Life as a Returning 2nd Year Student, AKA: Should you do a dual degree?

The MAIR/MPA, Juris Doctor(JD)/MPA, JD/MAIR, Masters in Public Health, and Public Diplomacy degrees are just a snippet of the opportunities at Maxwell for dual degrees. They offer a lot of interesting options, but they also brings their shares of challenges. For example, with the MAIR/MPA you get the benefit of the theory and perspective of the IR degree alongside the quantitative knowledge and perspective of the PA degree. On the other hand, instead of graduating within 18 months, you’re in classes for one more semester. However, that’s still pretty cool considering the normal time to get one masters and you’re getting two masters. So, is it worth it to get 2 degrees? Or more, even?

I could go on about the pros and cons all day, but in the end I think it has to do with whether you’re willing to put in the work and whether the degrees interest you. It’s extra money and time, so it’s not something you should just do on a whim. Along with that, you spend your first year with all of your classmates, but then they graduate and after you leave for your internships, you end up returning to a program that has people you don’t know anymore. That in itself can be a challenge.

Why did I choose the dual degree? For me, it was more of interest in the subject matters. On one hand, I love the interdisciplinary nature and flexibility of the IR program, along with the chance to integrate my certificate of conflict resolution. On the other hand, I’m passionate about local and domestic issues and have dreams to one day return to my hometown to make it better; I needed the detailed and skill-oriented MPA to help make that possible. But, the thing is, my situation is different from my dual degree classmates, and all of their situations are different from each other. One thing is certain, though: none of them are doing it on an impulse. It was something we all thought about carefully and made the effort to stay in school for longer than we needed to.

So, should you do the dual degree? Asking yourself these questions may be helpful:

  1. Do I mind being in school for 2 years instead of 1 & 1/2 or just 1 year?
  2. Do I mind being away from the job market for that long?
  3. Do I need the knowledge or skills from both of the degrees?
  4. Do I care enough about the subject matter within both degrees?
  5. What kinds of graduates are they looking for in my desired field? Do they care about quantitative skills? What about budgeting or microeconomics? Or would my time be better spent honing other skills instead?

On the other hand, the breadth of knowledge and skills that the dual degrees can bring fosters creative solutions and interesting perspectives. If you go from studying multiple regressions to thinking about culture in the World Bank, it can help you get a view of social sciences that honors the multifaceted nature of what it means to be human.

It’s important to note, however, that one of the great things about the PAIA department is you don’t have to be dual to get these benefits. All of the classes are offered as the same department, so there isn’t “technically” any class that only one kind of degree-seeker can take. An MAIR student can take tax policy or state and local finance just as much as a MPA student can take research design for IR. That’s ultimately what I like best about this program and why I’m glad to have come to Maxwell in the first place.