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Choosing Between a Management Master's and an MBA

Ravi Mittal, PhD
By Ravi Mittal, PhD
Rudy J. Watson, PhD
By Rudy J. Watson, PhD

Both a Master of Science in Management and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) can help you advance your career, prepare you for leadership roles, and provide you with the skills for sound, evidence-based decision making. Deciding which graduate program to pursue depends in large part on your specific career plans.

In this article, we’ll identify the differences between the two programs and offer some insights on how to choose which one best fits your goals.

Master's in Management Overview

UMGC’s Master of Science in Management program is designed to deliver applied and career-focused business education, preparing you for leadership roles in demanding business environments. The programs provide you with the knowledge, skills, and opportunity to make data-informed decisions.

The core courses focus on systems thinking and designing organizational structures to maximize decision-making, applying financial and nonfinancial information to a wide range of management decisions. This includes product pricing, budgeting, project analysis, and performance measurement. You will accomplish this through the use of quantitative and qualitative tools in making effective business decisions.

The master's degree in management offers you the opportunity to specialize in one of 12 disciplines, including 

MBA Overview  

An MBA degree can help you acquire and enhance the skills that are needed to rise to executive positions in your chosen profession. If you’re looking to start a business, land a new job, or get promoted to a leadership role at a higher salary, an MBA might be the right choice to revitalize your career.

UMGC’s online MBA program is designed for working adults who seek training to enhance their leadership skills, business knowledge, and decision-making abilities. Since an MBA is a well-recognized degree, it can give you a competitive edge in the job market. Recruiters look for MBA graduates who can think strategically, communicate effectively, and contribute to a team of diverse individuals.

The MBA program is a training ground for you to enhance your ability to work quickly with a lot of information and data, handle ambiguity, and deliver completed solutions to business problems on tight deadlines. Required courses in the MBA provide fundamental knowledge and practical applications of business concepts, such as leadership, finance, legal and ethical issues in business, marketing, and strategy.

How an MBA differs from specialized master’s degrees in management

The difference between these programs boils down to one of depth versus breadth. Some students are looking to acquire specialized knowledge, training, and certification, while others wish to broaden their overall business acumen. 

A master's in management with a specialization in a specific field will enable you to dive deeply into your particular area of interest. An MBA degree, on the other hand, is a better alternative for those who want to gain a broader understanding of every facet of business and management.

Why a general MBA could be more valuable than specialized MBAs

In a general MBA program, like the one at UMGC, you will develop knowledge and skills in a variety of business disciplines like strategy, leadership, project management, economics, finance, and marketing. You will develop an understanding of how these disciplines are interrelated and how making decisions in one functional area will impact decisions in other areas. 

The knowledge and skills that you acquire in a general MBA program are easily applicable to a variety of industries such as healthcare, retail, banking, government, IT, consulting, and education. It doesn’t matter whether you work for a large multinational corporation, a mid-size firm, or a small family business—you will find that the abilities and skills you gained from a general MBA are going to be valued by your employer. Irrespective of whether you are exploring new career opportunities, or you plan to grow in your current field, a general MBA degree can be beneficial in many ways.

In every organization, there are some employees who have cross-functional skills. Often, these employees are first in line for promotion to leadership positions like chief operating officer, vice president, regional director, and divisional head. To excel in such roles, broad-based knowledge of multiple functional areas is necessary. A general MBA will make you a strong candidate for leadership positions by providing you with a broader understanding of how businesses operate, compete, and grow.

How a specialized MS degree in management can help you advance your career

Each of the twelve master's in management specializations offers a deep dive into the theory, concepts, and application of tools and practices of that specific discipline. Courses are designed to enhance the skills you need to be successful in your desired area of expertise. Your skills are strengthened through activities such as scenario-based projects and simulations.

Depending upon the specialization, each program prepares you to excel in technical, policy making, operational, and managerial positions. Technical positions include investigative forensics, target analysis, and intelligence collection. Policy-making positions include comptroller, homeland security positions, human resources, and counterterrorism. Operations positions include senior accountant, law enforcement, counterintelligence, marketing, and project management. Examples of managerial positions include managing partner, emergency manager, crisis manager, and executive director roles.

At UMGC, whether you pursue an online master's in management or an MBA, you'll be learning from our faculty of highly successful and experienced scholar practitioners who are leaders in their fields. Both programs offer career-focused training that can enhance your business skills and decision-making. If your objective is to become an expert in your field of business, a master's in management from UMGC can help you get there. If you’re seeking to become more broadly proficient in business and leadership, an MBA from UMGC could be your best investment.

Reference on this webpage to any third-party entity or product does not constitute or imply endorsement by UMGC nor does it constitute or imply endorsement of UMGC by the third party.