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Master's vs MBA - Which is the right one for you?

Pursuing an advanced degree is a sound investment in your future. Not only will it increase

your potential earnings, but it will also push you up the corporate ladder to positions of

greater responsibility. While having an MBA or a Master’s degree boosts your professional

worth, they are also expensive in terms of time, labour and cost. As such, you must choose

the right course to add to your repertoire.

What’s the difference?

To understand whether an MBA or a relevant Master’s degree is the right fit for you, let’s

first, understand the differences between these options.

1. Course Coverage

Master of Business Administration or MBA is a broad, multi-faceted degree that covers many

areas of study such as finance, human resources, management, sales, strategy, marketing, and more. An MBA is a generalized graduate-level business degree that focuses on imparting the typical skills one would need to successfully manage a business. The course curriculum

revolves around the development of leadership and management skills.

A Master’s degree is also an advanced option that aims to impart mastery over the subject of

your choosing. With a Master’s program, you can pursue an advanced degree that offers you

a specialisation in a specific subject such as finance, education, engineering, hospitality, or

entrepreneurship. The course curriculum aims at making you a trained expert in that specific

field of study. Hence, the curriculum focuses on the development of technical and field-

specific skillsets.

So, while an MBA offers an overarching understanding of management-related

competencies, a Master’s is a niche course that is tailored towards meeting specific academic

and career needs.

2. Work Experience

Perhaps the biggest deciding factor to help you choose between an MBA and a Master’s

degree is your prior work experience. Designed to meet the needs of a working professional,

a good B-school requires you to have a minimum of 3 to 5 years of work experience for

admission to an MBA program. A Master’s degree is open to fresh graduates and so, you can

apply with little to no experience, typically between 0-2 years.

3. Course Duration and Cost

While a Master’s degree can be earned in 1-2 years, MBAs typically take a minimum of 2

years. There are very few 1-year MBA options. However, you can choose from different

types of programs—full-time, part-time, and Executive MBA.

Depending on the geography, a Master’s course would generally cost approximately USD

75,000 per year. Conversely, an MBA is likely to cost about USD 100,000 per annum. Ensure

that you factor in the course duration while doing the budgeting.

4. Geographies

Choosing to study abroad is by no means an inexpensive affair. So, you will want to ensure

that you have chosen the best universities for the course you want to pursue. The US has long been a hub for MBA aspirants as the top B-schools offering quality programs are situated there. For Master’s, the world is your oyster as you can find great options in the UK, US, Singapore, Europe, and Canada.

5. Course Structure

The largely academic Master’s degree comprises majorly theory-based taught classes,

although research and thesis options are available. Some universities offer a Ph.D. track as

well, in which you can pursue a Ph.D. after completing your Master’s. An MBA program is

geared towards experiential learning and so, the course structure includes more case-based

learning, group projects, seminars, and live challenges funded by industries.

Choosing between MBA and Masters

Whether you choose to pursue an MBA or a Master’s, you are selecting your next big

academic milestone. While making this choice, you can factor in the above-mentioned

criteria. However, the actual decision depends on you—so, don’t forget to factor in what you


Spend some time fine-tuning your short- and long-term career goals. If you are interested in

gaining expertise in areas like management or strategy, an MBA would be a better fit for you.

For specific specializations in humanities, life sciences, physical sciences, design, law, or

policy, a Master’s is a better bet.

If the goal is to learn and hone overall management skills, an MBA will give you the

overarching skills you require. However, if you need to learn niche skills in a particular area,

choose a Master’s program.

Both degrees are an excellent choices to catapult your career trajectory. Before you set your

heart on one or the other, ensure that the program meets your requirements and you meet the program’s eligibility requirements concerning work experience.

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