Pursuing an advanced degree is a sound investment in your future. Not only can it increase your potential earnings, but it will also push you up the corporate ladder to positions of greater responsibility. While having either an MBA or a Master’s degree will boost your professional worth, both degrees are expensive in terms of time, labour and cost. Therefore, you must choose the right course to add to your repertoire.
What’s the difference?
To understand whether an MBA or a relevant Master’s degree is the right fit for you, let’s first understand the differences between these options.
Master of Business Administration or MBA is a broad, multi-faceted, business degree that covers many areas of study such as finance, human resources, management, sales, strategy, marketing, and more. An MBA is a generalised graduate-level degree that focuses on imparting the typical skills one would need to successfully manage a business. The curriculum revolves around the development of leadership and management skills.
A Master’s degree is also an advanced option that aims to impart mastery over the subject of your choosing. With a Master’s program, you can pursue an advanced degree that offers you a specialisation in a specific subject such as finance, education, engineering, hospitality, entrepreneurship, and many more. The curriculum aims at making you a trained expert in that specific field of study. Hence, the curriculum focuses on the development of technical and field-specific skill sets, tailored toward meeting specific academic and career needs.
Designed to meet the needs of a working professional, a good B-school requires you to have a minimum of 3 to 5 years of work experience for admission to an MBA program. A Master’s degree is open to fresh graduates and so, you can apply with little to no experience, typically between 0-2 years.
Course Duration and Cost
Perhaps one of the biggest deciding factors to help you choose between an MBA and a Master’s degree is the course duration and cost.
While a Master’s degree can be earned in 1-2 years, MBAs typically take a minimum of 2 years. There are very few 1-year MBA options. However, you can choose from different types of programs—full-time, part-time, and Executive MBA.
Depending on the geography, a Master’s course would generally cost approximately USD 75,000 per year. Conversely, an MBA is likely to cost about USD 100,000 per annum. Ensure that you factor in the course duration while doing the budgeting.
Choosing to study abroad is by no means an inexpensive affair. So, you will want to ensure that you have chosen the best universities for the course you want to pursue. The US has long been a hub for MBA aspirants as the top B-schools offering quality programs are situated there. For Master’s, the world is your oyster as you can find great options in the UK, US, Singapore, Europe, and Canada.
The largely academic Master’s degree comprises majorly theory-based taught classes, although research and thesis options are available. Some universities offer a Ph.D. track as well, in which you can pursue a Ph.D. after completing your Master’s. An MBA is a terminal program geared towards experiential learning and so, the course structure includes more case-based learning, group projects, seminars, and live challenges funded by industries.
Choosing between MBA and Masters
Whether you choose to pursue an MBA or a Master’s, you are selecting your next big academic milestone. While making this choice, you can factor in the above-mentioned criteria, including the different opportunities available to you after graduation from the two kinds of programs. However, the actual decision depends on you—so, don’t forget to factor in what you want.
Spend some time fine-tuning your short and long-term career goals. If you are interested in gaining expertise in areas like management or strategy, an MBA would be a better fit for you. For specific specialisations in humanities, life sciences, physical sciences, design, law, or policy, a Master’s is a better bet.
If the goal is to learn and hone overall management skills, an MBA will give you the overarching skills you require. However, if you need to learn niche skills in a particular area, choose a Master’s program.
Both degrees are an excellent choice to catapult your career trajectory. Before you set your heart on one or the other, ensure that the program meets your requirements and you meet the program’s eligibility requirements concerning work experience.
The author is Meenal Damani, Manager, OnCourse, an education company that provides application assistance and profile-building services to students and professionals who are looking to pursue their undergraduate or postgraduate degrees overseas.