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

By Aoife O’Mara• Last updated: Dec 7, 2023
What’s the difference between an MBA and an MSc?
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Graduate programs play a vital role in a student’s academic and professional journey. These courses offer in-depth knowledge and equip students with skills, preparing them for their careers. The top graduate degrees include the Master of Business Administration (MBA) and the Master of Arts.

An MBA is a graduate program exclusively for business aspirants, while an MSc is a master's degree for science, social science, maths, engineering and other courses.

International students often find it challenging to choose which graduate program suits their interests the best, MBA or MSc. Here, we give you a detailed guide on MBA vs MSc and which would suit your requirements.

Dreaming of pursuing your MBA or MSc in your desired destination? Apply today!

MSc vs MBA: Key highlights

ProgramMaster of Business AdministrationMaster of Science
PurposeFor international students aiming to learn about business and its components.Is the ideal choice for students planning to take a postgraduate course in science, social science, maths, engineering and others.
Duration15 months to 2 years1-2 years
Fees (USD)$60,000$15,000-$20,000

Data updated as of December 2023

Before we understand the difference between these degrees and determine which would suit your interests, let’s learn about an MBA and MSc in detail.

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What is an MBA?

An MBA (Master of Business Administration) is a postgraduate business degree that offers in-depth knowledge and understanding of business-related concepts to students from various backgrounds.

It’s a globally recognised accreditation that is highly sought after, especially among students and professionals in the business sector.

Usually undertaken later in a person’s career, an MBA involves extensive study in business. The degree will also help students gain practical experience in leadership and management.

Common subjects in an MBA course

  • Accounting
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Strategy
  • Business law
  • Entrepreneurship
  • International business 
  • Operations management
  • Organisational behaviour

Also read: 8 Best MBA universities in the world

What is an MSc?

An MSc (Master of Science) is typically a one or two-year postgraduate degree that offers courses in science, technology, engineering, medicine, social sciences, and mathematics.

The courses help students focus on their area of interest and obtain extensive knowledge and skills compared to their undergraduate degree.

Top MSc courses abroad

  • Computer science
  • Economics
  • Information technology
  • Marketing and management
  • Biotechnology
  • Agriculture
  • Engineering
  • Management
  • Psychology
  • International relations

MBA vs MSc: Highlights

Key factorMBAMSc
FocusBusiness management and administrationDepends on the field of study
CurriculumCourses in business fundamentals, leadership and management principles, finance, marketing, operations, business strategy, organisational behaviour, and ethicsAdvanced coursework in the chosen field, research projects, laboratory work, and hands-on training
Class sizesAround 15 studentsAround 30 to 35 students
Course lengthBetween 15 months and 2 years1-2 years
CostAround USD$60,000Between $15,000 and $20,000
Career orientationBusiness consultants Financial analysts Marketing managers Project managers Marketing executivesData scientists Software engineers Laboratory scientists Environmental analysts Healthcare specialists

Data updated as of December 2023

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A detailed walkthrough of MBA vs MSc

Focus and specialisation


  • The primary focus of an MBA program is on subjects related to business management and administration.
  • The course equips students with a broad understanding of various business functions such as finance, marketing, human resources, operations, strategy, and entrepreneurship.
  • Students learn to manage organisations effectively, make strategic decisions, and lead teams in a corporate environment.


  • The focus of an MSc program can vary widely depending on the field of study. The programs offer in-depth knowledge and expertise in the chosen field.
  • MSc programs are more specialised degrees that concentrate on a specific area, such as computer science, information technology, agriculture, engineering, data science, finance, psychology, or any other scientific or technical discipline.

Also read: 6 MBA courses in Ireland for international students



The curriculum of an MBA program typically includes courses like.

  • Business fundamentals
  • Leadership
  • Management principles
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Operations
  • Business strategy
  • Organisational behaviour
  • Ethics


The curriculum for an MSc program includes advanced coursework in the chosen field, research projects, laboratory work, and hands-on training. The courses delve deeper into the specific subject, providing students with expertise in a particular area.

Class sizes


  • The size of the classes and lectures is vital when deciding on the degree you want to pursue. Smaller class sizes allow students to get to know their peers and professors better, paving the way for forging connections.
  • MBA intake class strength is relatively small, giving students the chance to connect with their network of peers. Some universities offer MBA courses for classes as small as 15 students. This allows the students to contribute to lessons and ask questions effectively.


  • MSc classes are in greater demand, and their intake is usually much larger than an MBA. While MSc students will be part of an extensive alumni network, they may have different personalised educational experiences.
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Course length


  • A full-time MBA can take 15 months and two years to complete. While there might be a few class hours in an MBA, a substantial amount of work is expected each week.
  • From preparation and assignments to classes and lectures, you can expect to dedicate a minimum of 40 hours per week to your MBA degree.


  • In addition to the practical sessions, lectures and assignments, there are a lot of expectations for MSc students to conduct self-directed learning outside of class hours.
  • A full-time MSc usually takes around 1-2 years to complete. Hours vary with different courses, but spending at least 20 hours a week outside class time is advisable.

Cost of studying


The average tuition for a two-year MBA is over USD $60,000. However, if you attend one of the top business schools abroad, you can expect to pay more than USD $100,000.


The average tuition fee for a two-year MSc degree is between $15,000 and $20,000. Many universities offer scholarships, and some countries financially assist postgraduate students.

Career orientation


MBA graduates typically pursue careers in the business and corporate world. They are well-suited for roles like.

