Masters In Business vs MBA

It can be really difficult to choose between graduate degrees in a business related field and the Master of Business Administration (MBA). The MBA has been available for quite some time, and has long been hailed as the most prestigious qualification for people in the business world. However, the master’s program has been around for even longer, and is equally respected. So which one of the two is better?

The Master’s Degree

The very first master’s degree was awarded in Morocco in 859 A.D. It is recognized around the world as a qualification that equips graduates with advanced skills, regardless of the specific subject area. In terms of business, the master’s degree is usually a master of science in a field such as finance. These degrees don’t really require students to already have any work experience, which make them a preferred option for many. Additionally, they can be completed in as little as a year full time study.

The MBA Degree

Very often, people who hold a business undergraduate degree and want to specialize in a financial career are encouraged to obtain an MBA degree. A myriad of specializations in this degree exist, but all have a core curriculum that includes things such as management, entrepreneurship, accounting, marketing, and finance. The curriculum covers a very broad spectrum of subjects and prepares students to become executive leaders in a range of fields. Completing an MBA program usually takes two years, if a student studies full time. With many students now working and wanting to study online, it can take much longer to complete it, particularly if the students are not yet employed in a leadership or management position.

Differences Between Degrees

A lot of people are questioning whether or not the MBA degree continues to be a valid qualification. This is because 40% of those who have completed the MBA program enter a finance-related field, and the link between these professionals and the recent financial collapse has been unequivocally proven. Unsurprisingly, there are now some very vocal critics of this degree program, with some saying that it is not possible to create a leader or even a manager in a classroom. This is because management is a practice rather than a profession or science, and one that can only be learned through experience. Critics say that MBA programs promise to deliver the impossible: creating managers and leaders. So are they right? Let’s explore the specific differences between the program.

Master’s vs MBA Candidates

The intentions of the master’s degree and that of the MBA are different. An MBA looks at a candidate’s professional experience and life, and tries to develop appropriate skills from there. In contrast, the master’s degree builds on the candidate’s academic background. Another key difference is that, in order to enroll in an MBA program, you generally already need quite a number of years of work experience behind your belt. The master’s degree, by contrast, can be enrolled in immediately. This means that students are often much younger and have less experience in working.

Master’s vs MBA Programs

Then, there are the teaching styles. While both are now often available online, the learning and teaching styles themselves couldn’t be more different. An MBA is mainly taught around real world examples and case studies. Groups of students, known as ‘syndicates’, then discuss these examples, exploring them and reflecting upon them. There are far fewer traditional lectures, which is the main method of instruction of the master’s degree. Activities in master’s degrees center around the classroom and include things such as presentations, tutorials, lectures, and laboratory activities. It does not focus as much on independent learning, in other words.

Students who enrol in a master’s degree tend to have an operational outlook on their study. Students who enroll in an MBA, by contrast, have a more strategic outlook on what they do. It is for that reason that there are few, if any textbooks involved with the MBA. Furthermore, students can take on far more elective courses, so that they learn about the subjects that actually interest them, albeit from a generalized perspective.

Master’s vs MBA Specializations

The biggest difference between the two types of programs is perhaps best highlighted in specializations. The MBA is, by and large, a generalized degree, ensuring students can manage any kind of business situation. The master’s degree, on the other hand, is highly specialized and looks at a single area.

Master’s vs MBA – What Employers Think

Employers have stated very frequently that they appreciate the generalized business knowledge that MBA holders have. At the same time, however, for high level specific positions, such as a HR Manager, they do not look for someone with generalized knowledge. They feel that, if the job is not simply ‘manager’, but in fact a manager in a specific subject, holding a master’s degree is in effect better. The exception, and this is significant, is for positions such as that of the CEOs, who must by definition be more generalized in their knowledge as they oversee the entire business.

Master’s vs MBA – Salaries

Generally speaking, those who hold a master in science will earn less as an MBA. This is not, however, due to the value of the degree. Rather, it is because those who hold an MBA usually already have more work experience and are therefore higher up the corporate ladder. The MBA degree simply propels them to the top. It is also important to understand that the MBA is a very expensive degree to obtain. Graduates from a top ranked institution who hold an MBA can expect to enjoy a starting salary of between $110,000 and $130,000 per year. By contrast, entry level financial careers for someone with a master of finance is around $74,350 per year. This is a significant difference.

Which Choice Is Right?

The reality is that the demand for graduates continues to be on the rise, both in terms of MBAs and in terms of master’s degrees. This means that only you can decide which one of the two is right for you. However, two things are of particular importance:

  1. What are your ambitions? If you know exactly where you want your career to go, and which area of business you are interested in, then the master’s degree is clearly for you.
  2. What is your background and what qualifications do you hold? The entry qualifications for MBA programs are very stringent and may be difficult to match.

Whether you choose the MBA or the master’s degree, you know that you will have a high quality education. Neither degree is bad for you, and it all depends on your personal academic dreams and your personal abilities. It is up to you to look into the differences and what is available to you before deciding which program to enrol in.

Resources and References: