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MBA versus Master of Science (MSc): Here’s How To Choose What’s Best for You

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According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average starting salary for a graduate business student is $20,000 a year higher than their undergraduate counterparts. When most people think of an advanced business degree, an MBA tends to be what comes to mind. Associated with marketing moguls and CEOs alike, the MBA is a household name for those in the business world. However, as the number of professionals with advanced education continues to increase, specialized masters and Masters of Science (MSc) have continued to grow in popularity.

So how do you know which degree is right for you? Let’s dive in.

mba versus msc

What’s the Difference Between a MBA and a MSc?

Before addressing the question “Is a MBA better than a MSc?,” we must first establish what each one is and how they differ.

What is an MBA?

A MBA, short for “Master in Business Administration,” is one of the most popular graduate management programs around the world. 

The concept is a relatively new one in the field of academia; while The Wharton School in Pennsylvania founded a business school as early as 1881, it wasn’t until 1908 that Harvard Business School offered their first MBA. Throughout the decades, the MBA has become synonymous with corporate success, with schools around the world adopting the American degree programme in order to stay competitive in an increasingly multinational market. 

Today, over 100,000 students graduate each year with an MBA degree. 

An MBA can be completed in as little as 12 months, although it usually lasts around two years. They are offered in both full-time and part-time formats, and are directed towards mid- to high-level business managers and executives. 

The average MBA student is 36 years old and has a whopping 11 years of prior experience in the business world, although many programmes have lower minimum experience requirements to be considered for admittance into their programmes. 

A current MBA degree offers a series of advanced courses in general topic such as:

  • Leadership
  • Marketing
  • Communication strategies
  • Finance
  • Business Ethics
  • Economics
  • Data Analysis 

The MBA is a general degree, meaning it seeks to cover a broad range of topics designed to give you all the skills needed to potentially manage or run a business. However, there are business schools who offer specializations within their MBA programmes in topics such as Entrepreneurship, Healthcare, and Human Resource Management. 

What is a MSc?

MSc, on the other hand, stands for Master of Science, and this overarching degree is one of the two core prongs of tertiary education (the other being an MA, or Master of Arts.) 

The MSc includes essentially all graduate degrees based in hard sciences and mathematics, with hundreds of courses to choose from, including studies in finance, economics, and business. 

Depending on their study programme, MSc students can be accepted both with some work experience or recently out of college. All students enrolled in MSc programmes, however, are usually required to have strong fundamentals in math and science. Regardless of the degree, these subjects are used throughout the coursework, either as part of your major or within general education classes. 

MSc courses tend to favor hard logic and theory and practice over their MA counterparts, although the specific offerings of an MSc degree varies greatly by department and by school. 

Most programmes last between 1-2 years full time, and depending on the university and degree, they often offer part-time options (although in this case the length of the programme usually doubles). Many universities and school also offer online degrees in some majors, such as EDHEC which offers an Online MSc in International Business Management, and Data Management & Business Analytics. Classes can be both intimate or large in size, usually starting larger in general courses and becoming more individual within advanced courses. 

MSc degrees based specifically in business or management can include:

  • Economics
  • Global Finance
  • International Relations
  • Professional Accounting
  • Statistics
  • Data Analysis
  • Communications Management

The MSc as a degree covers a huge range of degree topics, although their specific degree programmes tend to be more specific than their MBA counterparts. One is not better than the other; rather, they are two separate types of degrees with differing qualifications, coursework, and goals.

So How Do I Choose Between a MBA and a MSc?

It might feel overwhelming having to make a choice between two different yet equally viable degree tracks. The best way to make an informed decision is to reflect on your current professional and financial status. Then, thoroughly analyse the personal, economic, and professional goals you would like to achieve from completing either a MBA or a MSc degree. 

Here are some of the fundamental aspects to consider when choosing between the two:

1. Academic Requirements

Both degree programmes require an undergraduate degree in order to apply, although some specific courses can make exceptions for large amounts of prior experience in lieu of a completed degree. 

