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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. View article »

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  • 0:04 MBA vs. MPA
  • 0:56 Curriculum Comparison
  • 2:13 Program Format Comparison
  • 2:47 Career Options

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Video Transcript

MBA vs. MPA

Both MBA and MPA programs are graduate level programs aimed at students looking to pursue high-level or managerial positions in the private or public sectors. When choosing a program student should consider curriculum differences, program format options, and possible careers related to each degree program.

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

Curriculum Comparison

MBA candidates begin by taking core business courses. Once this coursework has been completed, students can choose to specialize in a particular area within the field, such as accounting, corporate finance, entrepreneurship, sustainability, and healthcare management, among other areas. Regardless of specialization, common MBA coursework topics include accounting, finance, marketing, management, economics, operations, statistics, and ethics.

Students who enroll in MPA programs study a wide range of subjects related to law, management, and policy. Some programs allow individuals to specialize in a particular area of the field, such as American political process, public policy, health policy, international relations, organizational leadership, or budgeting.

Courses taken by all students teach them how to conduct research, evaluate program effectiveness, and perform data analysis. Additional MPA classes will depend on a student's specialization. Areas can include comparative administration, public organization leadership, urban planning, human resource administration, administrative law, public financial management, budget processing, administrative law, community development, and public financing.

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Program Format Comparison

Types of MBA programs include the full-time MBA, part-time MBA, accelerated MBA, and the executive MBA. Each of these programs are 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. MPA degrees are also offered in full-time, part-time, and accelerated formats. There are also programs that are aimed specifically at mid-career professionals with several years of experience.

Career Options

Both MPA and MBA degrees open up a wide range of career possibilities in the private sector, government service, non-profit organizations, or the military. MBA graduates have many career options available and their career path often varies based on their specialization area. Some possibilities include financial manager, information security analyst, marketing director, business development manager, and international business translator.

Depending on their specialization area and career goals, possible job titles for MPA graduates can include city or county manager, human resource manager, non-profit manager, law enforcement professional, and transportation manager.

Both MBA and MPA programs can help professionals boost their knowledge and advance their careers, but MBA programs focus more heavily on business coursework, while MPA programs emphasize public affairs.

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