In a difficult job market, professionals often attend graduate school in order to compete with other job-seekers or increase their skills for a current position. Both master’s and MBA degree programs offer attractive options, including part-time and distance learning.

The MBA program is a common type of master’s degree, which concentrates on refining general management competencies with an emphasis on business skills, such as accounting, finance, leadership, and economics. Master’s degrees in Science (MS) in general may be a good stepping stone for students to advance their careers after completing an undergraduate degree.

However, an MBA is not the only kind of master’s degree. The MBA vs MS with specialization dichotomy is worth looking into if you want to get one of these degrees in order to advance your career!

What Is the Difference Between MBA and MS Degrees?

A Master of Science degree often prepares students for futures study in a doctorate program, which is also the case with MA degrees, but less commonly. The ultimate difference is just the lens through which each degree approaches the curriculum, such as a science or STEM curriculum. The specializations offered in the MBA world cover an entirely different spectrum, such as finance, tech, consulting, etc.

While MS aims to increase your subject knowledge, streamline it, and help you gain more in-depth insights; MBA focuses on imparting skills required for conducting businesses. The MS is a technical course and requires specific knowledge of a subject. The MBA is a professional course requiring no specific training. Both the courses generally take 2 years to complete. However, for MS, the duration is more strict. In MBA you get options between different duration of courses from anywhere between 1 – 2 years.  Some universities offer integrated courses in MS which comprise of Ph.D. and last up to 5 years. Even though the course is generally of a minimum of 2 years, the system is flexible. That is if you can complete more subjects in a lesser span of time, your MS will be done early.

Most MBA programs require candidates with prior work experience. This is because if you have a basic knowledge of how organizations perform, you can better apply the theories and concepts taught in class. Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Wharton University all have candidate work experience requirement of 3-5 years for their flagship programs. Business schools like INSEAD and London Business Schools have higher requirements in terms of work experience year. For many of these colleges, this point is not stated exclusively, so make sure to consult with fellow aspirants and mentors before planning for your study abroad. For MS degrees, there is very little to no weightage on work experience. 

If you are considering a specialized MS vs MBA degree, think about what exactly your career goals are. If you already know that you would like to get into an industry such as finance, or if you are interested in marketing or any other parts of the business discipline, an MBA from a top international B-school will likely suit your needs. Also, if you want a more broadly applicable degree or if you are uncertain of your exact career path in business, an MBA will likely be appropriate for you. Look into the typical employers for your field to see which kind of degree they favor, and this should give you a fair idea of the path ahead.

Average Salaries: MS vs MBA

The salary that an MBA graduate gets is definitely more than the salary of an MS graduate. On average, MBA students can hope to make about $100,000 or higher every year, if they graduate from a good business school. The salary that you can expect after finishing an MS degree in business administration is going to be significantly lower than the salary that an MBA can get you. This does not mean that you will not be entitled to an above average salary. According to PayScale, an MS can get you an average salary of about $80,000. It will, however, differ on the basis of location and job profile.

While graduate salaries for MBAs are relatively high, the real impact appears to be in the immediate aftermath of graduating where the combination of the MBA and job mobility (the ability to seek out new opportunities with new employers) means the average MBA graduate can expect to double their pre-MBA salary within three years.


As stated before, both these degrees allow applicants to find a high paying job abroad and build a career path. But, there is also the cost to consider. While both these degrees are highly rewarding, an MBA degree is generally considered to have better ROI since it allows you to build up a basic professional foundation before you return to school. In the case of M.S, the learning curve is much longer before you actually find yourself in a high paying position.

And with the availability of 1 year MBA programs, the ROI shoots up much higher than any other such degree. If you are unsure about the differences between 1 year and 2 year MBA programs, take a look at this short video:

All the top international B-schools also provide a number of scholarships to help reduce the financial burden on students. If you are considering an MBA in the United States, then you can tap into a pool of $230+ million worth of scholarships provided by the top 25 B-schools. 

Have a look at the average scholarship figures for some of the top B-schools:

School Total Scholarships Average Grant % of MBAs on Scholarship
Harvard Business School $31.5 million $32,000 50%
Wharton $16.9 million $30,500 33%
Chicago (Booth) $16.3 million $30,000 60%
Stanford GSB $15.7 million $35,830 52%
Michigan (Ross) $15.4 million $22,360 48%
New York (Stern) $12.8 million $26,400 62%
UCLA (Anderson) $12.1 million $25,860 65%
Northwestern (Kellogg) $11.8 million $22,800 35%
Columbia Business School $10.1 million $20,500 46%
Virginia (Darden) $8.4 million $30,800 43%
MIT (Sloan) $8.1 million $28,220 35%
Duke (Fuqua) $7.1 million $20,950 33%
Rice (Jones) $6.7 million $33,320 94%
Yale School of Management $6.2 million $23,028 31%
UC-Berkeley (Haas) $5.8 million $29,060 50%
Cornell (Johnson) $5.7 million $12,000 33%
Dartmouth (Tuck) $5.4 million $27,550 35%


The final choice

What you need to understand is that both these programs, MS and MBA, are gateways to better career opportunities. But, they are widely different in all other aspects!

So, when you make a choice you need to have already decided on your career path and where you envision yourself in the future. Once you are sure about your career options, the choice should not be difficult at all!


Related Resources:

MIT vs Stanford – Which is better and why?

List of MBA Scholarships for Indian Students and how to get them

MBA Goals – Long Term Versus Short Term Goals

What is the Cost of Stanford MBA?

MBA without work experience – Is it worth it?

The Best Online MBA Programs of 2021

What does it really take to crack Harvard MBA with a good scholarship?