written by Rana Waxman
MBA vs MS: What’s the Difference
When deciding between an MBA vs MS for your graduate degree in business, it’s important to understand the differences. While these two business degrees are similar, the differences can include topics covered, curriculum, and the option of choosing a concentration.
Regardless of which you decide, earning a masters degree requires a big investment in time and money. Both MBA and MS degrees in business may help you kick-start your career or help you change paths. Therefore, use your previous education, professional experience, and career goals to help you decide between a MBA vs Masters in Science.
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Which Is Right for You
Some students don’t realize that a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) isn’t the only way to earn a masters degree in business. In fact, for some students, earning a master of science (MS) in a particular subject, such as marketing, accounting, finance, or international business may be a better option than an MBA.
While MBA programs cover a number of subjects, many offer the option to fine-tune your degree by choosing a concentration, which usually consists of about three courses related to a specific subject.
In many ways, the question of an MBA degree vs. an MS degree comes down to a question of breadth vs. depth. Usually, MBAs cover a diverse range of business areas, while MS degrees may help you become the resident expert on a particular subject.
What Is an MBA?
A Masters of Business Administration (MBA) covers a wide range of business fields to prepare you for leadership positions. An MBA degree is universally recognized, so you can expect it will always be a highlight on your resume, no matter who’s looking at it.
As alluded to earlier, an MBA has breadth and you can expect coursework in subjects as diverse as:
- Organizational behavior
If you’re looking for career flexibility or management training, an MBA is the way to go. Through varied classes, case studies, and a diverse student body, you will be exposed to a whole gamut of subjects and industry opportunities.
You might even begin your degree with one career in mind, and finish with an entire list of other options. Therefore, unless you are absolutely sure of your subject, or you are being trained specifically for your current job, an MBA degree may be a safer option - and yes, affordable MBA's do exist!
The flexibility of an MBA may even extend to the way you earn the degree itself. Because MBAs appeal to a greater number of people than MS degrees, most universities will be able to offer a wider range of academic options including:
- One or two-year programs
- Evening programs
- Weekend programs
- Executive programs
Keep in mind that these options are usually available for MS degrees as well, but to a lesser extent.
What Is a Master of Science (MS) Degree in Business?
A Master of Science degree typically digs deeper into a specific subject, compared to an MBA concentration which may only feature a few classes. While pursuing an MS, expect rigorous material that may be more theoretical or math-based.
For example, marketing may seem straightforward: figuring out how to sell a product or service. However, pull back the curtain and you’ll find an incredibly intricate discipline that employs aspects of:
- Product design
- Plus others
Because it’s a more specialized degree than an MBA, business MS programs may be smaller and may offer less flexibility in course options and schedules. Many MS degree programs are designed to prepare students for specific certifications or exams, such as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam for those studying finance.
By comparison, an MBA may cover the relevant knowledge and skills, but won’t necessarily focus on the ins and outs of certification exams. If you are really sure of your subject, then an MS will give you the chance to explore it with great depth.
How to Decide Between an MBA vs MS Degree
Here's 5 ways to break it down.
1 - Research: Now that you have a better understanding of the differences between a Master of Science in Business Administration and an MBA, how do you determine which one has your name on it? The best thing you can do is research all of your options. You can start by checking out some mba programs and ms programs to find different options at each school, the differences between courses for an MBA vs MS, and when the next starting date is at each school.
2 - Network: Next, talk to your managers at work to see which degrees, if any, they have and whether their colleagues at other companies have an MBA or MS. They can also share what types of skills and knowledge they look for in management candidates.
3 - Requirements: Know your requirements. Start with the career you are working towards and find out what degrees and certifications are required. You can also spend time on job posting sites to see which degrees are required or recommended for your desired career.
4 - Prerequisites: Do you have the necessary prerequisites? Because of the more rigorous curriculum, MS degrees may require more specific experience, such as prerequisite coursework or a specific undergraduate degree. For instance, an MS in Operations Research may require undergraduate work in science, math, or engineering.
5 - Joint Degrees: Many universities offer a joint degree, such as an MBA/MS in finance. Your education will take slightly longer, but you’ll have the breadth of the MBA and the depth of the MS.
Whatever you do, try not to sweat it. You’re wise to pursue either degree. Whether you earn a masters degree in business administration or masters in science in finance, you should find yourself well-positioned for success.
Master of Business Administration (MBA) Programs
Many colleges and universities offer an MBA degree. However, not all schools offer all concentrations and some have more options than others.
Start your research to find the perfect MBA program for you by checking out some of the sponsored listings below.
University of St. Mary
With a long tradition of academic excellence, the University of Saint Mary is a tight-knit community where one-on-one attention is valued. USM inspires students to follow their dreams through academic programs where purpose, global impact, and long-term success are the focus.
The MBA programs at the University of St. Mary focus on developing you as a whole person while sticking to their 90-year old mission of developing your leadership skills.
A public, comprehensive university committed to be among the very best institutions in the nation, Winthrop University blends liberal arts, professional programs, global awareness, and civic engagement.
