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MBA vs. Master's Degree (MS):
What are the Biggest Differences?

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Difference Between MBA and MS Master’s Degree

When choosing a graduate degree in business, you may consider an MBA or a Master of Science (MS) in Business degree. Both MBA and MS degrees have some overlap in the subject matter and can give you tools to help advance your career.

However, understanding the differences between an MBA vs. MS degree—such as curriculum, course requirements, and the ability to choose a concentration—can help you make the best choice.

What is an MBA degree?

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree provides students with general business knowledge to prepare you for a variety of leadership positions. This degree can be applied to a variety of industries, including corporate operations, government, education, and healthcare.

Many people choose to pursue an MBA to help advance their career or prepare themselves for management or leadership positions. Because some MBA programs require professional experience, students may also take classes while working.

An MBA typically offers students a wide scope of courses covering:

  • Finance
  • Global and international business
  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Organizational behavior
  • Technology

In addition, some MBA programs offer students the ability to select specific concentrations within their program. This allows you to customize your MBA program to better match your interests and career goals. MBA concentration options with Herzing University include:

An MBA can help you obtain higher-level positions, such as manager, director, or executive, and can also help increase your earning potential. Depending on factors such as concentration focus, experience, industry, and geographical location, your earning potential may be even greater.

What is a Master of Science (MS) degree?

A Master of Science (MS) degree is very specialized and allows students to focus entirely on one particular subject area, while an MBA with that concentration may only feature a few classes. MS degrees often focus more on theory and applied science.

For example, an MBA with a concentration in finance may include courses in accounting or corporate finance, while an MS in Finance may dive deep into:

  • Economics
  • Mathematics
  • Quantitative analysis
  • Regulatory requirements
  • …and more

Because an MS is a more specialized degree, the program may not offer as much flexibility compared to an MBA program. Many MS degree programs are designed to prepare students for specific certifications or exams, so it can be helpful to have a specific career goal in mind when pursuing an MS degree.

How to choose between an MBA and MS degree

When deciding if you should pursue an MBA versus an MS degree, consider these factors:

  • Educational requirements: Both degrees typically require a bachelor’s degree, but an MS degree may have additional requirements, such as a specific undergraduate degree or prerequisite coursework. For example, an MS in Marketing may require undergraduate work in marketing or communications.
  • Personal and professional goals: Knowing what your career goals are can help you decide between an MBA and an MS degree. If you plan to focus your career on a particular field, such as economics or analytics, an MS degree may be a better fit. If you would like to manage teams or be involved with a variety of business functions, an MBA may be a better fit.
  • You should also determine if you would like to focus on a particular concentration or pursue a post-graduate certificate. If you would like to pursue a certificate, an MBA is a good choice because it provides you a strong foundation of general business knowledge on which you can build.
  • Flexibility: Do you plan to work while pursuing your MBA or MS degree? If you plan to work, look for a program that offers flexible schedules, online, or blended online and in-person coursework. Herzing University offers an IACBE-accredited1MBA program with online and in-person class availability, as well as a dual concentration option.

Choosing your path

Both an MBA and an MS degree can help you build your business knowledge, advance your career, and increase your salary potential. While there is overlap between the two courses, the MBA offers you a broader business foundation, while the MS is more specialized in one particular field of study.

Expand your career opportunities! Take your next career step with Herzing University.

Discover Herzing University's online MBA program


1. The Business Division at Herzing University has received specialized accreditation for its business programs through the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE) located at 11374 Strang Line Road in Lenexa, Kansas, USA. For a list of accredited programs please refer to our IACBE member status page.

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