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What’s the Difference Between MBA and MSc?

Nov 16, 2022Date Published
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UniSearch - What’s the Difference Between MBA and MSc?

MBA or MSc in business? While the MBA is still the gold standard in business education, the MSc in business has recently jumped up as the next big thing. While both Master's degrees provide students with the necessary knowledge and skills to pursue careers in management, they differ in their focus. Let's look at the difference between MBA and MSc in business so that you can decide which form of business education might be best for your career goals!

MBA vs MSc: What You Need to Know About the Big Decision

Choosing the correct graduate programme can be difficult. In today’s job market, Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Master of Science (MSc) are two of the most popular Master’s degrees. MBA graduates are the most in-demand employees in the world. They have access to top employers, high salaries, and long careers.

On the other hand, MScs can lead to high-paying research positions or even PhD programs. They are also not exclusively tied to business-related fields. But which degree is right for you? We will look at the characteristics of each degree, from entry requirements to tuition fees to job opportunities and find out the difference between MBA and MSc in business to help you determine the best option.

What is an MBA?

MBA stands for Master of Business Administration. MBA programs cover the entire business world, from finance, marketing and operations management to human resources management, strategy formulation and project management. The MBA faculty design the course to provide you with an in-depth understanding of each subject area. When you leave your course, you can apply what you learned immediately in your career or any other professional activity.

Subjects studied during an MBA include:

  • Accounting
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • International Business
  • Business Law

What is an MSc?

The MSc in Business is similar to an MBA but has more specialisation in certain areas such as finance, marketing, etc. It gives you a deeper understanding of your chosen specialty area, which will help your career development. A student can also opt for a research project under supervision during their studies which will help them gain valuable experience before they start working.

Subjects studied during an MSc degree - not exclusively in business - include:

  • Science
  • Technology
  • Engineering
  • Medicine
  • Social sciences
  • Mathematics

MBA or MSc in Business: The Key Differences

If you’re considering an MBA or MSc in business, you'll of course want to know what the difference is between the two programs. Both are postgraduate degrees in business administration and management, but there are a few key differences:

MSc in Business
Focuses more on business skills
Focuses more on technical skills
Covers a wide range of subjects in all business areas
In-depth coverage of one specific business area
Depending on the curriculum, it usually takes one to three years to finish
Depending on the curriculum, it usually takes one to two years to complete
The average starting salary is USD 115,000
The average starting salary ranges from USD 55,000 to $75,000

For a more specific comparison, take a look at the MBA and MSc (Strategic Marketing) programs at Imperial College London:

Degree name
Executive MBA
Strategic Marketing
Degree type
1 year, 11 months
About 1 year
Total tuition
USD 74,969 per year
USD 37,603 per year
Academic requirements
GPA - minimum 2.2
GPA - minimum 3
English requirements
IELTS - 7 TOEFL - 100
IELTS - 6.5 or TOEFL- 92
Courses include
  • Accounting and Corporate Reporting Analysis
  • Corporate Finance
  • Corporate Innovation and Intrapreneurship
  • Languages
  • Managerial Economics
  • Marketing Management
  • Organisational Behaviour
  • Responsible Leadership and Corporate Success
  • Strategy

  • Brand Strategy
  • Consumer Behaviour
  • Digital Marketing
  • Entrepreneurial Strategy
  • Finance and Pricing Strategy
  • Marketing Analytics
  • Marketing Decision Making
  • Market Research
  • Relationship Marketing
  • Strategic Market Management
  • Strategic Project Management

While both Master's degrees aim to provide students with the information and skills required to pursue careers in business and marketing, their concentrations differ.

MBA or MSc in Business: Academic Difference

Course Duration

Both MBA and MSc in business degrees will help you develop your skills in the academic world, but they focus on different things. On average, an MBA program lasts 16 to 24 months. You can select from several programs based on your preferences, from online to on-campus and full-time to part-time. The time it takes to earn an MBA depends on the path you select.

Full-time MSc programs can last 12 months and consist of different modules followed by an independent study (dissertation) project. Part-time MSc programmes are often available; however, they are often twice as long as full-time courses.

Field of Study

The major difference between MBA and MSc programs is their field of study. An MBA offers courses in core areas like finance, marketing, and operations. It also focuses on how an organisation functions and its effect on the economy. It will help you better understand business strategies and decision-making processes. You'll learn about financial planning, corporate governance standards, human resource management, managing your time effectively and making better decisions based on data analysis from previous projects.

