Difference Between an MBA Degree and a Master's Degree

Master's degree programs offer graduate-level specializations across a variety of fields, while a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is type of master's degree that prepares students for management positions or other high-level roles in business. Schools offering Business degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Distinguishes an MBA from Other Master's Degrees?

A master's degree is a specialized, graduate-level qualification that typically takes around two years to obtain. Master's degrees are awarded across a range of academic disciplines - most commonly as a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Science (MS). Programs usually require some combination of graduate coursework and seminars, comprehensive examinations and the completion of a master's project or thesis.

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a master's degree that usually takes one to two years to complete and prepares students to face business challenges, meet marketplace expectations and take on leadership roles in the business world. MBA students typically choose an area of focus, such as finance, marketing, operations or strategic management.

Length of Master's Degree/MBA ProgramsMaster's degree, two years; MBA, one to two years
PrerequisitesBachelor's degree, competitive GMAT/GRE scores; MBAs may also require professional experience
Related Master's Degree ProgramsMaster of Accounting, Master's in Finance, Master of Science in Organizational Leadership
MBA Career Options Senior executive, marketing manager, management consultant, financial manager

What Is Necessary to Apply for an MBA?

In general, admission to a master's degree program typically requires a bachelor's degree and acceptable scores on standardized tests, such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Prerequisite courses in the area of study could be required as well.

MBA applicants may also need about two years' professional experience in a business-related field. They are often expected to demonstrate leadership qualities, as well as analytical abilities and a propensity for community engagement, through application components that can include resumes and interviews.

MBA candidates are often required to achieve above average scores on the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) or GRE. GMAT scores fall within a range of 200-800, with many MBA programs expecting results well above the mean score of 553 for U.S. test-takers in 2017.

When Is an MBA the Right Choice?

While other master's degree programs can provide highly specialized training in business or finance - such as a Master of Accounting, Master's in Finance and Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - students who are interested in broad business career options and top-level executive positions may find it more worthwhile to pursue an MBA.

Typical MBA coursework can include the following:

  • Leadership and team management
  • Managerial accounting
  • Operations management
  • Managerial economics
  • Law and ethics
  • Marketing management
  • Supply chain management

Students enrolled in MBA programs are provided with the opportunity to make connections with students across a wide variety of backgrounds and specialties that can provide a useful network throughout their lives. They are also often given the option of enrolling in a part-time degree program while continuing to work so that they can further their careers during their course of study.

What Can I Do With an MBA?

While top-level executives can obtain jobs with a bachelor's degree, those who hold MBAs provide themselves with an advantage in a highly competitive market. People with MBA degrees can obtain high-level management positions such as the following:

  • Senior executive
  • Investment banker
  • Management consultant
  • Financial manager
  • Marketing manager
  • Information security analyst

Top-level executives across industries earned a median salary of $104,980 in 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The agency reported that top executives are expected to see an 8% job growth from 2016-2026 - the same as the average for all occupations.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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