It is Wednesday, so it is time to respond to a student, "college kid", who asks below:
As someone who is in on the business/medical/policy of today's health care system, what do you think about the career prospects of those pursuing a joint JD/MPH? Is it worth it?
On the JD (Juris Doctor), the answer is simple. Don't go to law school unless you plan to become a lawyer. Here comes my gross generalization: Law school is not a place to expand your horizons and become better educated. It is a place to learn the trade of law. The curriculum is focused on giving you the tools and techniques and resources to be a lawyer. (And then you have to study for the bar exam, anyway.) The course of study is not designed to teach you public policy, health care policy, public management, corporate management, empathy, or most other things that would be helpful to you in a corporate or non-profit setting. If you are lucky, there will be some good courses on negotiation, arbitration, mediation, and dispute resolution -- but on that front you would be better off just enrolling in a really good negotiation course somewhere.
Some people think it is handy to go to law school if you plan to run for legislative office, either state or federal. But if you are ambitious in that direction, spend the three years you would otherwise pay tuition working for a legislator or Congressman. Get the hands-on experience. Once you are elected, you can always hire a good lawyer to work on your staff.
On the MPH (Masters in Public Health), I am sorry to say this because I don't believe it ought to be the case, but the degree is sometimes not valued in hospital settings. I have tried to figure this out. I think it is because hospitals are dominated by doctors, who often view an MPH as a poor substitute for a medical degree and think people who get one were not smart enough to get into medical school. Also, people in hospitals do not view themselves as being in the public health business: They are in the acute care business.
Please don't blame me for being the messenger on this point. I personally do not agree with either characterization. In fact, I find that many MPH graduates have a breadth of interest and experience that is really attractive. If you want to get an MPH as a precursor to working in a hospital, use every possible opportunity to do internships in hospitals where you actually have responsibility for planning and completing specific projects, and use term paper assignments to write about hospital management issues. Then, send me your resume.
A final point. Life in college is really good. Ditto for life in graduate school. These are seductive and comfortable environments, and it is easy to persuade yourself that time is better spent there than being on the outside with a job. After all, too, your role models are professors who have chosen to live their entire lives in academia. So, some people have a tendency to collect degrees, moving directly from one program to the next.
Graduate school is usually a good idea, but many people find it more valuable after they have spent some time working. That serves to focus your interests, which will help you get more out of an advanced degree. So, get out and see the world and experience some of its discomfort and uncertainty. See what it is like to have to earn enough money to pay for food, rent, utilities, school loans, and insurance. You will meet a wider variety of wonderful, interesting, practical, and thoughtful people, including generous, intelligent, kind, and well-meaning folks with no degrees at all, and you will learn from them in a tuition-free setting.