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MBA or MS? Choosing Between the Different Equals

MBA and MS degrees are the two most highly sought after postgraduation degrees by international applicants. Almost all reputed universities in the US and elsewhere offer both these courses through separate departments or schools. 

While both MBA and MS can help you achieve your career goals, they are fundamentally poles apart in terms of course curriculum, career path, and interests. Therefore, you should have a clear understanding of what these courses offer and how they can shape your career before going with any one of them.

What is MS?

MS is an abbreviation for a Master of Science degree awarded by most universities. Generally, MS is a two-year full-time degree course that you can pursue after completing your undergraduate studies in the field of science, medicine, or engineering. 

Individuals looking to gain specialization in a particular field related to science and technology pursue this course. MS recipients can also prefer to go for doctoral studies and advanced academic research. MS programs can be course-based, research-based, or a combination of both.

What is an MBA?

Master of Business Administration or MBA is a professional course for business, management, and entrepreneurship studies. It is a post-graduate degree course usually of two-year duration when pursued full-time. 

An MBA course can offer various specializations such as business administration, operations, human resource management, finance, marketing, and so on.

Difference Between MBA and MS

Sr. No. Criteria MBA MS
1 Area of Focus To learn business and management skills with specialization in a particular management domain. To further improve and learn technical skills in a particular field of science, engineering or technology
2 Tenure While a full-time MBA program is 2 years, executive programs are usually of shorter durations. MS programs are usually of two years duration.
3 Work Experience
  • For Two Years Full-Time MBA: Work experience is preferred but not mandatory.
  • For Executive MBA:

Previous work experience of 2-5 years is mandatory.

While work experience is usually not required, applicants with industry endorsements can be given preference.
4 Academic Background Undergraduate individuals from all streams of education are eligible to pursue an MBA course. Having an academic background related to science, engineering and technology is a mandatory prerequisite for pursuing an MS program. 
5. Career Roles  CEO, Fund Manager, accounts manager, management consultant, financial analyst, etc. CEO, Senior programer, Lead solutions provider, Chief Technological Officer, technological consultant, Chief Design Architect, researcher, scientist, professor, etc.

Career Prospects

Both MBA and MS programs can offer you enough opportunities to grow in your career. While an MBA program can significantly enhance your prospects of building a career in top-level management, an MS program can help you get expertise in a technical area that can help you make a career in technology-oriented industries and academics. 

Furthermore, you can even head a company in future with both of these degrees. Have a look at some of the renowned CEOs of the corporate world and their respective qualifications.

Sr. No. Name of CEO Company Qualification
1 Tim Cook Apple MBA
2 Sundar Pichai Alphabet Inc. and Google MS, MBA
3 Larry Page (Former CEO) Google MS
4 Harry Lawrence Culp Jr General Electric MBA
5 Jamie Dimon JP Morgan Chase MBA
6 Satya Nadella Microsoft MS, MBA
7 Shantanu Narayen Adobe Inc MS, MBA
8 Parag Agrawal Twitter MS, PHD
9 Carl Douglas McMillan Walmart MBA
10 Darren Woods ExxonMobile MBA

You might have noticed an interesting fact from the above data that many people in the list mentioned above went on to pursue MBA after completing their MS. Furthermore, there is a clear dominance of the MBA degree for handling leadership positions.

Salary Prospects

Salary components largely depend upon the supply and demand dynamics of the market. The degree in high demand and short supply will always command a high salary. 

Presently, MBA grads are relatively in high demand, and therefore, they might have a greater chance to bag a higher starting salary than an MS recipient. However, many additional factors like the school’s brand name, the student’s overall academic history, and the prevailing market conditions can have a profound effect on salary.

For instance, MBA Finance and MS Computer Science graduates are in much demand presently and hence can command a higher base salary than their counterparts in other fields. However, this can change in future depending upon the then global trade conditions and the job market.

[READ: Which MBA Programs Have the Highest Salaries]

Choosing the Right Degree

A degree in itself can never be wrong. It all boils down to identifying the right one for yourself. You can consider the following factors before finalizing the degree that can best suit your objectives.


  • Your Interest

Your interest and mindset are of paramount importance while choosing your postgraduation studies. An MS degree can be the best choice for you if you have a scientific temper and enjoy finding solutions to highly complicated technical problems. 

Alternatively, you can consider pursuing MBA if

  • You like to dwell on administrative and management issues of a business. 
  • You like to study and experiment with different business models.
  • The financial statements and accounting figures excite you.


  • Return on Investments (RoI)

Investing two years of your life in academics can have far-fetched repercussions on your finances. In addition to course fees, you also need to make provisions for living expenses in a foreign country for the entire course duration. 

Therefore, your should aim for a course that can give you a substantial return on your investments. While both MS and MBA courses are good for the long term career-building process, the MBA courses tend to have a better return on investments if done from a reputed college.

[READ: The ROI of MBA from USA]


  • Flexibility

Since an MS program is focused on advanced academics, it provides lesser flexibility in terms of career choices. For instance, an MS in Computer Science can have a wide range of career options, but they are limited to computer and IT industries.

On the contrary, an MBA grad can easily switch from one industry to another as his domain of specialization has universal applicability. For instance, every company needs an MBA- HR to oversee the recruitment process regardless of the industry.

If you are still unable to decide which one to choose between, an MBA or an MS degree, you can consider taking guidance from an expert who has considerable experience in counselling. Such an expert can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses so that you can be more confident with your decisions.

Remember, your goal should be to become a better version of yourself, and the right degree can help you achieve that goal.

For over 15+ years as an Entrepreneur, and India’s Top Educationist, Jatin has led a range of initiatives in the Education Industry. In this role, he has created many successful educational services and products geared towards generating success for professionals aspiring to join IVY League and global Top Tier Universities for MBA Programs, Masters Programs, and undergraduate courses. He is the Founder and CEO of PythaGURUS Education, and has been recognized as a thought leader in the Higher education sector. Economic Times, Hindustan Times, Times of India, India Today, Business Today, Tribune, and many other national newspapers have recognized his work, and have given him numerous opportunities to be a regular columnist. He has also served as a panelist for NDTV, and other national news channels.

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