Master's in Applied Economics and Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs differ in several factors, but one of the main points students should consider when deciding between the two is their career goals. The Master of Applied Economics program specifically focuses on practical applications of economic theory, while MBA programs provide a broader business education. Here we discuss other factors that may help students make a decision about which degree is right for them.
Master's in Applied Economics vs. MBA
Master of Applied Economics
Master of Applied Economics programs focus more on the economic analysis and tools used to identify and solve economic issues and policies, rather than research, which may be the focus of a general Master of Arts in Economics program. These programs are available in full- or part-time formats, may require around 30 to 48 credits, and can usually be completed in 1 to 1.5 years (or 2 years if taken part-time). Some of these programs may require students to maintain a 3.0 GPA throughout the program and/or complete a capstone experience, which may be the student's choice of a final exam or final project. Coursework for these programs is usually split into core courses that may cover topics in data analysis, microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics, and electives in areas such as health economics, labor economics, financial economics, public economics, and more. Graduates of these degree programs generally work in careers as economics analysts that work to solve real-world problems in a range of fields.
Master of Business Administration
MBA programs are usually more general programs in business that are often offered in flexible formats, such as online or evening courses. Typically, these programs provide multiple areas of concentration, often including economics, may require a capstone experience, and can be completed in 12 to 24 months. These programs may also offer a wide range of hands-on learning opportunities in the world of business through projects, case studies, industry immersions, internships, fellowships, and/or international study opportunities. Students in these programs are generally trained in business management and leadership through core courses that discuss topics in ethics, accounting, business strategy, operations, marketing, and more, and then take courses that specialize in a particular area, such as economic courses like microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics. Graduates of MBA programs usually work in business-related careers and are qualified to take on leadership or management positions.
Common Entrance Requirements
Students who intend to apply to a Master of Applied Economics or MBA program need to have at least a bachelor's degree and may need to meet a minimum GPA requirement, depending on the institution. It is common for both degree programs to require applicants to take the GRE, however, some MBA programs may also accept the GMAT or not require the GRE or GMAT at all. Master of Applied Economics programs may also recommend that applicants already have a background in mathematics, economics, and statistics. Application materials vary by institution, but students applying to either program may need to submit their transcripts, letters of recommendation, personal statement/statement of purpose, and/or resume.
Master of Applied Economics and MBA programs can be completed in about the same amount of time, but the economics program is more specific, while the MBA provides a general business background featuring some courses within an area of specialization. Either program may include a capstone experience and/or offer flexible formats, such as part-time or online.