MBA or Specialized Master’s Degree: Which One is Best for You?

MBA or Specialized Master’s Degree: Which One is Best for You?

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When you think business school, you probably think MBA. A Master’s of Business Administration has long been a coveted — and often essential — qualification for business professionals. In recent years, however, the tide has begun to quietly shift, with more business school students than ever pursuing master’s degrees in specialized fields such as accounting, economics and business analytics. So, which option should you choose? Let’s take a look at both.

What are the differences?

There are several key differences between an MBA and M.S. degree. The one you choose depends on your career goals, experience, finances and more.

  • Focus
    • MBA programs are more all-encompassing. They are meant for students looking to gain functional knowledge across all aspects of business.
    • A specialized master’s program is exactly that — it focuses on a specific area of business and provides a deep and precise knowledge of that subject. 
  • Program
    • The programs can differ in length and requirements. MBA students often enter business school after a few years of experience in the workforce. They’re looking to take their career to the next level, and will have to spend an average of two years to earn their business degree.
    • M.S. programs can be shorter, sometimes just one year, and usually accept students with little work experience. M.S. programs provide an accelerated way to gain the depth of knowledge required to secure a position within the specialization.  
  • Cost
    • An MBA can cost more to attain, but it can also provide a higher ROI. Companies will pay top dollar for an experienced professional who carries a broad range of business knowledge — base salaries can be more than $60,000 higher for MBA graduates at some consulting firms, for example.
    • While a specialized master’s program also provides great returns, it is often a more affordable route to career success.
  • Goals
    • If your career track requires an overall business knowledge, you’ll want an MBA.
    • If you are certain of your job interest and would like to become an expert in that particular field, a specialized degree could be your best bet.

How do I decide?

Ultimately, it’s about envisioning where you see your career path leading and which route will provide the best boost to get you there. Talk to schools, do your research, be true to yourself and know your future is full of potential either way.

Did you know the GRE® General Test is accepted by more than 1,300 business schools worldwide, including top-ranked MBA and specialized master’s programs? Learn more about making it a part of your business school plans.

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