HYPMSC: JD vs PhD

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lhb
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HYPMSC: JD vs PhD

Postby lhb » Fri Apr 30, 2010 8:54 pm

This post is directed towards those who are enrolled in, have graduated from, or at one point were considering joining one/both of the programs above:

I'm new to the forum - great info/advice on a lot of threads. I'm looking for insight regarding my situation. PM if you'd prefer, and sorry in advance about the length!

Background: Ivy. non-URM. Numbers would be considered splitter for Y (LSAT > GPA), decent match at HS assuming softs and other factors work out too. I have what is, based on feedback from multiple reliable sources, considered a compelling story or passion. ECs are above average. Am considering applying for post-grad grants/scholarships. PhD fields of interest include economics, political science, political economy and government, the like.

My main concern is lack of evidence of a coherent academic path - I took up my true academic interest late in my college career. Unfortunately, this also meant less time to explore my interest, and I am now unsure of what route I should take after college. My dilemma is that while I am drawn to the content/structure and research-intensive, specialized nature of the PhD, I am not really interested in a career in academia, think tanks, government, or any of the traditional post-PhD routes. So it seems that although I would enjoy earning the PhD more so than earning the JD, I would be far more well-placed in practical terms if I pursued the more generalized, multi-purpose JD.

I also feel that I am more of a "doer" than a "thinker/student." Or, more specifically, I really love to learn, but learning purely for the sake of learning, only learning and doing nothing more, would make me feel inert, constrained, and finicky; I love learning enough to do a PhD, even with no expected immediate application, for the very specific reason that I think that learning will make me a more informed, intelligent, and (hopefully) better actor. My "dream route" would be to get a graduate degree in something I really love and then get into entrepreneurship - I love brainstorming, having to be resourceful and creative, working under pressure, having my ideas attacked and tested, and having to work to toughen and fortify them. (This sounds uncannily like academia, I know! :P)

I've been looking at all the different sorts of routes people have taken - PhD before JD, JD before PhD, dual-degree programs, SJD, read Prof. Mankiw's excellent posts :D, etc., and even talked to a bunch of such experienced people, but it hasn't helped me come to a decision. I don't mind staying in school for a few more years, and am ready to foot the bill for the degree(s), even though it will likely mean more loans, as long as I get to study something I really love, and as long as the graduate degree I get won't preclude segueing to a different career, quite possibly outside of the traditional ambits of both legal academia and practice. Maybe corporate stuff, maybe entrepreneurship, maybe something else altogether. I think that part of the problem of not being able to pick a graduate degree is because where I want to be at the very end is not gotten to via a "traditional" career route; in that sense, neither a PhD or JD would be of very much help formally, although they might be useful intellectual training and just a good degree to have as a backup/job safety. So I know the end point, and I know what comes before that (job/corporate/entrepreneurship), but I don't know what degree to get before THAT.

I'm wondering how people who were in my shoes made their decisions regarding graduate school. What were the reasons that swayed you in one direction or another? What helped you figure these reasons out - was it working at a think tank, doing independent research or fieldwork for a few years after graduation, opening an NGO or non-profit? What time-sensitive factors (the potential future decaying of structure in academia/the PhD job market, monetary concerns, etc) would you emphasize to me in retrospect?

Any help is very much appreciated, thanks in advance!
Last edited by lhb on Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Billy Blanks
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Re: HYPMSC: JD vs PhD

Postby Billy Blanks » Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:04 pm

HYPMSC, what is this?

lhb
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Re: HYPMSC: JD vs PhD

Postby lhb » Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:07 pm

by that I meant the sorts of programs available at these schools (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, Columbia) and the specifics contingent upon each school - like PEG, which is unusual, and a very robust program from what I've read/heard, because of Harvard's strengths in these areas and good interdisciplinary potential

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GeePee
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Re: HYPMSC: JD vs PhD

Postby GeePee » Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:11 pm

You are long winded to say something that requires few words.

Basically, you're a terrible match for law and a perfect match for a PhD program.

lhb
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Re: HYPMSC: JD vs PhD

Postby lhb » Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:12 pm

GeePee wrote:You are long winded to say something that requires few words.

Basically, you're a terrible match for law and a perfect match for a PhD program.


haha sorry - I have been agonizing over this for a really long time, and just wanted to get it all out!

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GeePee
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Re: HYPMSC: JD vs PhD

Postby GeePee » Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:16 pm

lhb wrote:
GeePee wrote:You are long winded to say something that requires few words.

Basically, you're a terrible match for law and a perfect match for a PhD program.


haha sorry - I have been agonizing over this for a really long time, and just wanted to get it all out!

On a more serious note, based on your concerns about the JD and your "reasons" for pursuing it (more versatile, etc. which is probably wrong), you should definitely go with the PhD program. A top PhD program can get you into a more policy-oriented position than a JD could, whether in an academic or governmental capacity. Also, consider an MPA or an MPP from Wilson, Kennedy, or another top-tier school of government. Either of those, or the PhD, seems much better suited to your goals and interests.

lhb
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Re: HYPMSC: JD vs PhD

Postby lhb » Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:20 pm

GeePee - why do you say that the JD is not so versatile?

also, given that I am not interested in academia or government (quite sure about this), would you still recommend PhD or MPA, etc? My PhD topic would be completely unrelated to what I would pursue as a job later - it would be linked to my end career, but not the "job" or money-earning phase in between, so basically PhD would just be out of love for the subject

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drdolittle
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Re: HYPMSC: JD vs PhD

Postby drdolittle » Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:23 pm

lhb wrote:I also feel that I am more of a "doer" than a "thinker/student."


