MBA vs Juris Doctor (JD): Which path should I choose?

A business leader smiling while deciding between an MBA or JD.
A business leader smiling while deciding between an MBA or JD.

Struggling to decide which degree will advance your career and achieve your professional goals?

As the world changes, so do the requirements of future change-makers. Increasingly, C-suite roles demand candidates who are not only adept in the fundamentals of management but also have the ability to manage new worlds of tech and business.

When it comes to carving this cutting-edge career advantage, there are two postgraduate degrees that ambitious leaders tend to compare. A Juris Doctor (JD) and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) are both prestigious qualifications that have been solidifying – and in many cases, fast-tracking – professional development for many years.

But which is best for you? When it comes to choosing between an MBA or JD, there are a number of factors to consider. While both MBA and JD graduates can command competitive salaries, determining the best option will depend on your professional goals.

In the article below, we explore what a JD and an MBA are and the key differences between the two regarding curriculum, entry requirements, duration and specialisation. Additionally, we’ll discuss the career outcomes for both MBA and JD graduates to help you make the best decision to reach your professional goals.

What is a Juris Doctor (JD)?

A Juris Doctor (JD) is a postgraduate qualification that provides students with the essential knowledge and expertise to practise law in Australia. The course equips graduates with legal fundamentals, advanced advocacy skills and problem-solving strategies required in the legal profession, which can also be a decisive strategic advantage in the corporate environment.

The JD originated in the US, where it was created as a modern version of older European degrees and became the standard pathway to legal practice in the 1960s. In the following years, the JD became globally recognised alongside US influence in international business.

It’s now a popular and prestigious educational model in many jurisdictions, which recognises the benefits of a prior undergraduate degree for the advanced graduate study required to be an effective lawyer.

Can a Juris Doctor graduate practise law in Australia? The answer is yes – this is a viable pathway to legal practice. Equal to the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) as a qualification for practice in law firms, courts, community legal centres and government law, the JD is valued internationally and sets a benchmark for the depth of skills and experience JD graduates bring to legal practice.

What is a Master of Business Administration (MBA)?

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a postgraduate qualification that equips students with the high-level strategic, leadership and practical skills required to excel in the world of business.

MBA courses can vary in length and specialisation depending on where they’re completed and in what format, but they will generally cover various aspects of business, including tech, accounting, marketing, finance, HR and operations management.

Originating in Harvard Law School in the early 1900s, MBAs quickly became a popular and sought-after qualification globally. While the specifics of the qualification have evolved alongside the world it prepares graduates for, the degree still carries a huge amount of prestige in the business, leadership and entrepreneurial space.

MBAs are frequently chosen by ambitious professionals who want to advance their career progression, secure higher salaries and excel in the realm of business.

Juris Doctor vs MBA: Which is right for you?

When it comes to deciding between a Master of Business Administration and a Juris Doctor, there are several critical factors to consider regarding specific curriculum, entry requirements, duration and specialisations.

Here are some key similarities and differences.


While both qualifications equip students with high-level strategic and problem-solving skills, the curriculum of a JD has a strong legal focus, whereas an MBA centres on wider advanced business practices.

In Australia, a JD includes foundational units, plus all prescribed Priestley 11 units from Evidence Law through to Corporations Law and Contract Law to prepare graduates for the future of the legal industry.

Depending on where it’s completed, the curriculum may also include additional units such as Advanced Legal Research Writing and Skills, International Law, internship units and electives such as Negotiation and Workplace Law.

In Australia, MBAs are designed to equip graduates with excellent leadership and management skills. The specific curriculum will vary depending on which institution students obtain their degree from and what they decide to specialise in, but there are certain core subjects that form the backbone of most MBAs.

Leadership and people management, operations management, business ethics and sustainability are among the standard subjects included in MBAs. Electives may consist of subjects that focus on tech and digital innovation, supply chain management and international business.

Like JDs, MBAs also include the opportunity for learning in a real-world setting via a project subject or internship.

Entry requirements

Both a JD and an MBA are postgraduate courses that require applicants to have completed some form of undergraduate study or equivalent professional experience and each of them has specific pathways to entry.

To be eligible to study a JD in Australia, applicants must have an undergraduate degree or equivalent in any non-law discipline, such as business or finance. At some institutions, a graduate diploma or graduate certificate may provide an alternative entry point for applicants who need a bridging pathway.

