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M.A. in Leadership Vs. MBA

Apr 19, 2019

Both an M.A. in Leadership and an MBA program provide students with necessary leadership and management skills to advance their careers. Find out key features of each program and slight differences between the two.

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Leadership and Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree programs are very similar in length, format, and degree requirements. The differences in these degree programs appear mostly in course topics and specific career outcomes. Explore the programs in detail below.

Comparing an M.A. in Leadership to an MBA

Master of Arts in Leadership

M.A. in Leadership degrees are commonly available and could also be labeled in different forms, such as organizational leadership or executive leadership. Depending on the program, these courses of study may require around 30 to 48 credits and may be completed in 1 to 3 years. Several of these degree programs are available in online formats and may provide additional areas of concentration, such as international leadership, change leadership, or nonprofit leadership. Students may be required to complete a capstone project or thesis, and coursework for these programs may discuss topics in ethical leadership, cultural engagement, organizational dynamics, strategic leadership, conflict management, and research methods. Graduates of M.A. in Leadership programs can work in a wide range of fields, such as church leadership, nonprofit management, school administration, human resources, project management, and corporate training.

Master of Business Administration

MBA programs are widely available, may range from around 30 to 36 credits and may be completed in 1 to 2 years. These programs are available as part- and full-time options, and can be taken on-campus, online, or in a hybrid format. Most MBA programs provide a general background in business, may require a capstone course, and usually allow students to specialize in a variety of areas, including leadership, accounting, cybersecurity, supply chain management, and business analytics. These degree programs may include core courses in topics such as ethics, financial analysis, innovation, economics, and marketing. Courses from a concentration in leadership could have subjects addressing the psychological design of leadership, how to lead during times of change, or communication in leadership. Graduates of MBA programs typically work in advanced leadership and managerial jobs in their given area of concentration. This could be as consultants, training and development managers, entrepreneurs, and human resource managers, for those in a leadership concentration.

Common Entrance Requirements

Applicants to both an M.A. in Leadership and an MBA program need to have a bachelor's degree and may need to meet a minimum GPA requirement, which usually varies by institution and/or program. Students applying to an M.A. in Leadership program may need to submit their transcripts, references, and a personal history essay with their application. They may also need to submit to a background check and/or undergo an interview process. Students applying to MBA programs may need to take the GRE or GMAT, depending on the program, and may need to have prior coursework in areas like statistics, accounting, and computer skills. Common application materials for MBA programs include transcripts, a resume or CV, a personal statement, and/or responses to essay questions.

Students can earn an M.A. in Leadership or an MBA in 1 to 2 years on-campus or online, but students in the M.A. program will focus their studies on leadership skills that can then be applied to a range of fields. Graduates of MBA programs gain a well-rounded business knowledge and tend to take leadership roles within areas of the business world.


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