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MBA vs Masters: Which is better?

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Once you’ve finished undergraduate study, you might enter the world of work, travel or pursue a master’s degree. If you’re interested in furthering your education and gaining more skills, a masters, also known as a postgraduate degree, could be the right choice for you. But there are different types of master’s degrees, with varied terminology that you might not be all that familiar with. In this article we’re going to consider the similarities and differences between an MBA and an MA to help you make an informed decision about which is best for you.


What is an MBA?

This acronym stands for the Master of Business Administration and is suitable for students who are interested in the field of business and finance. While an MBA is at the same level as all other master’s degrees, an MBA differs in that it focuses specifically on developing business skills.


You might also be required to have professional work experience prior to applying for an MBA course which is not the case for most master’s degrees. However, most MBA courses will not specify which course you need to study at undergraduate level to be accepted, which means your previous qualifications do not necessarily need to be business or finance related, although it can help to show your interest.


Because MBA courses tend to be highly competitive, require top grades and are highly desirable among employers, they are often considered to be more highly esteemed than other masters courses. However, while this is true for graduates looking to develop a strong business acumen, if you want a profession that isn’t particularly related to business, leadership or finance, you should consider a masters (MA) in a field that is more relevant to your interests.


Why study an MBA?

As outlined, an MBA is just a specific type of master’s program, meaning that it is not necessarily better than other masters courses. Instead it really depends on your aspirations. What career do you want to pursue? Will having a masters or MBA set you apart from other applicants? Are you looking to develop skills in business specifically? Once you’re able to answer a few of these questions, you should know whether you want to do a masters or an MBA.


One of the advantages of gaining an MBA is that it is internationally recognised. So, if you are currently studying abroad, you hope to in the future or you want to work in a different country after graduating, an MBA would be helpful when finding work abroad. However, studying an MBA abroad isn’t going to be cheap without a scholarship. It’s therefore important that you consider your options and how feasible it is for you to pursue an MBA. As you may also need work experience under your belt before applying, you want to make sure that this is the right next step for you before investing time and money. MBA’s are known for being intensive and challenging but also highly rewarding.


MBA entry requirements

So, what will you need to be accepted for a place? Most MBA programmes will require you to have a grade of 2:1 or above at undergraduate level. If you do not have a bachelor’s degree, you may still be eligible if you are able to demonstrate extensive work experience. The major difference between a general masters and an MBA is that MBA courses typically require students to have at least three years of relevant experience. There is also a specific entrance exam known as the GMAT (General Management Admission Test) which is a multiple choice, computer-based test. In general, a score of 650-690 is good and 700+ is great (US News and World Report 2019).


What is a master’s?

A master’s degree is the term for a higher education course which is taught at the level above undergraduate study. There is a wide variety of subjects to choose from at master’s level such as a Master of Arts in Political Science, Master of Science in Computer Engineering, Master of Engineering etc. The structure and expectations of a masters is different to undergraduate study.

For example, a postgraduate course typically lasts between one to two years depending on the subject and whether you’ve chosen part time or full time. A masters will also involve more independent study and research with often less contact time than at undergraduate level. Students often report that a masters is more fast paced than previous studies and the content is more advanced.


Why study a masters?

There are many reasons why someone might choose to gain a master’s degree. This might include:

  • Boosting employment and salary prospects
  • Developing knowledge of a particular field of interest
  • Working towards a PhD
  • Changing career/moving into a new industry
  • Progressing in a current career

The great thing about a masters is that you don’t have to go straight into it once you graduate from a bachelors. You can take time out to work or figure out what you want to do before embarking on another degree. At the same time, you can follow your undergraduate degree with a masters if you know that’s what you want to do.


In the UK for example, master’s degree holders are more likely to be in highly skilled professions than those who have not studied a masters. In fact, 79 per cent of working-age postgraduate students were employed in high-skilled positions compared to 66 per cent of working-age undergraduate holders (Graduate labour market statistics 2019).


Masters entry requirements

Unlike an MBA, a master’s degree will usually require a relevant or similar undergraduate qualification to show your existing knowledge and ability in the field. This will also need to be demonstrated as part of your application. For some courses, you may be able to speak with the course leader to find out whether your qualifications would be deemed acceptable. If you are able to explain and demonstrate your interests with work experience for example, this may be sufficient for being accepted. However, this is something you would need to check directly with the department at the university or college. 


You should now understand the difference between a masters and an MBA and which is better suited to you and your ambitions. Your next steps should be to use our course matcher tool to find a study path suited to your preferences and qualifications.


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