MBA vs. Master’s: What’s The Difference?

College students who want to obtain advanced degrees often struggle with deciding between pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree or Master’s degree in a specific business related field. A lot of the uncertainty is related to the lack of knowledge about each of the two programs.

The purpose of this post is to explain the difference between an MBA and Master’s degree so that you can make the right decision.

MBA Programs

MBA programs usually last 2-3 years, depending on if you enroll part-time or full-time.  Students who enroll in MBA programs gain training and knowledge in specific areas (Accounting, Marketing, Finance, Economics, etc.), but they also learn other intangible skills that help prepare them for general management positions (ex. teamwork, leadership, negotiation skills, public speaking tips, etc.).

MBA students graduate with the ability to hold a general conversation about a variety of different business topics. The goal of an MBA program is to enhance a student’s managerial skills and help prepare them for a top management position at a company (Vice President, CFO, CEO, etc.).

So think of an MBA as a “one-size fits all” type of program. You can expect to learn a little bit about several different business topics, while also learning about other business related skills that can be utilized in many different situations and settings.

MBA programs are also more focused on working in teams to complete assignments and case studies, class participation, learning from classmates, and enhancing your communication skills.  Most professors are pretty hands-off. They try to help guide students towards the right answer, as students perform the research themselves.

Master’s Program in Business Related Field

In contrast, a Master’s degree program in a particular business field is very specialized.  For example, an MBA student may spend 25% of their time studying Finance and Accounting topics, whereas a Master’s in Finance student will spend 90% of their time studying pure Finance topics.

There are several different Master’s in Business programs offered by college and universities in the United States.  Here is a list of some of the most common graduate degrees in business:

1. Master of Accountancy

2. Master of Taxation

3. Master of Finance

4. Master of Statistics

5. Master of Actuarial Science

6. Master of Risk Management / Insurance

7. Master of Organizational Behavior

8. Master of Management

9. Master of Economics

10. Master of Human Resources

These types of programs typically range from 1 to 3 years.

Which Do I Choose?

Here are some things for you to consider as you try to choose between the two programs:

A. Years of Work Experience

MBA programs typically require applicants to have at least 3-5 years of experience, whereas Master’s programs accept recent graduates who may not have any work experience.

B. Why Are You Doing It?

Most people choose the MBA Program for 1 of 3 reasons: (1) Career Advancement; (2) Desire to Change Careers; or (3) Desire to learn about Entrepreneurialism.

If you do not fit in one of those 3 categories, then you might want to consider a Master’s program that is specific to the business topic that interests you.

C. General Business Degree vs. Specialization

Do you just have a general interest in business management or are you looking to land a job in a specific business related field?

For example, are you looking for a general management position that allows you to manage people or do you want a corporate finance or investment banking job?

Your answers to these questions will dictate which program you should pursue, if any…

Before You Make A Final Decision….

A lot of students decide to pursue graduate degrees without thinking through everything first. Before you make a final decision, make sure you READ THIS ARTICLE:

5 Crucial Questions You MUST Ask Yourself Before Applying to Graduate School

Good Luck!

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

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