JD vs. MPA

(Applications Advice, Letters of Recommendation . . . )

Which should I choose for a career in legislative advocacy?

Washington University School of Law (or another non T14 regional law school)
Princeton University - Wilson School of Public Affairs (or another T5 Public Affairs Program)
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Re: JD vs. MPA

Postby detljgh » Fri Mar 19, 2010 5:40 pm

Last edited by detljgh on Sat Aug 04, 2012 5:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: JD vs. MPA

Postby chutzpah » Mon Mar 22, 2010 11:34 am

All right. I'll jump in here because I was recently admitted to the Kennedy School and will probably be deciding between their MPP and a T14 law school or a joint degree depending on financial aid from KSG. I believe WWS fully funds all of its students which means that if you attend you would leave with no debt.

The most important question is, what do you want to do and does it require a law degree? Can you identify a position that you want and its specific requirements or prerequisites? Its my understanding that WWS is very quant-heavy, so if you're interested in being a program manager or working on a policy area that involves a lot of number crunching, its probably a better choice than law school. WWS is hugely respected among think tanks, non-profits, NGOs, and academic govies (my fed coworkers are all former military and have no idea what the wilson school is). If you attend you'll be able to tap into that network and potentially secure a great policy-related job.

With the possible exception of budget-related work, you can do just about everything with a law degree that you can with an MPA/MPP. The converse is not true. If you're just looking for a degree to advance your career and are not sure what you want to do, the law degree may be the better option. A law degree is more valuable and versatile than an MPA/MPP but the WWS will almost definitely be more enjoyable.

Good luck and feel free to PM me.

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Re: JD vs. MPA

Postby evilgenius » Wed Mar 24, 2010 9:48 pm

Just found out Princeton has a joint MPA/JD program with a number of law schools and is willing to make arrangements with others. Neither of my potential schools are on the list, but maybe I can make special arrangements since I've already been admitted to Princeton.


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Re: JD vs. MPA

Postby nicola.kirwan » Tue Nov 23, 2010 2:10 am

Yeah, super late. I'd love to know what the OP did, though.

For the sake of future readers, however, I want to throw in my 2cents. I'm a 3L at WashU who is preparing to apply for MPA programs after graduation. From my perspective today, I would have to say that the number one myth about the value of a JD is its "versatility." Law school is professional school. You go there to be trained as a practicing attorney. Even the substantive knowledge that you gain will be slanted toward the specifically legal perspective. In sum, I would never counsel someone to go to law school unless they wanted to be a practicing attorney. Unless you get into the top 6 or something like that, where grades are a non-issue and the name itself will carry you, please rethink. Think of a law degree more like medical school in that people don't just go to medical school because they have a general interest in "health issues." They go to med school to learn how to provide acute care services to patients. Likewise, in law school, while you may find some particularly policy-oriented profs, and some policy classes, the current of the school and the experience will be strongly attempting to carry you into legal practice.

An MPA teaches management skills with the opportunity to focus on a substantive area of interest. A JD most certainly does not teach management skills, and whether you will be able to take a significant number of courses in your desired area will depend on the school. If things go as I hope, I will be able to count a number of credits toward the MPA from my law degree, essentially making it similar to a joint JD-MPA. As one who does not intend to practice, I have had to become very very intentional about shaping my coursework and getting my own internships to make my time here worthwhile. I can't say I regret it, but there were smarter ways to go about my goals had I understood that I wouldn't really want to practice.

Oh, and FWIW, I would NEVER turn down a fully funded Princeton degree at the prestigious WWS for WUSTL. WUSTL is great and all, but it's not that great...not even in the same league, kwim? (I hope op went to Princeton!)

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Re: JD vs. MPA

Postby James Bond » Tue Nov 23, 2010 2:41 am

Um...Princeton is Princeton.

Go to Princeton. That name alone can get you a job faster than most JD's.

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