The MBA at Winthrop provides you the tools you need for professional success through core classes that build your expertise and skills while focusing on globalization, analytics, technology, and communication. With eight different concentrations available, Winthrop also offers a general MBA:
George Mason University
Though young, George Mason University has made impressive strides in size, stature, and influence. Already Virginia’s largest public research university, the school is setting the benchmark for a bold, progressive education.
With ten schools and colleges devoted to a variety of areas of study and more than 34,000 students, George Mason has created an organically diverse environment.
George Mason’s MBA teaches you the diverse skill set and broader insights you need to succeed in today’s global marketplace.
Master of Science in Digital Marketing
If you know that digital marketing is your desired career, and would prefer the in-depth analysis of an MS in Digital Marketing instead of an MBA, check out some of the sponsored programs below for more information.
Sacred Heart University
Sacred Heart University believes that inquiry, pursuing knowledge, and intelligent reflection inside and outside the classroom create greater opportunities. By promoting your curiosity, SHU helps you discover your own talents, abilities, and strengths is the most valuable outcome possible.
The Jack Welch College of Business at Sacred Heart offers a Master of Science in Digital Marketing that prepares you to meet the exponentially growing demand for marketing leaders.
University of Maryland University College
At the University of Maryland University College, you build your professional value with each class you take because every program is designed for busy professionals. As a respected state university offering career-relevant education, UMUC has taught students around the world for more than 65 years.
As the marketing landscape continues to change, UMUC teaches you how to gain leading-edge management skills through many master’s in business programs, including:
Master of Science in Accounting
Typically, masters degree in accounting programs prepare you for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. These masters programs also go by several different names, which you may come across in your research, such as:
- Master of Science in Accounting
- Master of Science in Professional Accountancy (MSPA)
- Masters of Accountancy (MACC)
- MBA with a Concentration in Accounting
Check out some of the sponsored schools below to learn more about the different types of masters degrees in accounting.
St. John’s University
St. John’s University strives to preserve and enhance an atmosphere in which scholarly research, imaginative methodology and global awareness serve as the basis of the learning process. With a commitment to academic excellence and the pursuit of wisdom, St. John’s aims to teach excellent professionals.
The Peter J. Tobin College of Business offers a variety of master’s degrees in business by working with some of the premier specialists in a variety of fields. Some of these are the:
Seton Hall University
As one of the country’s leading Catholic universities, Seton Hall University develops the minds, hearts, and spirits of students. Founded in 1856, Seton Hall has nearly 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students and offers more than 90 rigorous majors.
One of the many graduate programs offered by the Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall, designed for students looking to satisfy the 150-credit educational requirement to sit for the CPA exam in New Jersey, New York, and many other states is the:
Master of Science in Organizational Leadership
Organizational leadership masters programs focus on how to manage teams and make strategic decisions that could impact the whole organization. Typically, courses in these programs cover topics such as:
- Conflict management
- Business ethics
- Project management
- Organizational behavior
- Change management
Check out some of the sponsored programs in organizational leadership listed below.
Saint Joseph’s University
Saint Joseph’s University provides a rigorous, student-centered education in order to prepare you for personal excellence and professional success. For over 160 years, Saint Joseph’s has been engaging men and women in a rigorous Jesuit education that empowers them to become leaders.
The Organizational Development and Leadership program is designed for professionals who want to lead change and achieve outstanding results in today’s complex world.
As the premier online graduate university, Northcentral University educates professionals throughout the world. By mentoring students one-on-one with highly credentialed faculty, NCU is committed to helping you achieve academic success.
The curriculum for the Organizational Leadership MS provides an intense examination of the current state of leadership. By evaluating your own leadership skills and the components that contribute to the health of an organization, the program teaches how to apply best practices.
Master of Science in Human Resources Management
While pursuing a Master of Science in Human Resource Management, courses teach:
- Creative problem-solving skills
- Data-driven decision-making
- Strategic management skills
Check out the partner programs listed below for more information about each of the degrees.
The University of Scranton
Originally founded in 1888, the University of Scranton is a Catholic and Jesuit university dedicated to the freedom of inquiry and personal development through growth in wisdom and integrity.
The Human Resources MS offers a curriculum that fully aligns with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) certification, integrates the most up-to-date research, and incorporates human resource best practices.
A student-centered research institution located in Washington, D.C., American University consists of highly-ranked schools and colleges, internationally-renowned faculty, and a reputation for creating meaningful change in the world.
American University teaches how to successfully drive wellness programs, create benefit portals, and engage employees at a higher rate through the:
Consider Earning Your Masters Degree Online
If you’re overwhelmed by the time commitment or don’t like the available masters programs in your area, there are many online masters degree programs in business available and many masters degrees that you can earn in only a year..
Earning your master's degree online is a convenient way for many to fulfill needed credits or complete a master's degree without having to relocate to attend a specific school. Online programs also allow you to perform coursework around your professional and personal responsibilities.