consider. For law school, conventional wisdom says you really need to go to the top school you can get into (e.g. Harvard over some place among the CCN), especially if you're going for clerkships/big gov. Because scholarship prospects greatly decline at the top schools and because law school tuition is so expensive, that means your education is probably going to be more expensive per year (note law is 3 years, vs. MPP 2 years) than an MPP program. MPP programs don't appear to have such a strict hierarchy, and so students can select applications and school enrollments in a much more financially strategic fashion.

Among the big nine on these forums (CMU, Harvard, Princeton, Michigan, Georgetown, Berkeley, Columbia, Chicago, and Duke), there are some informal tiers (Princeton >>> Harvard > Berkeley/Columbia/Chicago > Duke/Georgetown/Michigan/CMU), but students regularly choose less selective schools over seemingly more prestigious schools because of how they might fit their goals better. Employers don't seem to make such rigid distinctions either as opposed to law (Y > H/S >>> CCN >>> remaining T-14 >>>>> everyone else).

So, like many students here, you may be able to choose a school because of the funding they offer you. That may mean a much smaller financial burden than that held by law school graduates.

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AAAAAAAA has made some great points.

I think a LOT of it depends on what kind of program you can get into, and how much debt you'll have to take out in each scenario. 

If you go to an elite MPP program you can easily make 60-75 out the gate if you go in the private sector and have some work experience (and I have a few late-20s friends making in the 80s), but it's harder if you don't have prior work experience or want to go into non-profit land (where some of my friends are making in the mid-40s to low 50s).  Also, the higher salaries tend to be in higher COL cities, so 60k might not stretch as far as you would think - especially if you have loans to pay.

Post-law school salaries can be surprisingly low if you don't go into Big Law and if you're outside the T-14. My best friend from high school went to a top 30 school with a very good reputation in our home city (which has a big legal market), graduated in 2014 and it her 6+ months and a personal connection to get a ~$50k/yr state government job. And she did law review and had good grades. Another friend of mine graduated from Georgetown and it still took him almost two years to find a 60kish full-time job with benefits at a small private law firm (he was doing doc review and then an hourly/no-benefits position before that), although this was a few years ago so maybe more peak recession. I also have no idea what his grades were like.

 

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