What’s the difference between an MBA and an MSc?

Aoife O’Mara
Aoife O’Mara
Last updated: Mar 14, 20223 min read
What’s the difference between an MBA and an MSc?

Deciding to further your education is one of the best decisions a person can make. 

By continuing your learning experience with an MBA or an MSc, you enhance your knowledge beyond your undergraduate degree.

Having an MSc or an MBA can propel your career and increase employment opportunities all over the world. 

But what’s the difference between an MBA and an MSc, and how can you decide which is the best option for you?

What is an MBA?

An MBA (Master of Business Administration) is a postgraduate business degree that attracts students from a variety of business backgrounds. It’s a globally recognised accreditation that is highly sought after, especially amongst those already having worked in the business sector for several years. 

Usually undertaken later on in a person’s career, an MBA involves extensive study in business. As well as this, students will gain practical experience in leadership and management. 

Subjects studied during an MBA include:

  • Accounting
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • International business 
  • Business law

What is an MSc?

A Masters of Science is a postgraduate course that awards qualifications in:

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

Students are given the opportunity to focus on a particular area of interest in more detail than that studied in an undergraduate degree.

For the most part, an MSc is undertaken within a year or two of completing an undergraduate degree. As such, the majority of students have a limited amount of experience in their chosen area. 

The BIG differences between an MBA and an MSc?

1. Class sizes

An important thing to consider when deciding on any degree is the size of the classes and lectures. Smaller class sizes allow students the opportunity to get to know their peers and professors better, which is great for forging connections. 

MBA intakes are usually relatively small, giving students the chance to connect with their network of peers. In addition, classes and lectures are much smaller, with some universities opting for class sizes as small as 15 students. This allows the students to actively contribute to lessons and ask questions.

However, as MSc classes are in greater demand, their intake is usually much larger than that of an MBA. While MSc students will be part of a much larger alumni network, they may not have the same personalised educational experience.

2. Commitment

One of the greatest differences between an MBA and an MSc is the length of the course. Each master’s course requires a varying degree of commitment, however, an MBA generally requires more.

A full-time MBA can take upwards of two years to complete. While there might not be a lot of class hours in an MBA, there is a substantial amount of work expected each week. From preparation, assignments, classes and study, you can expect to dedicate a minimum of 40 hours per week to your MBA. 

Even though the commitment for an MSc is not as large, there is a lot of expectation placed on MSc students to conduct self-directed learning outside of class hours. A full-time MSc usually takes between 12 and 18 months to be completed. Hours vary from course to course, but spending at least 20 hours a week outside of class time isn’t uncommon.

3. Cost

Furthering your education does come with a hefty price tag, especially if you are enrolling in an accredited MBA. The average tuition for a two-year MBA exceeds USD$60,000. However, if you attend one of the top business schools, you can expect to pay upwards of $100,000. While an MSc will set you back between $15,000 and $20,000.

It is important to not let the cost stop you from pursuing your career ambitions. Many universities offer scholarships, and some countries have financial assistance for postgraduate students. 

4. Employment prospects

Those who have an MBA can usually expect to have a higher starting salary than those with an MSc. However, opportunities for career progression are not limited to the degree or accreditation you have achieved. 

It is important to remember that those who have an MBA have already some experience in their field prior to enrolling in a postgraduate course. 

While an MBA is often looked at as being a more professional degree than an MSc, an MBA is usually quite broad apart from the electives undertaken. 

There is no definitive answer as to which postgraduate route is better than the other. Some people will be better suited to enrolling in an MBA while others will be better to attend an MSc.

Speak to one of our knowledgeable Advisers to help you make your decision. 

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Written By
Aoife O’Mara

Aoife is a freelance writer and journalist based in Ireland. She is passionate about travel, education and culture.

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