MBA Vs. MPA: What's the Difference?

The biggest difference between a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree is the sector students are prepared to work in upon graduation. MPA degree programs are for potential public sector employees, while MBAs are meant for those planning to work in the private sector.


The MPA, or Master of Public Administration, is a graduate-level program designed to teach students how to fulfill managerial and administrative positions in public and nonprofit organizations, including schools, health services and regulatory agencies. The curriculum for an MBA, or Master of Business Administration program, on the other hand, focuses on private sector management and readies students for work within a certain sector of business, like finance, marketing and management.

MPA Program Coursework

Students who enroll in MPA programs study such subjects as budget processing, management, administrative law, urban planning, community development and public financing. Courses within an MPA program might also allow students to focus on a specialty, like the American political process, public policy, health policy, international relations, organizational leadership and budgeting.

Courses taken by all students teach them how to conduct research, evaluate program effectiveness and perform data analyses. Additional classes will depend on students' specialization areas and can include comparative administration, public organization leadership, urban management, human resource administration, administrative law and public financial management.

MBA Program Coursework

MBA candidates begin by taking core business courses in areas like finance, marketing and human resources management. Once this coursework has been completed, students can choose to specialize in one of these areas.

Types of MBA programs include the full-time MBA, part-time MBA, accelerated MBA and the executive MBA. Each of these programs is designed for students at different stages in their educational and professional lives. An executive MBA program is often designed for professionals with about ten years of work experience or more in business.

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