It’s not always obvious which master’s degree will advance your career in public service law. You may think a JD is the way to go, but the most obvious choice is not always the right one. Think about what role in public service law you would like to fill — there may be another graduate degree that will better compliment your career path. For instance, earning an MPA rather than a JD (or earning both) may create the opportunities you’re looking for.
What Is an MPA Degree?
An Masters in Public Administration (MPA) degree allows you to work in public service law implementing policies, making management choices, and working in the support of a variety of public issues, including discrimination, environmental protection, civil rights, women’s rights, immigration issues, and more. This type of degree does not allow you to practice law but does prepare you to work in the area of public service law. An MPA is typically completed in 12 to 24 months, allowing you to enter the workforce more quickly that when you earn a JD. When you work in a public service career after graduation, you may qualify for forgiveness on some of your student loans.
What Is a JD Degree?
A Juris Doctor (JD) is designed to train lawyers to work in the field of law, such as a private practice lawyer or a judge. JD programs focus on teaching students what they need to know to work in a courtroom and build a case for or against litigants. In this way, the JD degree isn’t as conducive to working in the area of public service, though lawyers certainly have their place in this field. A JD degree typically takes 33 months to complete.
How Do These Degrees Align With Career Goals?
Setting career goals before you start your classes will ensure you are heading in the right direction for your desired profession. The MPA is designed to help you obtain a career working in the public service field so you can work on creating policies for a variety of causes, including those that are close to your heart. However, a JD will provide you with training in the nuances of law and how to practice it so you can become a private practice lawyer or judge. While someone with a JD can certainly work in the public sector, typically as an adviser, there is more flexibility in this area if you possess an MPA.
Why Do You Need an MPA, JD, or Both?
Choosing which of these degree programs is best for you and your needs requires you to consider where you would like your career to take you. Work in the public service field requires specific knowledge of how government works and how policies are created and administered. Because this field covers such a broad range of specialty areas, it is important to consider which issues you would like to work to change and improve the quality of life for the general public. If this is your goal in life, the MPA is a solid choice. You may still work in the public service area with a JD, however. In these cases, you will typically advise on the legalities of proposed policies to ensure they are legally sound and constitutionally appropriate. Obtaining both an MPA and a JD can offer more opportunities and make you more appealing to potential employers, though it is not typically necessary to carry both.
Before you decide which degree you would like to pursue, considering your end goal. While some people consider the length of education and the cost of the program in their decision, it is important to understand what role you wish to fill. In the public service sector, both an MPA and a JD have their place; it is up to you to determine which one will best meets your desires or if you prefer to have the benefit of both.