MSc programs focus more on the subject matter itself. Students will learn about different business sectors such as tourism marketing or renewable energy system design and to other related topics such as accounting principles or project management skills.

Tuition Fees

The cost of both degrees will vary depending on which country you'll study in, the university, and how much support you have as you study. An MBA degree might be expensive - the average tuition for a two-year MBA school surpasses USD 60,000. If you attend one of the top business schools, the tuition fees might cost up to USD 100,000. For international students, the cost of getting an MSc degree is between USD 17,600- 41,000 in countries like the USA. The tuition fee difference reflects the time it takes to complete each degree, the specialisation, as well as the school you're applying to.

The price tag may appear daunting for an international student on a tight budget. In such cases, many types of scholarships are available for overseas students. Make sure to research the scholarship range at your preferred university. Some scholarships may waive up to 100% of your tuition expenses, making an MBA or MSc a reasonable option.

Entry Requirements

Most MBA programs require applicants to have at least three years of work experience in their chosen field. If you already have several years under your belt and a keen desire to elevate career opportunities, this may be a good option for getting started. An MBA will also typically require a strong GMAT score. The GMAT exam is specifically aimed at business students pursuing graduate-level courses.

MSc programs tend to be less selective than their MBA counterparts. Nonetheless, they still expect potential candidates to show strong academic records and relevant work experience, demonstrating a commitment to learning new skills. An MSc degree might require you to sit for the GRE General Test to qualify.

MBA or MSc in Business: Career Prospects

Job Opportunities

Your career goals will likely inform whether an MSc in Business or MBA is the right option for you. While an MBA is a great degree for those with experience in the field, it may not be practical for everyone. If you're looking for a more specialised approach to business with particular attention to an area of the field, consider pursuing an MSc program in that area.

If you’re looking for a way to advance your career in business, then an MBA will likely be more helpful. An MSc could be more beneficial if you’re interested in developing skills that will help you advance your career and gain new perspectives on how businesses operate and succeed. Both MBA and MSc in business programs create diverse career prospects for degree holders.

Expected Salary

According to PayScale, MBA graduates earn an average annual salary of USD 100,000. On average, MSc graduates earn between USD 55,000 and USD 85,000 (depending on the concentration). It's important, though, to remember that this information comes from a survey of 800 businesses in the USA. While these figures may not be representative of everyone or every job market out there, they're still a good benchmark for reference. 

Choosing between an MBA and MSc in Business

The first step to choosing between an MBA and MSc is to decide on your career goals. Think about what you want to learn, what you want to do, and where you see yourself in five years. Consider the following factors:

  • What are your career goals? Do you want a job with more responsibility or one that will allow you more time for projects or research?
  • Are you interested in working for a specific company (e.g. Google) or within an industry (e.g. transportation)? If so, which areas of expertise would be most beneficial for you at this stage?
  • Which school might create better opportunities later down the road once you have graduated?
  • How important is it to you that your degree has recognition internationally? You may be aiming to return home to work in your country of citizenship, or you may be aiming to pursue career opportunities at your study abroad destination

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

MBA or MSc - which is the right form of business education for a recent graduate?

The answer depends on what you want to do after graduation and how your degree will help you get there. If your goal is to be a CEO or senior manager with a company, then an MBA will give you the skills needed to succeed at this level. MBA graduates are the most in-demand employees in the world. They have access to top employers, high salaries, and long careers. On the other hand, MSc degrees can lead to high-paying research positions or even PhD programs. If you are seeking career advancement in a highly specialised area of business, for example, marketing or finance, an MSc in that concentration can create that opportunity for you too.

Our Concluding Thoughts

The MBA vs MSc debate has gone on for years, with both sides arguing for their case. So far, there are several significant differences between MBA and MSc in business programs. When deciding which degree is right for you, think about what interests and goals you have in mind for your career. An MBA would be a good choice if you want to go into management. If not, then an MSc may be better suited to your needs. Similarly, suppose research interests are high on your list of priorities and earning potential matters less than being able to teach or give lectures at conferences. In that case, an MSc could be more suitable than an MBA. MBA and MSc degrees are great choices for establishing a solid foundation for your business career. Ultimately, your objective will decide which one is the best one for you.