Difference between MBA and Masters

January 14, 2017 by Editorial Team

Are you looking to take the next step in building your business career? If so, graduate studies might be for you. There are many kinds of graduate study tracks available for those seeking career advancement, including MBA and masters studies. While these might seem almost identical at first glance, a closer look reveals many fundamental distinctions. This article aims to give you a better idea of their differences.


The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania offers two kinds of MBA degrees

A Master of Business Administration degree, or MBA, is a professional degree that provides an overall view of business operations. In the United States, most MBA programs require good scores at the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) and some working experience; the top programs also require excellent undergraduate grades.

Many business schools offer different programs such as the standard full-time MBA, the executive MBA and the part-time MBA, which follow different graduation timelines. These MBA programs consist of core business subjects and electives such as marketing, finance or human resources. Most institutions use the case study method to simulate real-life situations and place the student in a decision-making role.

MBA graduates usually take on management positions in both the private and public sector. Few, if any, go on to further graduate studies.

The Bendheim Center for Finance at Princeton University offers the Masters in Finance degree

Masters programs at business schools, in general, seek to build upon concepts taught in undergraduate classes. Most masters programs in the United States require good scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and an undergraduate degree in the applicant’s desired field. A large proportion of masters students go straight to graduate school after earning their undergraduate degree.

While most masters programs are full-time, many institutions offer either accelerated or modular programs. Most masters programs in business focus on a particular field of study, such as finance, accounting, or organizational leadership. Instruction usually consists of taught courses and seminars, and some programs require laboratory research.

Graduates of masters degree programs usually join the workforce in specialized research or operations positions. Many pursue further study leading to a doctorate degree.


Now that we’ve established the characteristics of MBA and masters degree programs, it’s time to evaluate what makes them different. From what we’ve discussed, the two differ mainly in subject matter, class schedule, admission requirements, instructional style, and the graduates’ future careers.

Subject Matter

MBA studies provide a general view of business operations, with some emphasis on certain areas of the business. In contrast, masters degrees in business focus on certain specializations, such as finance, marketing management, organizational leadership, or taxation.

Admissions Requirements

MBA programs generally require good GMAT scores and some working experience. Most masters programs accept GRE scores as criteria for admission. Many admit individuals with no working experience or who are fresh out of college. They and prefer those who have done undergraduate work in the same field.

Class Schedules

While most top MBA programs are full-time, many institutions offer part-time or accelerated options, such as the executive MBA. Most masters programs in other fields, however, are full-time.

Instructional Style

A typical MBA program consists of taught coursework reinforced by case studies based on real-world scenarios. Most other masters programs, on the other hand, rely mostly on lectures, laboratories, seminars, and papers.

Graduate Careers

Most MBA graduates take on management roles in corporations or the public sector. In contrast, masters graduates either take on more specialized roles in the corporate world or continue on to doctorate level studies.

Comparison Chart

Provides a general view of business operationsProvides a more comprehensive knowledge of certain specializations
Requires good GMAT scores and working experienceRequires good GRE scores and a related undergraduate degree
Coursework, reinforced by case studiesLectures, laboratory work, seminars, papers
Graduates usually secure management positionsGraduates either get specialized positions or continue graduate studies


Watch the video below to find out how one of the United States’ top business schools is able to combine the advantages of an MBA and a Master of Science degree in a single program.