The Difference Between the MBA and other Postgraduate Management Degrees

By StudyLink

A Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA) is among the most popular graduate business degrees in the world. However, it is not the only one: there is a wide range of other graduate business and management degrees you may wish to pursue, including general MA courses in business areas, but also MComm and MIM (Masters in Management) courses, all of which offer themselves as an excellent alternative to an MBA. To decide which one is the best for you, it’s important to:

  • Understand the differences
  • Know what the differences mean to you
  • Know that the differences mean to an employer

Understand the Differences

There are some important differences between MBA and other postgraduate level management and business degrees, such as master’s degrees. Knowing these differences is important when deciding on the best program for your needs.

1. Skills Gained

One of the major differences is the type of skills you build. An MBA degree is designed to expand on your skills in the field and to make a you into a competitive professional and manager. Most master’s degrees are focused on academia and building a solid academic background on the areas involved in management. In short, an MBA programme is focused on professional skills whilst master’s degrees focus on academic skills.

2. Teaching Style

Another important difference between these degrees is the teaching style. Most programmes combine various teaching styles, but generally speaking, master’s studies are built around classroom lectures, tutorials, and seminars. There are many presentations and a strong focus on business theory. MBA programs, on the other hand, deal with real-life business problems that students should understand, explore, discuss and finally solve. These problems are often presented in the form of case studies, with a greater practical approach on analysing the exact, real-life business problems. Typically, these issues are discussed in small groups.

3. Topics Covered

MBA programs are often generalised and intended to develop a fundamental knowledge in all aspects of the business world. The goal is to build professional skills that students will be able to apply in many different professional situations. This degree prepares you for a wide range of scenarios in finance, accounting and other fields. Master’s programs, on the other hand, tend to be more specialised. They deal with one specific field or a subfield that students explore in greater detail, such as HR or marketing. In this sense, master’s programs offer a more specialised knowledge but may not build skills for solving problems in the business world. To make comparing MBAs and Master’s more confusing though, many MBAs are now being offered with specialisations which make them more focused on a particular industry such as healthcare or energy – unlike masters courses these are designed for professionals in those fields rather than business professionals aspiring to those areas.

SEE ALSO: MBA in Healthcare Management

4. Work Experience

Most MBA programs encourage or require students to seek summer internship and work placements with reputable companies or to participate in projects within various organisations. This is intended to prepare you for future management positions. Master’s degrees may focus on a different type of experience and may encourage students to perform their own research in their specialised field.

SEE ALSO: What is better, an MBA or Work Experience?

5. Employment

It’s important to note though that both MBA and master’s degrees offer a wide range of opportunities when it comes to employment. Generally speaking however, an MBA is a good choice for those who wish to run their own business or to seek management and executive positions in large companies. Master’s degrees, on the other hand, have a narrow focus and they prepare you for research and academic life or for jobs in this specific field, especially when it comes to positions requiring a strong theoretical background.

For these reasons, MBA and other business degrees are not interchangeable and therefore, it’s important to understand your goals and requirements before choosing the best programme for your needs.

Know what the differences mean to you

Only you can decide if an MBA degree is a better choice for you than a master’s degree. This decision will depend on several factors, above all, your professional and academic goals, as well as your interests and previous business experience in the field. Management experience is a prerequisite for most MBAs, as you will be required to draw upon your experiences as part of your programme.

Remember, one of the key differences is that an MBA degree builds general business management skills, such as problem-solving, whilst master’s programs are more focused on a specific field. Consequently, it means an MBA degree will prepare you for a wide range of generalised management positions whereas a master’s degree is designed for a specific career path in the chosen field.

For example, when it comes to finance, students of master’s courses spend almost three times as much time focusing on finance and accounting as students in an MBA degree programs do. It means that a graduate business degree, such as a Masters in Accounting and Finance, is ideal for those who wish to have a narrow focus on finance and accounting and build specialised skills in this field. On the other hand, an MBA course is better for those who need only generalised knowledge in finance but who also wish to develop a wide range of other business skills, such as statistics or general economics.

Another thing you should consider is your business experience. If you are not particularly experienced in the field and you wish to get a more specialised education and skills, a master’s degree in the field might be a good solution. However, if you have several years of management level experience and you wish to expand your business skills even further to push for a promotion, an MBA degree might be the best choice for you. Please note that most MBA programmes require you to have several years management experience so you can follow the courses more easily. Prior business experience will also make it easier for you to apply all the issues and case studies to real-life problems and to understand how to use your new skills in real business situations.

MBA programmes are generally more expensive than postgraduate management degrees, with some costing in excess of £50,000. A postgraduate business management degree on the otherhand may cost less than £10,000, so financially, a masters programme is by far the cheaper option, making it a tempting alternative to an MBA. It can be argued however that the earnings potential of an MBA graduate far outweighs the negative aspects of the higher fees associated with MBA programmes.

An MBA degree program is ideal for:

  • Business people looking to gain additional skills.

  • Managers aspiring to executive and leadership positions.

  • High level executives who are looking for a qualification to accompany their experience as a manager/leader.

master’s business degree is ideal for:

  • People who wish to build specialised skills and focus on one particular field.

  • Recent graduates with little hands on business experience.

  • Students who are more oriented towards theory and interested in performing extensive research in a chosen field.

Know what the differences mean to an employer

The differences between an MBA degree and other business degrees are also important to your future employers. It’s important to understand that holding either degree is a benefit and proves that you have good knowledge of your field. In that sense, employers tend to consider them both.

However, the differences often come into play for example, if you’re seeking employment which requires a specialised knowledge in a field, then having a master’s degree in that field will always be an advantage. For example, a company looking for a HR professional will be more likely employ someone with a master’s degree in HR.

SEE ALSO: Search for a Master’s degree in HR

On the other hand, an MBA degree is a sign you possess many necessary skills in the business and that you are willing to go beyond basics. An MBA degree has more focus on management and leading, showing your ability for teamwork, excellent communication, flexibility and, above all, your ability to solve real business problems.

Finally, there is another thing you need to keep in mind. MBAs and other business degrees are among the most popular postgraduate qualifications, which means the market is constantly flooded with recent graduates. This benefits those students who have found additional ways to stand out from the crowd, one such example of this is how highly regarded the institution or business school is within the field. Some business schools are known for their strengths in particular sub-fields of business and management and this will only benefit the career progression of graduates looking to work in the field.  This may influence your further career, so it’s something you should consider.

Why not find out more about MBA degrees in our MBA directory or find out more about studying a postgraduate business degree abroad. You can also use our search tool here to find your ideal postgraduate business degree or MBA.

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