MBA vs. Specialized MS

There are many options to consider when deciding to get an advanced degree from a business school. The MBA is not the only option for students looking to learn more about the business world. Another alternative degree program to the MBA is a specialized Master of Science (MS) degree. Specialized degrees for business focus on areas such as business analytics, finance, management, accounting, supply chain management and many more. When deciding between an MBA program and a specialized masters degree, it is important to know the differences between the two, in order to find the best option for you.

The MBA degree is a broad business degree that typically covers the core foundations of business management. Students who complete theses programs are usually aiming to move in to higher management and executive roles in a business environment. The degree prepares students to become successful leaders. Many MBA degrees also offer students the opportunity to tailor their focus on a specific area through electives. This is one way that you can get an insight in to a specific industry, such as health care or to gain a more in depth knowledge of  specific part of the business world such as marketing or international business.

The elective courses, concentrations or specializations that students complete are only a small portion of the MBA curriculum. The majority of the MBA programs are focused around building the core foundations of business leaders. If students are looking for a more in-depth education in one specific area, a specialized MS degree may be a better option. A specialized MS degree is generally focused only on the one specific area of specialization, such as finance or management. These programs are not designed to give students a broad background in business, but rather an in depth background in one specific area.

Another difference between the two types of programs is the requirement of work experience to apply for the program. Often times, MBA programs require students to have a minimum amount of professional work experience before they can apply for the program. The Mays School of Business at Texas A&M for example, requires students to have at least two years of professional work experience, with management experience to be qualified for admission.

The MBA focuses on growing leadership and management skills. Having a few years of full-time experience will help you as a student to understand the concepts you are learning and how you can apply these new skills in your current position and in the future. Although many programs do require students to have a minimum amount of work experience, there are just as many that do not, like the Scheller College of Business at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Although there are programs that do not require work experience, the average amount of experience for students is three to five years.

Specialized MS degrees usually do not require students to have any work experience before applying for the program. Many times, students are not even required to complete a specific undergraduate degree. The Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics at the University of Delaware, only requires students applying for the MS in Finance program to have a bachelors degree, despite the major.

Another difference between the MBA and a Specialized MS programs is the length of time it takes to complete the programs. MBA programs are typically completed over the course of two years, depending on if you are completing the program in a full-time or part-time format. Specialized MS programs are usually completed in one year. Although there are programs that do take longer to complete. Depending on how much time you are able to invest in business school as well as the amount of money you have available to commit to your education, choosing a program that has a shorter time commitment over all may be a better investment.

Whichever program you decide to choose, it is important that you are getting the most out of your degree. A specialized masters program can be beneficial to those who are interested in a specific area of business, but keep in mind that an MBA degree with a concentration or specialization may also be a competing option. There are many programs out there that all have flexible time commitments, different program options and different admission requirements. For more information on top-ranked MBA programs and other MS program options, visit

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About the Author

Erin Purcell

Staff Writer, covering MetroMBA's news beat for New York, Philadelphia, and Boston.

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