Many institutions will also dictate a minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) of 5 (or the equivalent in professional experience) and standard English language requirements with an overall IELTS Academic or equivalent score of 6.5.

What do you need for an MBA? Entry requirements will also vary between institutions, but generally, applicants must have completed a bachelor’s degree at a recognised university or have a certain amount of in-field business and managerial experience. Professional business experience tends to be looked upon very favourably and many universities require it, as much of the learning in an MBA course is enhanced by practical application.


For both MBA and JD degrees, duration will depend on a range of factors. These include whether students complete their studies in a full-time or part-time capacity, whether they study online or on-campus, unit availability and other specific variations by university.

How long does a Juris Doctor take? In Australia, JDs can be fast-tracked to three years or completed part-time online in four years. If students opt or need to complete a graduate certificate, that takes eight months. A graduate diploma is generally 16 months but can vary depending on individual study pathways.

In Australia, a traditional full-time MBA can take one to two years to complete. Most courses are designed to be completed in two years, but some universities provide accelerated one-year options for students who wish to fast-track their qualification. Part-time and online pathways are also available to suit students’ need for flexibility if they work full time.


As mentioned above, the options for specialisation for an MBA vs JD largely depend on which institution they’re obtained from.

When it comes to a JD, students can opt to focus on certain areas of legal studies via their electives and internship subjects. While every JD requires students to complete the prescribed ‘Priestley 11’, most universities will also require students to choose from additional subjects and internship streams.

With University of Canberra’s online Juris Doctor, these electives include:

  • Law, Innovation and Technologies
  • Law Reform and Social Change
  • Human Rights Law
  • Intellectual Property
  • Workplace Law in Context
  • Negotiation

Students obtaining an MBA will also be required to complete several core subjects as set by the institution but can choose to specialise in a number of areas via their choice of electives and internship or project-based subjects.

These areas include:

  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Human resources (HR)
  • Technology and IT
  • Sustainability
  • Entrepreneurship

What can you do with a Juris Doctor degree?

A JD equips graduates with specialised expertise in law and advanced strategy. Thanks to its international origins, a JD opens numerous advanced and high-paying career doors globally – both within the legal industry and beyond it.

These career outcomes include:

  • Lawyer
  • Solicitor
  • Barrister
  • Magistrate
  • Judge
  • Business manager
  • Public policy analyst
  • C-suite executive
  • Entrepreneur
  • Consultant
  • Compliance and risk management officer
  • Lobbyist

What can you do with an MBA?

An MBA is a versatile postgraduate course that can fast-track corporate career progress and help its graduates secure higher-paying positions. Like a JD, it opens doors to senior leadership positions – and the specifics will vary, depending on what specialism students choose. Unlike a JD, it doesn’t equip students to advance in the legal industry.

Post-MBA career opportunities include:

  • Management consultant
  • Entrepreneur
  • C-suite executives such as Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operations Officer and more
  • Financial analyst
  • Venture capitalist
  • Supply chain manager
  • Business development manager

JD vs MBA: Which should I study?

Still struggling to decide between a Juris Doctor or a Master of Business Administration? The biggest factors to consider are your skill set, personal interests and career goals.

If you want to obtain a more general postgraduate degree for the corporate world without a legal lens, then an MBA may be for you.

However, if you want to fast-track your progression, open top-tier doors to the legal and corporate realm, and obtain a unique skill set that’s also critical to executive leadership and business management, then a JD might be the best fit.

A JD is also less common than an MBA, so it can help you stand out in the ever-competitive corporate world.

If you’re still unsure, you can book an obligation-free call with a Student Enrolment Adviser to help determine whether a JD or an MBA is best for you.

Ready to make a difference with a Juris Doctor degree?

The demand for lawyers continues to be strong. Completing a JD will put you in a highly advantageous position to make the most of these opportunities and make a difference in a fast-changing world.

The online Juris Doctor from the University of Canberra equips students with the knowledge to satisfy academic requirements for admission to legal practice. Delivered by top-tier academics and industry experts, the course will equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to thrive in your career.

Delivered 100% online with the option to study part-time or fast-track completion, the course is designed for ambitious professionals who want to advance their expertise while accelerating their careers to the next level.

Ready to learn more about the University of Canberra's online Juris Doctor? Our Student Advisers are ready to help you with any queries and are just one phone call away on 1300 471 770.

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