Law Vs. Business: Who Wins The Jobs?

Businessman stands at a fork in the road on a sunny day.
Business or law?


JD or MBA?

For many, it’s not an easy choice. But if you were deciding on nothing but landing a job right away, which is the better bet?
In recent years, of course, it’s become well known that the law of supply and demand has dealt a punishing blow to law school graduates. For years, schools have been producing far more lawyers than the economy either needs or wants. It hasn’t been so easy for MBAs, either. The economic implosion five years ago didn’t help either law school or business school grads. Placement rates for both plunged dramatically during the Great Recession.

A new analysis by, however, shows that compared to the top 25 law schools with the best placement records, business schools still have the advantage.  Some 15 of the 25 B-schools on the same campuses are placing more of their graduates than law at commencement.

Yet, the big surprise is that at the very top of the law school hierarchy, JDs are beating the MBAs when it comes to landing jobs by graduation. Consider the University of Virginia which in 2011 placed the highest percentage of its class at graduation in full-time jobs requiring the passage of the Bar: a whopping 97.3%. The equivalent number for UVA’s Darden School of Business was 81.5%–a difference of 15.8 percentage points. Even three months after graduation, the business types trailed the lawyers. At that point, 90.9% of Darden’s Class of 2012 had jobs (the discrepancy in years results from a delay in reporting these stats by law schools).

The lawyers trashed the MBAs in employment at graduation at ten of the 25 law schools with the best placement records, including at Stanford, Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Chicago, UPenn, and Northwestern. In fact, what’s interesting is that the highest ranked law schools tended to beat the highest ranked business schools.
But as soon as you got past the top ten in law, the MBAs seemed to do much better. The business schools at Duke, Michigan, Cornell, Vanderbilt, Minnesota, Georgetown and Indiana all did a better job of getting their MBAs jobs at graduation than their law school counterparts.

At the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, for example, 82% of the Class of 2012 had jobs at commencement versus just 69.7% of the law school grads in 2011. Even nine months after graduation, only 76.1% of the JDs were employed. Three months after graduation, some 89.6% of the MBAs had jobs.

Getting a job immediately is a big deal these days, though it’s not the only thing to consider in this debate. Law school is three years long; business school is two years. So the opportunity cost of going to a law school is much larger, but most elite business schools also require two to five years of work experience and rarely take applicants directly from their undergraduate schools. On the other hand, JDs from the best schools who go into private practice start with median salaries of $160,000–considerably more than most MBAs.

(See the following page for our analysis)

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.