The pros and cons of my MIA-MBA experience

I have chosen to take a difficult but engaging path, pursuing masters’ degrees in both public administration and business. One may ask, Why these two? One relates to serving the public good and the other to personal financial gains. My answer is simple: social welfare and capital gains can, and should, co-exist in our generation.

My experience in social welfare and venture capital ignited my passion to be an integral part of social impact organizations on a business and policy level, specifically in the area of social entrepreneurship. Combined with the policy orientation, objective-reasoning capabilities, and global-perspective training I am receiving from SIPA, and the essential tools and knowledge of best practices in strategic management from Columbia Business School (CBS), I can achieve the measurable outcomes necessary for sustainable economic and social transformation

The positive aspects of a dual-degree program is evident inside and outside of the classroom. I have gained knowledge in two different pedagogies. I have learned the mechanics of finance and quantitative reasoning, while understanding the implications of policies, government relations and nonprofit roles in the public sector.  With these two sets of toolkits, I have the ability to analyze issues and solve systemic problems, from both a social and economic perspective.

Of course, it would be a lie to say that it was easy. Frankly, it was not easy. There were days when simply thinking about all the work that needed to be accomplished was overwhelming. However, as with anything in life there is a balance, a learned balance. Each dual-degree student needs to learn to find the balance among the academics, social events, club involvement and leadership at both schools. And, of course, to spend significant time in their career search.

Professionally, when applying to jobs, you have a unique differentiation as an MIA-MBA graduate: you have a liberal arts mind and business acumen. However, do not let this misconstrue your appreciation for the education you will receive at both schools. SIPA students must take economics, finance, statistics, and other quantitative classes, many of which are offered both at CBS and SIPA. So, if you are only considering a dual-degree program in order to master finance, than that is the wrong reason. You can master finance and business skills at SIPA, without the added commitment a second degree program requires.

SIPA currently has 12 master’s dual-degree programs with Columbia University’s nine graduate schools. If you decide not to pursue a dual-degree program that does not exclude you from taking classes at different Columbia University schools, as each of these schools offers classes that can be taken in collaboration with SIPA. The options and possibilities are endless: In total, SIPA students can enroll in more than 1,000 different courses every year across Columbia University.

Outside of that, there are also the costs to consider. While pursuing a dual-degree program cuts down on the total amount of time needed to complete both degrees, it does take longer and is more costly than pursuing a single degree program. For example, the MIA program costs $153,616 over four semesters in direct and indirect costs and the MBA program costs $199,648 over four semesters in direct and indirect costs (using the 2015-2016 estimates). Combined, you’d spend six semesters (three at each school), and using rudimentary math would spend $115,212 on the MIA program and $149,736 on the MBA program, totaling $264,948. (Keep in mind this is my personal estimate, and not the exact cost of the program, as tuition and fees are established by the university every year, and your award packages and personal living expenses may vary.)

Clearly, there is a lot to consider when it comes to selecting a dual-degree program.

My best advice to prospective dual-degree students is to reach out to current students, hear their stories, ask their options, and learn from their mistakes. Navigating the dual-degree program takes determination. The best way to understand which classes are essential to take, which classes overlap and which classes are requirements is to ask the dual-degree program deans at both schools. Then think long and hard about what your dream job might be, then look at those who hold similar positions, see what they studied and understand their pathway to their job—all of this will help solidify your decision whether or not to pursue a dual-degree program.

Do not be shy! The dual-degree program is by no means a joke. It takes a certain type of person to commit six semesters (or more in other programs) to studying and hard work. This time commitment and the cost should not be overlooked. These types of decisions will influence your application cycle and even make you reconsider why you are applying to both programs.

Consider your future, consider you time, and then decide what is the best use of your time and funds.