M.S. in Business Administration Vs MBA

Feb 26, 2018

Learn about some of the small, but important, differences between a Master of Science in Business Administration and a Master of Business Administration. Explore common course topics, career options and admissions requirements for each.

One of the biggest factors students contemplating a Master of Science (M.S.) in Business Administration or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree program should address is whether they consider themselves a specialist or a generalist. Both degree programs prepare students for leadership positions in the business world, but an MBA may allow for extra flexibility, while an M.S. tends to be more specific. Compare and contrast these two degree programs below.

Comparing an M.S. in Business Administration to an MBA

M.S. in Business Administration

An M.S. in Business Administration tends to be a specialized degree program that focuses primarily on business management, but allows students to tailor their coursework to their specific career or areas of interest. These degree programs are typically offered on-campus, are available in full- and part-time formats and can be completed in as little as 1 year. Some of these programs may place an emphasis on international management and/or require students to complete a capstone project to apply their knowledge to real-world situations. Coursework is generally determined by the student and his or her advisor to create an individualized plan of study, but some common core courses may include topics in managing organizations, accounting, marketing management, finance and international management. Graduates with an M.S. in Business Administration can fill a wide range of leadership positions in the government, education or business and may have a specific career in mind at the outset of the program.


MBA degree programs are broader, well-rounded programs that cover a variety of areas in business, but also offer an array of concentrations to help students focus their studies. These degree programs are available on-campus and online, can be taken full- or part-time and usually take 1 to 2 years to complete. Students are usually required to complete a capstone project or internship experience for hands-on learning and may choose from concentrations like accounting, finance, real estate, human resources, entrepreneurship, environmental management, media management, marketing, information systems and many more. Similar to the M.S. program, elective coursework for an MBA typically depends on the chosen concentration, but some common core course topics include business strategy, organizational behavior, economics, financial accounting, ethics, project management, information management, statistics and operations management. Like those from an M.S. program, MBA graduates can find a variety of leadership, managerial and administrative jobs in various industries as directors, managers or executives, but may also work as analysts, such as business or financial analysts, and may have more flexibility in their careers to switch to different positions.

Common Entrance Requirements

Most M.S. in Business Administration and MBA degree programs require applicants to submit official transcripts, GRE or GMAT scores (usually GMAT is preferred), letters of recommendation, a personal statement and/or a resume with their application. Programs might be quite competitive, so students may also be required to list any academic accomplishments or hold a minimum GPA that is set higher than the general university requirement. Some of the M.S. degree programs also require students to already have an MBA. Select programs also require students to have related work experience.

Although an M.S. in Business Administration and an MBA degree program usually offer similar options, they often vary in length, available formats and program depth. If you have already decided on an area of focus, the M.S. option may be for you, while the MBA could leave you more open in the beginning to decide on your concentration further into the program.

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