MBA Vs. Master’s Degree: Choose Your Best Option

by Ariel Smotrich

If you’re looking to improve your business education, you may want to explore the difference between an MBA vs. master’s degree vs. MBA alternative. However, you might not know the differences between these three educational options. 

An MBA, master’s degree, and MBA alternative will all provide transferable skills, better employment prospects, and career-advancing networking opportunities. 

Let’s go over the differences between an MBA vs. a master’s degree, vs. an MBA alternative regarding curriculum, time commitment, cost, student profiles, and career paths.

Differences Between An MBA Vs. Master’s Degree Vs. An MBA Alternative

The MBA and MBA alternative curriculum focuses on a wide range of business topics such as branding, sales, and finance. 

Conversely, master’s programs are more focused. For example, a master’s in economics degree covers microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics. 

Average student work experience varies between the degree types.

Average work experience: 

• MBA: 4-6 years

• Master’s: 0-3 years 

• MBA alternative: 0-10 years

The average student’s age also varies but is correlated to the student’s level of work experience. 

Average student age: 

• MBA: between 25 and 32 years

• Master’s: 21-25 years 

• MBA alternative: 20s-30s 

MBA and master’s degrees take between one and two years, depending on the program. 

MBA alternative programs can take as short as seven weeks. 

Further, MBA and master’s degrees can cost between $100,000 and $200,00. In comparison, MBA alternatives can cost lower than $2,000.  

Career Path Differences For An MBA Vs. Master’s Vs. MBA Alternative

Careers of MBA students vs. master’s degrees students and MBA alternative students differ in terms of job prospects and salary.

Due to the broad curriculum, MBA and MBA alternative graduates have transferable skills to different industries. On the other hand, master’s graduates have more specialized skills. 

MBA and MBA alternative graduates earn roles as marketing, finance management, operations, consulting, and company founders.  

Master’s graduates may go onto Ph.D., research roles, and more technical positions such as financial analysts, data scientists, and account managers. 

Graduates’ average salary depends on the industry and level of work experience. 

MBA graduates who work in finance make $97,100. Graduates in consulting make $90,900. Similarly, MBA alternative graduates use their program to leverage 6 figure promotions.  

Individuals with master’s degrees average slightly less. For example, accounting graduates with 0-3 years of work experience make $70,000 a year.

Admissions Requirements For MBA Vs. Master’s Vs. MBA Alternatives

Most MBA programs require applicants to take the GMAT or GRE. Additionally, top MBA applicants have an average of 4-6 years of work experience. 

Most master’s degree programs also require the GMAT or GRE. Work experience is not required, although some, such as a master’s in accounting, require prerequisite coursework. 

To be competitive, applicants must have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. 

MBA alternative programs have no test or undergraduate GPA requirements. All levels of work experience are welcome. However, students are placed in cohorts with individuals who have similar levels of work experience. 

When submitting your application, make sure to show ambition. Include your reason for applying, what you intend to learn, how you will add to the dynamic of the class, and what your career aspirations are. 

If you don’t want to take the GMAT or GRE, here are three affordable MBA programs with no GMAT requirements. 

MBA Vs. Specific Master’s Programs: 

While MBA programs and MBA alternatives cover marketing, finance, and accounting, they don’t provide the same depth that master’s programs do. Let’s go over the differences between an MBA and specific master’s programs in the business field. 

Marketing MBA Vs. Master’s In Marketing 

Because there are both marketing MBAs and master’s degree programs in marketing, it may be challenging to determine which one is best for you.  

MBA programs cover marketing and essential business topics like management, leadership, accounting, and finance.

Master’s in marketing programs only cover marketing topics, such as brand management, digital marketing, and product marketing. 

Because graduates have different skill sets, employment opportunities differ. Marketing MBA graduates take on roles like marketing and brand managers with an average salary of $103,000 per yearMaster’s in marketing graduates earn employment as marketing analysts and coordinators with an average salary of $71,938 per year. 

