master of science in business administration

Last Updated on August 31, 2023

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

Difference between an MBA vs an MSc

An MBA and an MSc are both Masters level degree programmes and a necessary academic requirement before pursuing a PhD or a DBA Doctorate Degree. In the United Kingdom an MBA and an MSc are both considered to be a level 7 academic qualification. Choosing between the two can be tricky, so this article explains the differences between them.

What is an MBA?

MBA – an acronym for Masters in Business Administration – is a postgraduate business management degree designed to develop leadership and management skills. It originated in 1908 in the United States of America during a time of heavy industrialisation, when companies and businesses were implementing Scientific Management theories in an attempt to boost production and efficiency.

Founded by Frederik Winslow Taylor, Scientific Management attempted to apply Science to the management process. Although an obsolete school of thought by the 1930s, its themes of logic, empiricism, rationality, work ethics and the concept of ‘knowledge transfer’ are still considered important today.

What is taught on an MBA?

An MBA course teaches the core elements needed to manage a business; Human Resource Management, Finance, Marketing, Operations Management and Strategic Management.

As technology changed the world, so it did the MBA. Social Media has added innumerable challenges to business, forcing an organisation to adhere to intrinsic and societally imposed principles. This has resulted in contemporary MBA degrees now including topics on Sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility, Business Ethics and People Management. An evolution from Scientific Management where people were often viewed as units of labour.

While the subjects mentioned are a general pathway, many MBA courses also offer specialisation pathways via elective modules. Specialised MBA suit professionals pre-disposed or confident about a particular management function. The elective modules help provide further context on that function. For example, a general pathway would be a Part-time MBA, whereas a specialised pathway would be an Online MBA in Healthcare or an Online MBA in Project Management.

What is an MSc?

MSc is an abbreviation of Master of Science, a Masters level degree once awarded to the Sciences; engineering, medicine, statistics etc. Today the MSc covers a breadth of subjects including the Arts, Business and Humanities. A little known fact is that the precursor to the MBA was actually an MSc – the Master of Science in Commerce from the Wharton School1.

All MBA degrees cover the core business elements but this isn’t the case with an MSc. A Master of Science teaches a specialised set of skills and depending on the subject, can include little or no business elements. For eg, an Online Masters in Data Science or a Masters in Psychology. The exception is business specific MSc’s such as a Masters in Finance.

MBA vs an MSc

MBA vs an MSc #1: Work Experience

An MBA suits professionals who have accumulated 4 to 6 years of work experience, with at least 2 in a supervisory or managerial capacity. In contrast – depending on the chosen MSc – no prior work experience may be necessary.

MBA vs an MSc #2: Depth vs Breadth

The MBA teaches a macro, holistic view of business and its respective functions. The MSc provides depth, skewing towards the micro or technical elements of the chosen field. For eg, an MBA in HR would include modules relating to Finance or Leadership, whereas an Online MSc in HR is entirely devoted to the subject of Human Resource Management.

MBA vs an MSc #3: Career prospects

Professionals looking to advance to a General Manager, Managing Director or a CEO position should consider an MBA course. Leadership has a significant impact on an organisation and is a vital management skill business leaders must learn. MSc graduates tend to specialise in their function and prefer to pursue roles such as Head of Department, Director of Marketing, CFO etc.

MBA vs an MSc #4: Academic requirements

An undergraduate degree in a related subject is the minimum requirement for either course. However, many universities provide work-based entry routes for candidates without a bachelors degree, as long as they can prove sufficient work experience.

Interested in studying an MBA or MSc? Speak to a Higher Education Consultant

  1. Donald Stabile (1 January 2007). Economics, Competition and Academia: An Intellectual History of Sophism Versus Virtue. Edward Elgar Publishing. pp. 101–. ISBN 978-1-84720-716-6.

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