In addition to an application, personal statement, and letters of recommendation, many programmes also require tests for admissions. GRE test scores for a MSc, and GMAT scores for a MBA are the most frequently requested exam scores.

2. Work Experience

One of the notable differences between the two degrees is the prior experience needed to qualify. MBA cohorts are usually composed of students who have at least four to six years of prior experience, ideally some of that while in a supervisor position. 

MScs, on the other hand, are geared towards younger professionals or those looking to study a specific subject in-depth. They usually only require between one to three years of prior experience, and some programmes will even accept applicants directly out of an undergraduate degree. 

3. Type of Coursework Offered

A MSc degree provides an in-depth, advanced focus on a specific programme topic. Courses delve into considerable theory and lab work, with graduates gaining significant knowledge in their chosen subject. 

While nowadays there are some specialized options available, MBA programmes in general offer a much broader scope of coursework; students gain a holistic education which includes macro classes geared towards the business world. For example, an MBA in Finance would include courses in business leadership and communication skills, while an MSc in Finance would focus primarily on advanced concepts and techniques within the finance field.

3. Career Potential

At the end of the day, only you can control where your career and education will lead you on your career path. From an academic perspective, however, the coursework within a MBA is designed to prepare general managers, directors, and CEOs to be the most effective in their broadly encompassing positions. 

MSc degrees, on the other hand, best prepare professionals for roles such as specialist or department head (for example, Communications Director or Head Accountant Manager). 

4. Expense, Earnings, and Experience

Another significant difference in the two programmes is price — a MBA can cost up to twice as much as their MSc counterparts. The upside to this extra cost is the invaluable networking opportunities. Higher level managers and directors within a program can lead to more potent connections, creating additional professional opportunities upon graduation. 

A MSc has networking opportunities as well, of course: accessible prices and lower experience requirements for admission leads to a more diverse group of students with potentially broader ideas and perspectives.


Exploring MBAs and MScs with EDHEC

As an international institution focused on innovation and impact, EDHEC Business School creates forward-thinking graduates who are ready to reinvent the business world. As part of this objective, we offer a wide array of post-graduate education options.

EDHEC offers a number of Master of Science degrees, with subjects ranging from creative business and innovation to accounting and finances. Part of the EDHEC offering includes two Online Master of Science, one in International Business Management, and the second in Data Management and Business Analytics. As a co-founder of the international alliance Future of Management Education (FOME), EDHEC has developed one of the most powerful and intuitive learning platforms in order to produce personalised, interactive, and high-touch learning journeys. Both Online Masters combine a set of core courses and electives, tailored coaching sessions to build your international career plan, and a consulting project for a real company in the international marketplace. Students are able to access all of the course material and networking opportunities of an in-person programme, while maintaining the high level of flexibility offered by online coursework. 

The EDHEC Global MBA is a unique degree programme taught full-time on our in-person campus in Nice, France. With a cohort of students from over 30 countries, the MBA packs a wealth of knowledge and practical experience into an intense programme of only 10 months. The course is highly personalised; as you choose over a third of the coursework to best suit your needs and objectives. The average student has 7 years of professional experience prior to entering the EDHEC Global MBA, receiving tailored career coaching and global networking resources throughout the programme. The EDHEC Executive MBA will give you the know-how you need to drive your organisation’s performance and consolidate your leadership. Taught part-time on our stunning campus in Lille or in the heart of Paris, depending on your preferences, the comprehensive 16-month programme sharpens your strategic sensitivity and business acumen and provides you with hands-on business knowledge and a global outlook. At EDHEC, ethics and responsibility take precedence over mere managerial techniques. That’s why our Executive MBA combines thorough academic study with intensive individualised coaching, business trips and real-life consulting projects.


So is a MBA better than a MSc? The answer truly depends on your experience, skill set, and overall career goals. Both sets of degrees will offer training, opportunity, and network possibilities to grow your career to new heights. If you’re ready to jump into a MBA or MSc degree, check out our programmes to find out more.