Master's Vs MBA
February 12, 2021 | Read Time: 6.5 Minutes

Masters vs MBA: How Do I Decide?

By Brianna Radicioni

Ready to pursue an advanced business degree, but don’t know which option is right for you? Here, we’ll help you understand the differences between specialized masters vs MBA programs. We’ll also help you to compare such programs as:

  • MBA vs Masters in Entrepreneurship
  • MBA vs Masters in Finance
  • MBA vs Business Analytics
  • MBA vs Masters in Marketing

Key Takeaway

Deciding which program is best for you, masters vs MBA, usually depends on how many years of professional experience you have, how specialized you wish to be in your career, or if you wish to have the flexibility to change career paths and apply your newfound-skills and expertise across a variety of industries.

Regardless of the program, says U.S. News & World Report, investing in a graduate business education can be a worthwhile pursuit, “yielding strong returns in knowledge, contacts with classmates and alumni—who may become investors or collaborators—and easier access to resources and capital.”

Business Masters vs MBA Degree

How do I decide between a business masters vs MBA? The difference is in the specialty and in how many years of professional experience you have since earning your undergraduate degree.

The most generalized of all advanced business options, the MBA degree offers a comprehensive education in business administration. As a result, an MBA requires taking classes in all business disciplines.

Masters programs on the other hand are typically, but not always, designed for those just starting out in their career. They may help graduates earn additional qualifications before searching for a full-time job opportunity. Masters programs also are better suited for candidates who want to hone in on a certain specialty or topic area.

It is absolutely possible, and common, to pursue both types of degrees, meaning you don’t necessarily have to decide now between a masters vs MBA. Some jump into a masters degree to gain an advantage when entering the workforce, and then after a few years of professional experience, pursue an MBA to transition to a leadership role or venture out on their own.

Is there a better salary pay-off in pursuing one option compared to the other? That depends on several factors. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s Alumni Perspective Survey, business school alumni report that, on average, it takes less than four years to recoup the cost of their education, and then some. While specialized business masters program alumni report slightly faster ROI times than MBA alumni, it’s entirely dependent on an individual’s personal situation (cost of education, time it takes to complete the degree, and current economic conditions).

Did you know? Babson College offers both full time MBA and part time MBA programs.

MBA vs Masters in Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurial MBA programs are often a top choice for an established professional who is ready to pursue a new idea or to make a bold career move. According to Best Colleges, MBA programs often help students master the managerial, leadership, and critical-thinking skills needed to run a business.

Unlike an MBA, or even an MBA in Leadership, a leadership masters program in entrepreneurship is focused primarily on the student’s development as an entrepreneurial leader, not just an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurial leaders are uniquely equipped to take action, solve problems, and create value—no matter the industry, type of organization, or their position. This is because these types of leaders have been developed as strong risk managers, and have learned how to navigate ambiguity.

Advanced entrepreneurship degrees also are becoming readily available, including specialized Masters in Entrepreneurship programs for experienced professionals. If you have more than five years of professional experience and are looking for a program that will help you drive growth and mobilize others in real time, this option may be a fit for you.

Learn from the #1 school in entrepreneurship. Babson offers both a MBA in entrepreneurship and two masters in entrepreneurship degrees (Masters in Entrepreneurial Leadership and Masters in Advanced Entrepreneurial Leadership).

MBA vs Masters in Finance

Looking to set yourself apart as a finance professional? A Masters of finance degree helps you accelerate your expertise in financial modeling techniques, coding languages, and communicating financial data effectively.

While MBA graduates find career opportunities in various functions, including marketing, consulting, and operations, most Masters in finance graduates jump into financial services sectors or become finance consultants at major consulting firms. According to Piyush Ranjan, founder of admissions consultancy Management Masters, these advanced finance graduates end up with strong fundamentals in finance-related fields, instead of developing a general understanding of all business areas, as a graduate with an MBA would.

After just a couple of semesters, students graduating with a masters in finance typically command strong salaries relative to their early-career peers. PayScale lists the average annual pay for a new Master of finance graduate at just under $80,000.

When deciding between an MBA vs Master of Finance, the real question is: how specialized do you want your education to be? If you attended business school for your undergraduate degree but are seeking a career in finance, a Master of finance may be the best next step. If you feel that you could still benefit from a more holistic business degree, then you could pursue an MBA and find a program that also offers finance concentrations and other ways to personalize your degree.

Gain next level finance skills. Babson offers a range of finance graduate degree programs: a Master of Finance and two MBA concentrations (MBA in Finance and MBA in Quantitative Finance).

MBA vs Business Analytics Degree

The demand for analytical experts—those who are able to convert analytics into practical insights and viable business solutions—is higher than ever. The influence of big data on business decision making is now a must-have rather than nice to have.

With that in mind, advanced business analytics degrees are now a high-demand, high-return option.

With respect to salary and career progress, LinkedIn ranked data science as the most promising job in America in 2019. The median base salary is listed at $130,000, and the year-over-year growth of job openings in this space is up 56%.

When choosing between an MBA vs Business Analytics degree, you must decide just how much you wish to set yourself apart via specialty, and whether you're hoping to jump into an advanced degree before a full-time career or after a few years of professional experience.

Transform information into innovation. Babson offers several business analytics graduate degree programs to choose from: a Masters in Business Analytics and two MBA concentrations (MBA in Business Analytics and MBA in Business Analytics and Machine Learning).

MBA vs Masters in Marketing

Both an MBA and a Masters in Marketing relate to and include the study of marketing, but depending on the program, students will experience different approaches to education and structure.

In an MBA program, marketing will just be one piece of a full core curriculum, also likely to include entrepreneurship, finance, organizational behavior, business analytics, operations and information management, and strategy. According to Grad School Hub, a Masters in Marketing will focus primarily on studying customers and potential markets in order to better understand issues of demand, supply, and global trade. If you were to pursue this type of program, you could choose to specialize in global marketing, social media marketing, or marketing research, for example.

According to Salary.com, there’s little to no difference between the average salary of someone with an MBA vs Masters in Marketing.

Create, communicate, and deliver value in a marketing role. Learn more about Babson’s MBA in Marketing Concentration.

Masters vs MBA: Next Steps

Still deciding? Here are a few simple next steps to help you in the process:

  1. Use a comparison tool, like this one from Babson, which helps you filter by format, location, duration, and degree.
  2. Attend business school events, especially  those with admissions.
  3. Speak with an admissions counselor.
  4. Regardless of program, learn more about the community and network you'd be joining. At Babson, graduates gain a global network of more than 42,000 entrepreneurial leaders from 129 countries.

Interested in learning more about Babson’s Graduate programs?

Take the next step today.

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About the Author

Brianna DiPietro Radicioni is a digital marketing and communications professional who has worked closely with large consumer and B2B brands, nonprofit organizations, startups, and thought leaders to develop and deliver strategic communications and media strategy. She is a proud Babson College alumna.

Like this graduate school advice article? Have a suggestion? To contact our team with comments or article ideas, send us a note at news@babson.edu.