The Joint Degree Dilemma: F&ES Students Weigh In

Many new and prospective F&ES students wonder if a joint degree program is right for them. A joint degree – whether with the School of Management, the School of Architecture, Divinity School, Law School, or one of the other nearly dozen joint degree programs F&ES offers – has the potential to advance your career and enhance your professional school experience. At the same time, a joint degree takes longer, costs more, and can present some practical challenges. As a joint degree student myself – and after talking with several of my joint degree classmates – I hope to provide some insight into the benefits and potential pitfalls of pursuing a joint degree at Yale.

Allison Sloto is a second year Master of Environmental Management student at F&ES and a joint law student with Pace Law School in White Plains, New York. A joint law degree – which is also offered with Vermont Law School and Yale’s own law school – adds two years to a typical F&ES master’s program. But as someone interested in land use law and sustainable development, Allison has found the joint degree program well worth the added time: “I see my joint degree as a huge advantage in the interdisciplinary field of land use. Taking an F&ES course on wetlands ecology, for example, has taught me to develop sustainably, which is not necessarily something you are going to learn in law school or as an intern in a traditional land use law firm. As a land use lawyer, you work with a variety of players – from planners and architects to engineers and public interest groups. The joint degree has provided me with a better understanding of these diverse players’ interests.”

Meghan Lewis has had a similar experience as a joint MEM/Architecture student. In addition to the career benefits she expects, she has enjoyed being part of two diverse communities while at Yale: “A joint degree program extends your community to two schools which means a larger network of friends in school and a larger professional network after school.” While pursuing a joint degree takes more time, Meghan has found that to be an advantage: “F&ES provides amazing travel and internship opportunities. As a joint degree student, you have an extra summer to travel, try something new, and get important work experience.”

Of course, there are challenges that come along with a joint degree program. In addition to the extra time and cost, it means navigating two different schools – and understanding their academic requirements. Law schools, for example, generally have fairly strict course requirements, while F&ES is much more flexible. Getting the most out of a joint degree program requires you to plan ahead and work with your advisor to ensure that you are meeting both schools’ requirements, while designing a curriculum that fits your interests and career goals.

If you pursue a joint degree program with a school that is not located in New Haven, you have the added inconvenience of relocating while in school or commuting long distances. Relocating for a short period of time can be tough, especially with significant others or children. However, commuting often means you miss out on much that makes F&ES great – incredible guest speakers, conferences and symposiums, and after hours social events.

Ultimately, you have to ask the question: Is it worth it? How will a joint degree benefit me and my future career? If the benefits seem to outweigh the costs, a joint degree program might be right for you. If you have any questions about pursuing a joint degree at F&ES, or about my own experience as a joint law student, please feel free to contact me (anne.haas@yale.edu).