A JD degree versus a MA in International development or MPA

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mya321
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A JD degree versus a MA in International development or MPA

Postby mya321 » Wed Jun 15, 2011 3:40 pm

I am from Africa and getting my bachelor in International Politics from UNT (Texas) and I do not know whether or not I should go to law school or graduate school. I am considering a Masters in International Development or a Juris Doctor degree because I want to develop Africa and learn different ways to improve Africans lives as well as change the way African Politics has been done. I do not know which one of these degrees is going to help me achieve my goal. I am confused and I do not know what to do. I am a 25 years old woman and I do not have any professional experience in my field. I need your help.
Thank you

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cinephile
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Re: A JD degree versus a MA in International development or MPA

Postby cinephile » Wed Jun 15, 2011 3:54 pm

I would think that a MA in International Development would be more useful than an American JD for development in Africa.

BlueDiamond
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Re: A JD degree versus a MA in International development or MPA

Postby BlueDiamond » Wed Jun 15, 2011 4:03 pm

I don't mean to shoot down your goals because they are noteworthy and you have good intentions. But do not spend the money to get either of these degrees. Neither will help you develop Africa. Apply to NGO's or foundations that focus on Africa. More specifically, your efforts would probably be better spent on just one country in Africa. Getting a JD would be a massive waste of money if your goal is to return to Africa and try to help with development.

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AreJay711
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Re: A JD degree versus a MA in International development or MPA

Postby AreJay711 » Wed Jun 15, 2011 4:06 pm

I agree with the above; the best training is experience for anything. If it isn't going to cost you, a JD is about American law. There is some ability to study international development (I guess) but it would be better to do a program that really focuses on that if that is your real focus. Law isn't rocket science and you don't have to be a lawyer to understand the consequences of the law and what improvements could be made to the law. A MA in international would give you much more exposure to the field. Equally important, it would introduce you to scholars and other people that have the same interests as you and would be better for networking for real change.

Of course if your focus was heavily law related and your interests are in a country that was an English colony like Kenya or South Africa, it wouldn't be a complete waste of time but there would be better options out there for you.

mya321
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Re: A JD degree versus a MA in International development or MPA

Postby mya321 » Wed Jun 15, 2011 6:51 pm

Thank you guys for your help. I really want to get into politics once I go back so I can be part of a government that will implement new laws not only to develop Africa but also change the way of thinking of so many Africans. I want to fight corruption, ethnic conflicts, wars so find new ways to stop conflicts in Africa. I thought that a MA in international Development will help me do that but sometimes I feel like this program is missing something.

Do you guys want to share with me the reason why you decide to go to law school?

amorfati
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Re: A JD degree versus a MA in International development or MPA

Postby amorfati » Wed Jun 15, 2011 7:02 pm

fwiw, I am a 25-year-old (American) female with a MA in international policy, with a concentration in development and human rights in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. I unfortunately haven't been able to get a job with this degree, and am now headed to CLS this fall hoping for better luck that route.

My advice: whichever route you choose, aim for a school that is relatively well known and will provide you with a valued degree. For instance, if you go the MA route, Columbia has a great School of International and Public Affairs. I think the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton and the JFK School of Government at Harvard also have some programs that might be of interest to you, but I don't remember for sure. (My program, though quite solid, was unfortunately somewhat less well known and definitely lacked in career resources, which I seriously regret.)

Of course, same goes for law schools - perhaps even more so since you're looking for a degree with international portability, which as I understand is pretty low outside the T14. That's why after I finished my MA and couldn't find a job, I decided to really dedicate myself to killing the LSAT so that I could go to the best possible school I could get into.

Anyway, just my experience/two cents. Feel free to PM me with any questions, and good luck!

Edit: Just wanted to add that I am going to law school with the intention of gunning for UN/other jobs in large multilateral organizations, where I would ideally like to focus on Africa/Asia and do some travel to those parts of the world, but not necessarily focus on them exclusively or live there permanently. So if you're looking for something much more hands-on, especially if you'd like to focus on one particular country, then I agree with earlier comments that a JD might not be the most useful thing for you. (Although it does deserve to be noted that there are many prominent political figures in countries all around the world with American law degrees, and I certainly don't think it would hurt you - you might just have a bit more trail-blazing to do when it comes to figuring out your post-JD career options.)

mimi82
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Re: A JD degree versus a MA in International development or MPA

Postby mimi82 » Sun Jun 19, 2011 10:04 am

Perhaps a European law degree would be better than an American law degree. Although I think that's like getting a BA degree here. So not sure if you want to go that route either.

My reason in going to law school is to work in international human rights issues. I already have experience in this so the law degree is just taking me to that next level. In making my decision I did lots of research. I'm 28 so the choice wasn't just a 'I got nothing else to do' decision. I would look up the bios of those in positions I would ideally like to be in and I also checked the international job announcements for the type of work I wanted. That was the most useful information. While ppl on here can provide you with some insight I think you'd be a lot better off checking out what employers are looking for in the type of work you are interested in.

Hope this helps, good luck.

adam1
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Re: A JD degree versus a MA in International development or MPA

Postby adam1 » Sun Jun 19, 2011 10:28 am

You do not want a JD for your stated goals. Others are right when they suggest that the MA in international development needs to be from a notable institution. You actually have a fairly good chance of getting work at an NGO, the UN, or in government with a master's and some kind of African citizenship. However, the most important thing to know about applying for this work (before or after the MA) is you need to know people. If you don't know people who work where you want to work, start knowing them.




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