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Difference Between MBA and MA

‘MBA’ vs  ‘MA’

After finishing an undergraduate or bachelor’s degree, a student may opt to enroll in graduate school. A graduate student usually takes coursework in his or her specific field of study. It entails producing original research like dissertations or thesis writing and defense.

Enrolling in graduate school has many requirements. One is that the student must have a bachelor’s degree with high grades in his field of study. He must also pass the graduate school standardized test, the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

Letters of recommendation from undergraduate instructors, mentors, and research supervisors are also important. The student will also have to submit a Letter of Intent which should include his intended area of research. Graduate school awards advanced academic degrees like Master of Arts (MA), Master in Business Administration (MBA), and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

An MBA and MA both allow a student to get a doctorate degree. While they have several similarities, they also have distinct differences. One difference is in the field of studies. An MA is a postgraduate degree in English, history, geography, humanities, philosophy, social sciences, fine arts, nursing, and theology.

An MBA is a postgraduate degree in business and is open to all who have a bachelor’s degree in any academic discipline. It teaches scientific approaches to management and introduces students to the various areas of business.

Enrolling in an MBA course will introduce the student to areas like accounting, finance, marketing, management, human resources, business law, economics, and other business fields aside from his specific field of study.

An MBA and MA also differ in their duration. There are two-year courses in an MBA and MA, but most MBA courses require three years of studies. MBA programs may be full time, accelerated, part time, or executive. There are also off-campus programs which can be done by mail, email, videos, and the Internet.

After successfully completing an MA program, the graduate can work as an educator, research assistant, or consultant in his field of study. Graduates of MBA programs will be properly equipped with sufficient knowledge in business disciplines and principles and can work in higher positions of an organization. He can then work as a financial and business consultant or manager of a company.


1. An MA is Master of Arts while MBA is Master in Business
2. An MA is usually a two-year course while an MBA can be a two or
three-year course, even longer in some programs.
3. An MA is open to those who have bachelor’s degrees in the
humanities, social sciences, fine arts, English, geology, etc.
while an MBA is open to all graduates with a bachelor’s degree
especially to graduates of business-related courses.
4. Graduates of MA programs can work as educators and consultants
in their fields of study while graduates of MBA programs can
work as managers, business consultants, and other higher
positions in a company or organization.
5. An MA prepares an individual to become an expert in his field of
study while an MBA prepares an individual to become highly
knowledgeable in all business fields.

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1 Comment

  1. Is it just me, or does this parse like it was written by an MBA program advertisement?

    Just leave it as:
    MA = Master of Arts = an academic degree (rel. to MS, PhD) in that it is typically theory oriented. A terminal MA program, however, will often have a practical focus.

    MBA = Master of Business Admin = a professional degree (rel. to MSW, JD) in that it is designed for praxis rather than research and theory, although it is not exclusively such (just as MA will sometimes have a practical rather than theoretical focus).

    They are different tracks entirely – an MA is typically a humanities or social science degree, often given enroute to PhD, although it can be terminal. MBA is designed typically as a terminal program and is a specific field of study itself (i.e. Business Admin.), although it does have many sub-fields. A person pursuing an MA will typically be interested in the academic application of their field of study, which will often (although not always) be the same as their undergraduate focus. As a graduate, they will be seeking employment in a job related to their field of study rather than generically seeking a management position, and will expect to utilize their deeper expertise as part of their job search.

    An MBA is typically pursued by a person who is either (a) already skilled in a field of work, e.g. Engineering, and wishes to pursue advancement opportunities in management positions in that field this is a common “exit strategy” for people with BS / BA level skills who wish to compete for managerial positions or (b) is not skilled in a particular field of work but wishes to have the credentials / experience of general business management as a way to leverage their existing skill set in the management domain of that work [e.g. a person who has good organizational and social skills can obtain an MBA as a way to gain and show prospective employers that they have the business skills to help run a company, even if they have no experience in that company’s core business].

    Duration is entirely up to the individual program and geographic region, although typical for any masters program is 1-2 years full time. This does vary somewhat by program, but typically not significantly.

    Obviously completing any degree program part time takes longer, which is presumably the writer’s assumption when s/he states that an MBA program is 2+ years.

    In the U.S., neither a MA nor a MBA is typically considered requisite for most PhD programs (in fact some Universities have mild preferences for students with no previous post-graduate degree–or at minimum, a highly academic degree for PhD candidate consideration). That being said neither degrees prevents a given person from pursuing a PhD separately or in conjunction their program depending on the sponsoring school(s). The general wisdom is that if you are considering a PhD at a major US institution – do your research! — Know the program, learn about the professors there, etc. There is no ‘normal’ program and environment at the PhD level, especially in more obscure disciplines.

    In Canada, Europe and elsewhere, the best comment in this regard is “Your mileage may vary” as schools in many of these countries prefer students who have already completed a post-graduate degree, but may be specific as to what country’s educational standards they accept [from the perspective of a non-US student, this same warning should probably be applied to the US comment]

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