The Difference Between an MBA and Master's Degree?


Until you're immersed in the world of college studies, the meaning behind some acronyms and program titles might leave you scratching your head. But you can't let your confusion stop you from moving forward. Instead, prime yourself with the background information you need about terminology to make the right decisions when determining the course of your future education.

Read on, then, for a primer on the difference between an MBA and master's degree.

First, what is a master's degree? A master's degree is the next step in higher education after a bachelor's degree. Typically a two-year program (though some programs can be completed in as little as 11 months), a master's degree immerses students in the professional arena of their choice, giving them advanced knowledge in their industry and preparing them to take leadership roles. Among the types of master's degrees students can pursue are a Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Information Technology (MIT), Master of Healthcare Management (MHCM), Master of Accounting (MAcc) and Master of Education (M. Ed.). Each, as you can see, comes with its own acronym.

So an MBA is just an acronym for a type of master's degree? Exactly. MBA stands for Master of Business Administration. So the difference between an MBA and master's degree is that the MBA is just a more specific designation of the degree you're pursuing. Earning an MBA, an internationally recognized degree, can show employers that you have a commitment to developing the knowledge and skills base to further your business- or management-related career.

So how do you decide between an MBA and other master's degree options? The master's degree you pursue depends on your career goals. Sometimes your choice is obvious -- if you are a teacher who wants to further your career in the educational field for instance, then a Master of Education is the way you want to go. But if you are a teacher who wants to change career directions and branch out into the business world, then an MBA would be a great consideration. If you're already in the business world, reasons to consider earning an MBA might include that you love what you do and want to further your career and you want to stay abreast of the latest changes in your profession.

Why would you want to go back to school at all? The payoff can make it worthwhile to earn a master's degree in business. In fact, according to by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, professionals with a master's degree earn 20% more per week on average than professionals with a bachelor's degree alone.1

Interested in learning more? If you decide an MBA does sound like the right choice for you, one of the next steps is to consider whether to pursue an MBA in a particular specialization. Types of MBA degrees range from accounting, finance, international business and marketing to healthcare, human resources, operations and project management. Each specialization allows you to take courses devoted to your field of interest and learn from professors who are specialists in the field.

Ready to take the next step? Learn more about master's degrees at AIU.

1. Current Population Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, on the Internet at (visited 3/09/2015)