  • Business consultant
  • Financial analyst
  • Marketing manager
  • Project manager
  • Marketing executive


MSc graduates usually enter technical or scientific fields of work, working in research, development, and problem-solving sectors. Career paths may include roles like

  • Researcher
  • Data scientist
  • Software engineer
  • Laboratory scientist
  • Environmental analyst
  • Healthcare specialist

Employment prospects

  • MBA graduates usually have higher starting salaries than those with an MSc degree. However, opportunities for career progression are more comprehensive, and it solely depends on the individual, their skills and performance.
  • MBA graduates can mostly only pursue their career in the business sector, while students with an MSc degree tend to have a broad scope of opportunities during employment.

MBA vs MSc: Salary after graduation

The salary for MBA and MSc graduates depends on factors like the field of employment, location, work experience, and others. However, in most cases, an MBA graduate usually earns higher than an MSc degree holder. 

Average salaries for MBA and MSc graduates in the US

Job roleAverage salary (in USD)
Project Manager (MBA)$95,079
Financial Consultant (MBA)$120,000
Marketing Manager (MBA)$84,996
Business Consultant (MBA)$92,059
Data Scientist (MSc)$129,836
Process Development Scientist (MSc)$112,500
Biomanufacturing Engineer (MSc)$83,491
Agricultural Scientist (MSc)$102,500

Data updated as of December 2023 |Source:

What opportunities are available for MBA and MSc graduates abroad?

MBA graduates

  • Business Consultant
  • Financial Analyst
  • Project Manager
  • Marketing Manager
  • Financial Consultant
  • Human Resource Manager
  • Field Marketing Manager

MSc graduates

  • Data Scientist
  • Process Development Scientist
  • Biomanufacturing Engineer
  • Agricultural Scientist
  • Research Analyst
  • Academic Lecturer
  • Marine Biologist

MBA vs MSc: Which one to choose?

MBA and MSc offer various benefits and strive to enhance a student’s academic and professional life. It is up to international students to choose which degree best suits their interests and requirements. There are three main factors to consider while deciding between an MBA and an MSc.

Career goals

  • One of the most significant factors when choosing between an MBA and an MSc is the career path you wish to pursue.
  • An MBA degree is well-suited for students looking for job roles related to management, executive, or leadership within the business sector.
  • In contrast, an MSc would be a better option if you envision yourself excelling in research and development or a highly specialised and technical role.

Also read: How to prepare for an MBA program without the GMAT?

Industry relevance

  • Different industries may place a higher value on one degree over the other, so research the industries you're interested in and identify which degree is more valued or preferred in those fields.
  • Industries like consulting and finance seek MBA graduates for their comprehensive business knowledge and leadership capabilities.
  • Engineering, agriculture, data science and other research sectors prioritise candidates with an MSc degree.

Time and cost

  • Time and cost also play a significant role when choosing between an MBA and an MSc.
  • MBA programs take 15 months to two years of full-time study, while MSc programs last for one to two years.
  • The cost of pursuing an MBA is generally higher than many MSc programs. So, consider your financial situation and the time you are willing to dedicate to your education when deciding.

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Frequently asked questions

MSc or MBA, which is better?

Choosing between an MSc and an MBA depends on your career goals, interests, budget, and time. An MSc degree is a better option if you aim to pursue a career in a specific technical field. Whereas, an MBA could be more suitable if you want to work in business, management, or entrepreneurship.

What is the difference between MBA and MSc?

The main difference between an MBA and an MSc lies in their area of focus and content. An MBA is a professional degree that emphasises business management, leadership, and entrepreneurship.

On the other hand, an MSc is a master's degree in science or a specific technical field, focusing on research, analysis, and practical application of knowledge.

MBA vs MSc, which is better in the UK?

The UK offers remarkable programs for MBA and MSc degrees. The country is home to world-class business schools for MBA courses and renowned universities for MSc degrees. Assessing your career goals and preferred area of expertise will help you determine which option is better suited for you.

Is MSc and MBA the same?

No, MSc and MBA are not the same. MSc stands for Master of Science, which focuses on technical and research-oriented subjects in specific fields. MBA stands for Master of Business Administration, emphasising business management, leadership, and entrepreneurship skills.

Who earns more, an MBA or an MSc graduate?

Generally, MBA graduates may have higher earning potential in business and management roles than MSc graduates who excel in technical or research-oriented positions.

Is MBA a professional degree?

Yes, an MBA is a professional degree. A professional degree is a level of study that prepares students for a particular field.

MBA is a postgraduate qualification that equips students with business management, leadership, and entrepreneurial skills to succeed in their profession in the corporate world.

MSc vs MBA, which is better after engineering?

An MSc is suitable if you want to specialise in a technical area, perform research, or pursue an academic career. An MBA is more suitable for students who aspire to work in management, entrepreneurship, or business-related roles within the engineering industry.

Which MSc course is best for the future?

Here are some of the best MSc courses for the future.

  • MSc Data Science
  • MSc Artificial Intelligence
  • MSc Cybersecurity
  • MSc Renewable Energy
  • MSc Information Technology
  • MSc Agriculture

Which MBA course is best for the future?

Here are some of the best MBA courses for the future.

  • MBA Digital Marketing
  • MBA Technology Management
  • MBA Healthcare Administration
  • MBA Sustainability

Can we do an MBA after BCom?

Yes, you can study for an MBA after obtaining a BCom degree. Students interested in pursuing a career in the business sector can take up an MBA course.

Is MBA a good career option?

MBA is one of the top postgraduate studies among international students. The courses are structured to offer in-depth knowledge and understanding of business-related studies. Students can work in different roles in the business sector.

It is time to begin your study abroad journey

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Study Abroad Expert

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