How Financial Aid for Joint Degree Programs Works

What Are Joint Degree Programs, and Should You Apply For One?

The diversity of joint degree programs is increasing, as schools come up with new and creative combinations. For example, the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business now offers joint degree programs with Penn's prestigious School of Design, including an MBA/Masters in architecture and another joint degree that combines business and urban planning.

Smaller schools are getting into the act as well. New York's Union College has a program that enables students to earn both an MBA from Union's School of Management and a medical degree from Albany Medical College [source: Bodgas]. Florida's St. Thomas University offers programs that allow a student to obtain both a law degree and a masters degree in fields ranging from family counseling to sports administration [source: St. Thomas University School of Law].

And there's the Jewish Professional Leadership Program offered jointly by the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University, which gives future leaders of religious institutions a background in both theology and public administration [source: Weiss].

But be forewarned. Getting a joint degree can mean a brutal workload, and you've got to have the intellectual flexibility to juggle the mindsets of two different academic cultures at once. "Pursuing a joint degree is a much bigger commitment than just taking a few classes," cautions the official admissions department blog at Harvard Law School. Instead, you're going to have to immerse yourself in two different intellectual communities, possibly at two different universities [source: Harvard Law School admissions].

Harvard Law's admissions blog suggests asking this seemingly basic, but sometimes overlooked, question of yourself at the start: What are the potential career paths of interest to you that could come out of that second degree? In other words, what sort of potential jobs interest you? Would you be able to get one of them with just one degree, or do you need additional specialized training? If you're thinking of combining law with, say, biotechnology just because you're interested in both of them and it sounds cool, you might be in for a rude shock when you graduate. You need to do some research to find out if there's anyone in the real world who combines those two disciplines. You also need to get some sense of what law students and biotechnology graduate students actually learn in their courses [source: Harvard Law School admissions].

In the next section, we'll look at how joint degree students finance their educations.