If you’re interested in learning more about marketing MBA programs, here are 6 of the best MBA marketing programs. 

MBA Vs. Master’s In Finance 

The critical differences between MBA programs vs. master’s in finance programs are the depth that you cover financial topics and the career opportunities after the degree. 

MBA programs cover finance courses from a managerial perspective. Students take courses in managerial finance and financial accounting. Graduates earn managerial positions in banking and mid-level management positions with an average salary of $97,100 per year.  

Master’s in finance programs go more in-depth, covering financial reporting, modeling, and economics. Students can take roles in financial reporting and analysis, valuation, and investing. Master’s students who start in entry-level positions average a salary of  $77,682 per year. 

MBA Vs. Master’s In Accounting 

A critical difference between an MBA vs. master’s in accounting is MBAs train accounting managers, whereas master’s in accounting programs train CPAs (certified public accountants). 

The MBA curriculum covers general business skills such as accounting, marketing, finance, negotiation, strategy, decision-making, business ethics, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

The master’s in accounting curriculum covers specialized accounting skills such as taxation, data mining and auditing, forensic accounting, and organizational risk management.

Due to the difference in skillset, MBA graduates take on roles as financial managers, analysts, startup founders, and CEOs. Conversely, master’s in accounting graduates take on roles as general accountants, forensic accountants, controllers, and chief financial officers.

While MBA graduates’ average accounting salary is $94,000individuals with a master’s in accounting have a starting salary between $64,000 and $73,000. However, seasoned accountants with 7-10+ years of experience make between $104,300-$130,000 per year. 

MBA programs accept students from a variety of backgrounds. However, some accelerated programs, such as Pepperdine Graziadio Business School’s one-year MBA, require students to have an undergraduate degree in business. On the other hand, master’s in accounting programs require applicants to pass financial accounting, managerial accounting, intermediate accounting, and auditing. 

MBA vs. Masters

Advantages Of MBA Alternatives

MBA alternative programs have the advantage of being more affordable and having a lighter time commitment than traditional master’s and MBA programs. 

Their targeted curriculum cuts unnecessary theory allowing students to obtain essential skills for their desired industry. 

The # 1 ranked MBA alternative by Forbes and is the Business Intensive

Business Intensive at a glance:

• Length: 7 Weeks

• Format: Online

• Cost: Starting at $1,499

The 7-week course teaches 8 core business skills, including finance, pricing, sales, branding, and marketing. It also provides excellent networking opportunities.

Students will finish hands-on projects including:

• Develop and test a business strategy

• Pitch a business idea

• Run a market sizing, revenue growth, and competitor analysis

• Conduct user interviews

• Analyze financial reports and models

• Develop and execute a marketing and sales plan

• Build a no-code website

There are live weekly guest speakers. Past guest speakers include Andrew Yang, PayPal Founding COO David Sacks, Ellevest Cofounder, and CEO Sallie Krawcheck, product gurus Jackie Bavaro, and Gayle Laakman Mcdowell, and Peloton Cofounder Graham Stanton.

The Business Intensive teaches students to become active business leaders. 

If you’re interested in more alternative MBA programs, here are the best fast-track MBA alternative courses. 

Is An MBA Vs. Master’s Program Vs. MBA Alternative Right For Me? 

An investment in your business education will broaden your skills and career trajectory. If you’re considering an MBA vs. master’s vs. an MBA alternative, your choice depends entirely on what you’re looking for in terms of your career aspirations.

A master’s degree is excellent for someone with little to no work experience who wants to get the technical skills necessary to work in a particular field such as marketing, accounting, or finance. 

An MBA or an MBA alternative is excellent if you want to improve your skills in various areas such as management, leadership, finance, and marketing.   

A traditional MBA takes two years and costs 200k. In contrast, an alternative can take as short as seven weeks and costs less than 2k. 

If you want to gain business knowledge quickly and keep your full-time position, enrolling in an advanced business alternative such as the Business Intensive is a fantastic choice.