A PhD then might not be such a good choice for you long term. Sounds like you're drawn to the JD because it's practical, certainly more so than just about any PhD outside of academia.

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flyingpanda
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Re: HYPMSC: JD vs PhD

Postby flyingpanda » Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:24 pm

lhb wrote:GeePee - why do you say that the JD is not so versatile?

also, given that I am not interested in academia or government (quite sure about this), would you still recommend PhD or MPA, etc? My PhD topic would be completely unrelated to what I would pursue as a job later - it would be linked to my end career, but not the "job" or money-earning phase in between, so basically PhD would just be out of love for the subject


A JD is only useful for being a lawyer, practicing law. Maybe you should look at an MBA?

lhb
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Re: HYPMSC: JD vs PhD

Postby lhb » Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:33 pm

doolittle: you're dead-on about how I feel about the PhD and JD. I would love to hear more from current law students/recent alums about where the JD might be substantively useful in situations/places that we might not traditionally think of... Also, by practical I mean that some things I might learn in LS would probably be very useful in corporate/business, but if that sector tanks, then I'm not sure how practical JD is as a back-up source of employment

panda: I thought about that. But to be honest, I feel like I should get a solid degree instead of an MBA. Something that, if the entire financial industry collapsed, I had no money to start a business, have positive cash flow, etc., I could find some work that I wouldn't totally hate. Since the JD, while more academically rigorous than the MBA, doesn't provide much more job safety, it seems like this is a point on which the PhD wins out over the JD from both the long term and short term perspectives

would love to hear people's counterpoints on this...

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GeePee
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Re: HYPMSC: JD vs PhD

Postby GeePee » Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:40 pm

lhb wrote:GeePee - why do you say that the JD is not so versatile?

also, given that I am not interested in academia or government (quite sure about this), would you still recommend PhD or MPA, etc? My PhD topic would be completely unrelated to what I would pursue as a job later - it would be linked to my end career, but not the "job" or money-earning phase in between, so basically PhD would just be out of love for the subject

Many JD's have a difficult getting a job inside the law-- never mind elsewhere. I think that the question that you have to ask yourself is what you want to end up doing. Your interests are in economics, politics, and government; fulfilling these interests outside of academia, government and law pretty much leaves you two options- corporate finance/management and lobbying. For the first, the MBA is better than either the PhD or the JD. For the second, the JD is ok, but the MPP is better.

It seems like you need a better idea of what you're actually seeking before you leap into an expensive degree, though.

270910
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Re: HYPMSC: JD vs PhD

Postby 270910 » Fri Apr 30, 2010 10:40 pm

lhb wrote:GeePee - why do you say that the JD is not so versatile?


Do you want to practice law? If so, the JD is one versatile degree man! All kinds of law you can practice with one of those bad boys!

Do you not want to practice law?

Uh oh! You just blew 6 figures on the myth that you can do anything with a JD! Thanks for playing!

SlipperyPete
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Re: HYPMSC: JD vs PhD

Postby SlipperyPete » Fri Apr 30, 2010 10:57 pm

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Last edited by SlipperyPete on Fri Feb 14, 2014 3:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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verdandi
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Re: HYPMSC: JD vs PhD

Postby verdandi » Fri Apr 30, 2010 11:07 pm

To the OP:

I also considered, and was accepted, to JD/PhD programs, though of a slightly lower tier than the ones you are considering. I ultimately decided to do just the JD, mostly because I yearned to get off the college campus for at least a few years of my life before devoting myself to academia.

And devote yourself you will if you get a PhD. Once you are in school, you will feel very strong pressure to go down a certain path. Let's say you went to Harvard for a PolSci PhD. I guarantee you will feel a lot of pressure to stay on the academic track -- dissertation, post-doc, job market, assistant professorship, tenure. Stepping off that track by stepping into the real world can be costly, difficult, and stressful, even if it is more rewarding and intellectually meaningful than the scholarship (sometimes) is.

Law, on the other hand, has a built-in track that could lead you back to academia while also allowing you to get some real world experience. The traditional law-to-academia path is [excellent LS + excellent LS grades] -> [clerkship] -> [excellent firm job for a couple years, working big cases in your field of choice] -> invitation back to the academy. There are obviously many other paths but this seems to be a common one, and one definitely within striking distance if you go to HYS. If I read your post correctly, it sounds like you want to be able to get some real world experience before going into academia. I think that path is comparably easier with a JD than it is with a PhD, especially given the intense pressure PhDs feel to publish and publish quickly. JDs who want to be profs also have that pressure, but the path to academia is far more forgiving of a foray outside the ivory tower.

Another option: have you considered doing a master's first, maybe in polsci or economics? Many of the topflight PolSci, Phil, Econ, etc. programs can be started with a masters, and then turned into a PhD. If funding is not an issue, you could apply to law schools and masters programs this year, defer your top law choice, do the masters, and see how you like it. If you love the academic life, jettison the JD and continue on as a PhD. If you hate the masters, you still will have that feather in your cap and you can roll directly into your deferred JD program.

This last option, by the way, is exactly what I did, and I actually thought it worked out quite nicely.




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