An MBA or a specialized Master´s degree, what is really the best option?

Friday - January 10, 2014

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Are you thinking about pursuing an advanced business degree but struggling with which is right for you, an MBA or a specialized master´s degree?

Let us help you to sort out what factors that should be considered when exploring options.

First of all the intention of both degrees is different – MBAs seek to develop appropriate skills on a foundation of a candidate’s life or professional experience, while the majority of master’s degrees build on the academic background of the student.

An MBA is a professional degree that focuses on developing functional business skills such as accounting, finance, and statistics, etc. and then applying these skills in business applications. Most MBA programs require some work experience prior to enrollment as classmates often learn from one another’s professional experience. MBA programs also emphasize other skills needed as a manager such as effective communication, negotiation, and collaboration.

Traditional MBA programs are dominated by what is referred to as “case studies”, real-world examples of business issues or problems that students are expected to explore, discuss and reflect on in small groups or `syndicates’ of fellow students.

In contrast, specialized master degrees contain coursework that is typically isolated to that particular area of study. For example, a Master of Science in finance program will focus primarily on advanced financial skills and tends to be more theoretical in nature. While the more traditional lectures and tutorial classes also feature in some MBA programs, these are far less common than in their master’s degree counterparts.

It becomes clear that a Masters may be better for specialisation. One major advantage of a Masters degree is that it allows you to focus almost entirely on one topic. If you have a major strength, a Masters degree allows you to pursue it. For example, if you are extremely strong in mathematics, there is no point in wasting semesters on marketing or human resources. But if you are still unsure which job that fits you the best in the end, perhaps the MBA is better because you could learn your strengths as you progress.

Master programs usually do not require professional experience although they are open to young professionals who have been working for some time, mostly up to a year. As a result, the Master students are generally much younger than full-time MBA students, at some schools the average age is 23 years (with a range from 20 to about 27 years) compared to the average age of 27 to 32 in MBA programs.

One thing to have in mind when choosing is certainly the costs. If cost of tuition is one of your main concerns, the MSc might be your best choice because it typically lasts for one year, as opposed to the two years it will take you to get your MBA. A one-year commitment is also less taxing on your career, as you will only need to take one year off from the working world.

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There is no doubt that both an MBA degree and a specialised Masters degree are worth more to you in the job market than a Bachelors degree alone.  Best of all, an MBA degree qualification is known and respected around the world, so you have the opportunity to branch out and to work abroad if you choose. You will also be more likely to receive a position well up the corporate ladder almost immediately after graduation. Some of the youngest CEOs of major corporations graduated with an MBA degree and quickly rose through the ranks.

When it comes to the choice whether taking a MBA or a master´s the important thing is to think it through. Evaluate your career goals and determine the educational path that will best help you achieve these goals. Research the requirements for positions you aspire to reach and talk to those in the field of interest about what program they chose and why.There is no one right answer, however through this process you should be able to narrow down the best option for you.

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