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What is the difference between an MBA and MSc in Business?

Thinking head

An MBA and MSc are both ‘Masters’ level qualifications which are granted to students who have demonstrated a high-level of knowledge in their field of study, but despite the name, don’t necessarily involve administration or science.  Although both awards are postgraduate courses, there are differences between them in terms of eligibility, focus and personal development. If you are interested in studying a postgraduate business qualification, understanding these differences will help you chose the most suitable degree.

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

The MBA is an executive-level business course designed for students with executive or management level experience. MBA degrees are designed to develop leadership skills and offer professionals the opportunity to formally recognise their business expertise. The MBA is currently the most popular professional degree programme in the world!

MBAs are often favoured over other business qualifications as they are recognised globally and as such are a branded programme within the world of academia. An MBA qualification is highly regarded by employers and in a survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), 76 per cent of international employers said they plan to hire MBA graduates in 2013.

A prerequisite for studying an MBA is that candidates must have work experience, usually a minimum of three years at a strategic level. This creates a rich learning environment as students come from a range of industries and bring their different experiences into the course. It is important for students to have practical experience as MBA programmes require students to think strategically and use work place evidence within assessments.

An MBA can be studied in a number of different formats. Many students opt to study part-time so they can continue to work. Studying online is a convenient and popular option for busy professionals. Advancements in technology mean the classroom experience can be effectively replicated online and this attracts a global cohort of students. Undertaking an MBA provides fantastic networking opportunities and connections within new industries.

MBA programmes have evolved in order to keep up with the demands of modern business; most courses will focus on international business and global management challenges. Traditional MBAs offer a broad grounding in a variety of business disciplines but there is also a range of specialist MBAs where students can major in an area of interest. For example, the University of Essex Online MBA enables students to specialise in management, marketing, finance or HR, which helps students to stand out in their chosen field.

Master of Science (MSc)

An MSc business qualification, such as the University of Essex Online MSc Business and Management, is designed for candidates who are at the beginning of their career, or for graduates who want a higher level qualification before entering the job market.

An MSc builds on the skills gained at undergraduate level. The modules are less vocational than the MBA and students are not required to have any former work experience. An MSc will look at the theory of management and use case studies to illustrate the business theory.

An MSc enables students to develop their knowledge in a specific area of business. The syllabus will focus on developing analytical and technical skills rather than leadership and managerial. Typically an MSc is taught over one year, but part-time and distance learning options are widely available.

Which degree should you choose?

It really depends on your circumstances. If you’re already an experienced business practitioner, then an MBA will consolidate your experience and can help you climb the career ladder.
If you’re just starting out or working in a non-business role, then an MSc can develop your business skills and help to open doors to new opportunities.

University of Essex Online offers a range of postgraduate business qualifications. If you’re unsure which pathway is most suitable for you, please contact our Admissions Advisers who will be happy to guide you through the options.


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