Joint Graduate Degree Programs Benefit Students and Universities
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Joint Graduate Degree Programs Benefit Students and Universities

Degree programs developed in collaboration between two or more units within a university provides students with an opportunity for interdisciplinary learning that will support their career advancement.


Education is more important than ever before in today’s economic landscape. Competition for jobs is growing and employees are being asked to do more in less time and with fewer resources. To get ahead, many are heading back to school for graduate degrees such as an MBA or Executive MBA. Growing in popularity are joint degree programs, which combine two or more areas of study in two departments at the same campus.

There is much value in this cross-departmental collaboration. Students can develop expertise in two separate fields or leverage technical expertise in one field with, for example, business acumen in order to develop stronger skills. Similarly, collaboration between colleges and departments strengthens the university as a whole and leverages expertise across areas.

Joint degree programs are easily customized and grant students flexibility in determining their areas of study. Additionally, joint degrees give students greater access to resources, professors and opportunities than they would have in a single program. Students can take advantage of each school’s strengths (maybe one has a great internship program, while the other has well-equipped research facilities) to jumpstart their careers. Joint programs are also less expensive than taking the two degree programs separately. For example, the University of Pittsburgh’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business offers a number of joint degree programs, including one in collaboration with the University’s Swanson School of Engineering. Students mix advanced engineering classes with business courses to gain the administrative, managerial and financial skills necessary for business and an understanding of advanced engineering processes in a vocational area of choice, such as bioengineering or mechanical engineering.

However, the benefits don’t stop there. For the actual colleges and departments, joint degree programs offer the opportunity to further develop programming so it’s practical and more accurately reflects the skills and challenges graduates will face in the working world. Schools within a university can tap into each other’s resources, networks and offerings to better tailor their programs to students’ needs, thus developing alumni who are more satisfied, engaged, prepared and successful.

As technology connects companies and the job market becomes more competitive, real-world application of learned skills becomes significantly more important. The best joint degree programs take advantage of the businesses and corporations in their own backyard to create consulting projects, case competitions, client fellowships and management simulations — experience-based learning programs that can teach students to thrive in a competitive corporate landscape and apply skills from both of their programs of study in a dynamic environment.

Professionals who are considering a return to the classroom should consider a joint degree; the benefits, customization and price point make these programs a strong option for furthering one’s education. Combining two colleges’ teachings with real-world experience provides students the ultimate added-value education.

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3 Responses to Joint Graduate Degree Programs Benefit Students and Universities

  1. Tyrese Banner Reply

    2014/06/18 at 9:14 am

    While on paper, Delaney’s arguments make a lot of sense, I would be curious to know what employers’ views are on dual degree holders. I say this because I’ve heard of less than stellar experiences for PhD holders, who reported being told they were “overqualified” for a job. I wonder if a candidate with a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees would be told the same. Have employers demonstrated a need for employees with two graduate degrees? Or is Delaney simply confusing their desire for graduates with more cross-disciplinary experience or an equal balance of theoretical-technical skills with their desire for more credentials?

  2. Aaron Stark Reply

    2014/06/18 at 2:06 pm

    For students who can’t commit the time or finances toward a joint degree program, perhaps a degree-diploma or a degree-certificate combination would be better. Many universities are now starting to collaborate with community colleges to offer these credential options. The degree is earned through the university and gives the student broad theoretical knowledge of a field, while the diploma or certificate through the community college equips the student with technical skills that can be immediately applied to a field. Seems like the best of both worlds to me.

  3. Karen Y Reply

    2014/06/18 at 4:53 pm

    I think any graduate program would be enhanced by having a business administration component. We seem to be moving to a labor market that requires all graduates to have at least a basic set of business skills, so it makes sense that any field’s curriculum would reflect this reality in its course offerings. Students should have the option to still complete just one degree, but supplement it with business administration courses — maybe even ones tailored to their specific field.

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