No matter which career field you’re in, a graduate degree can open the door to more opportunities for you and your future. Some managerial roles require candidates to have an advanced degree to apply, while in other fields an MBA or a master’s degree provides a competitive edge. To help you weigh your options, let’s take a look at the different types of graduate degrees and how they can help you reach your career goals.
MBA vs Master's Degree: What’s the Difference?
First off, an MBA (Master of Business Administration) is a master’s degree. It’s just a very specific one that has gained a lot of traction within the business community and across a number of fields on the whole. It can clear the way for a number of leadership and management roles across industries. On the other hand, master’s degrees, in general, are advanced graduate degrees that can help you pursue a specific career path.
While both an MBA and a master’s degree can help advance your career and require additional schooling, they have some key differences. The best time to evaluate which is best for you is before you invest time and effort. Many fields—such as nonprofit management, sports leadership and human resources—all offer two different options for graduate students: an MBA or a master’s degree. So, it is important to know which version works best for your needs.
A master’s degree is a post-bachelor’s degree. It’s often a two-year program that teaches targeted and specific information. Many master’s degree students are already working in their chosen field and can leverage a master’s degree for advancement, better wages, or another position. There are many different types of master’s degrees; each type focuses on a different field. While these programs are typically two years in duration, some students can take accelerated paths and complete a master’s degree in a lesser amount of time.
Master of Business Administration
An MBA is a specific type of master’s degree, one that is heavily focused on business. An MBA is universally recognized as an accomplishment for someone working in business and is a powerful tool when you are searching for a job or hoping to advance to a management position. An MBA can focus on a specific area of management, like communications or project management, or on a specific industry, like sport leadership or nonprofits.
Which is Right for You?
It depends on your goals. And it could also depend on the industry you work in. If you are a paralegal or law enforcement officer and want to move into a higher-paying role or one with more responsibility, a master’s degree in criminal justice is likely your best bet. Similarly, an aspiring dietitian may want to pursue a master’s in nutrition. An MBA is probably not the right graduate degree for these fields.
On the other hand, an MBA can give you laser focus in a specific industry. While a master's degree in nonprofits can help you learn a wide range of skills and responsibilities, an MBA in nonprofit management will truly highlight your business abilities in the nonprofit sector. The difference in this case is one of degree and specificity.
If you are already working in the business world and want to stay in management (but possibly work for a different employer or brand) then the targeted MBA program might be your best bet to achieve your goals.
Finding an MBA Program
Say you’ve decided the MBA is what you need. Finding the right MBA for your needs is your next task. Many MBA candidates are working full time as they complete their degree, so an MBA that offers flexible hours and flexible access is a must. You also need to determine the specific aspect of business you are most interested in.
Many MBA programs offer specializations or concentrations that allow you to tailor your degree to your career goals. Some common MBA programs include a Master of Business – Event Leadership, a Master of Business – Hospitality or a Master of Business – Finance. Each of these programs imparts targeted and specialized skills designed to help you master a specific field and to progress swiftly through the ranks at work. If you are leaning towards working in a specific industry, consider an MBA in that field—hospitality, healthcare, sports management and other fields all offer distinctly different MBA opportunities.
Your MBA program should also fit in with your life. If you have family obligations and work full time, a flexible schedule that allows you to control your own workload is the best option, since you can manage your time most effectively when you have this level of control.
You can also select the pacing that works best for you. While most MBAs are completed within two years, you can accelerate your progress if you want to get there more swiftly. If you need more time, because of family constraints or work, then you can stick to the traditional pace (or even slow things down if you need to).
If you’re interested in earning an MBA degree or a master’s degree online, JWU Online has a wide variety of online graduate degree programs to choose from. For more information about JWU Online’s graduate degrees, complete the “Request Info” form on this page, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].