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MBA or MSC: Which is Better?

How do you decide whether to study an MBA or an MSc? Both are level 7 qualifications, but which program is better – the MBA or the MSc?

Both courses meet the same high academic standards, but offer graduates different outcomes, depending on their career objectives. In this article, we are going to look at the main differences between the two programs to help you decide whether an MBA or an MSc course is best for you. 

MBA or MSC: Which is better?

What is an MBA?

MBA stands for Masters in Business Administration.

Teaching students core business practices including strategy, marketing and leadership, an MBA program is an excellent qualification to help students get ahead in the business world, preparing them for leadership and senior management roles. 

MBA degrees are interdisciplinary courses, drawing from the fields of psychology, sociology, economics, accounting and finance.

MBAs can be studied full time, part time and online – in the same way as most postgraduate programs – and there are three main types of MBA, General MBAs, Executive MBAs and Specialist MBAs.

General MBAs

General MBAs give students the chance to study general areas of business and finance.  Elective modules are available in specialist areas such as finance, HR and management, and students can usually choose from a selection of core modules to tailor their MBA to their individual needs and interests.

Executive MBAs

Executive MBAs (EMBAs) are suitable for students with more experience in business who want to fast track their career and gain valuable boardroom skills. Because they are designed for people already in the workplace, EMBAs are usually quite flexible, with the teaching and lectures taking place outside of the working day, for example at the weekends or during the evening. EMBAs are suited to those further along in their career – and several years of relevant work experience is usually an eligibility requirement.

Specialist MBAs

Specialist MBAs are available to professionals who want to study a specific area of business such as finance, marketing or international business. If you already know what area of business you want to work in, a Specialist MBA in this field can be a great way to advance your career – for example, an MBA in International Human Resource Management, like the one offered at Coventry University, is an excellent choice for those interested in a career in human resources.

What is an MSC?

MSs stands for Master of Science.

Postgraduate MSc courses offer students the chance to focus on one particular subject of interest from a vast range including science, art, humanities, psychology, business and finance.

Some subjects are offered as both an MSc and an MA (Master of Arts) – for example masters degrees in philosophy or psychology. While an MSc in Philosophy – like the course on offer at the University of Glasgow – is more likely to be focused on research and the sciences, an MA in Philosophy – like the one on offer at Birkbeck, University of London, will be more focused on the arts and humanities aspects of the subject.

Therefore, it is important to ensure you study the right ‘type’ of masters degree for your chosen subject and one that it fulfils your desired job criteria, as some professions may prefer an MSc to an MA and vice versa.

MScs are a good choice for students who have a keen interest in a specific topic, a clear career path in mind and who want to focus on one area of study.

Read our article on Masters of Science (MSc) – The Complete Guide for more information on studying an MSc.

What is the difference between an MBA and an MSc?

What’s the difference between an MSC and an MBA?

If you are trying to decide between studying an MBA and an MSc, it is likely that you want to study a business-related topic. So, what is the difference between an MSc and an MBA? And which one should you study – MBA or MSc?

Entry requirements and experience: 

The minimum requirement for both courses is an undergraduate degree in a similar subject to that of the MSc or MBA. An upper second class degree (2.1) or equivalent is usually the minimum requirement for either of these postgraduate options, although sometimes lower grades will be considered.

MBA programs are aimed at individuals with work experience, which means that work experience is often an admissions requirement –often a minimum of three years’ continuous relevant full-time work experience. For those wishing to study an EMBA, the required amount of work experience is likely to be even higher. 

MBA candidates should also demonstrate clear career progression and have leadership experience or strong leadership potential. In fact, ‘leadership’ is one of the common core modules of MBA programs and is considered an essential part of the course.

Conversely, an MSc does not require work experience and is often studied straight after a student has graduated from their undergraduate degree. Because MSc programs could be considered a more ‘academic’ option with MBAs being more ‘hands-on’ and ‘industry-linked’, the academic requirements may be higher for an MSc than for an MBA.

As potential MBA students are able to demonstrate their suitability through a combination of work experience and grades to be admitted onto the MBA, the required grades might be lower.

Course content:

The MBA is intended to give a holistic view of business functions, although there is the option to specialise through elective modules. If you opt to study a Specialised MBA, there is the option to specialise in an area even more, for example an MBA in Entrepreneurship.

MBA programs also often include internships or work experience as part of the course. This is a great way for students to get more experience in their chosen field and to network with people that could be relevant to their future career.

An MSC provides an in depth look at a particular area of study. It is more curriculum-focused than the MBA and allows students to improve specialist skills and knowledge. Although an MSc may include the chance to participate in work experience or an internship, this is not usually an essential part of the course.

Financial investment: 

When comparing postgraduate fees in the UK for MBA vs MSc you are likely to find that MBA tuition fees are considerably higher. An MBA is a prestigious, competitive program with international recognition, requiring an element of work experience. Therefore, it is highly competitive and usually more expensive than the MScs.

MBAs attract students who can already demonstrate competency and success in business management – these students are often a bit older than their MSc counterparts with more work and life experience to impart. They are also likely to have a bit more access to funds.  

The tuition fees of an MBA in the UK range from £10,000 up to more than £60,000 for a full-time one-year course – and the typical cost of an MBA is around £33,000. MBA degrees at UK universities are often charged at a similar rate for Home and

International students, particularly if they are studying an online MBA.

In the United States, the average tuition fees for MBAs tend to be higher, averaging around ¢50,000-$60,000 per annum – with many of the courses taking two years to complete. At the more prestigious US universities, the costs are even higher, with the Harvard MBA estimated to cost over $112,000 per year, including tuition fees of $73,440 for each year of study and the living costs.

An MBA is a great investment in your future and when completed it is very likely to enhance career prospects in the business world. As you can see from this table of the highest paid jobs for MBA graduates in the US, it shouldn’t be long before you see a good return on that investment.

High paying MBA jobs

MBA major

Average annual salary

VP Information Technology

Information Technology


Computer & Information Systems Manager

Information Technology


Marketing Manager



Financial Manager



Sales Manager

International Business


Chief Financial Officer



Senior Product Manager



Human Resources Manager

Corporate Strategy


Top Executive

Corporate Strategy


Medical & Health Services Manager

Health care Administration


Risk Manager

International Business


Management Analyst

Business Analytics


Operations Research Analyst

Business Analytics



The typical tuition fees of an MSc degree are between £10,300 and £14,500 for a year of full-time study, although fees can vary depending on the course subject and institution. Tuition fees can be up to twice as much as this for International students, including European students, wishing to study their MSc in the UK. 

The tuition fees of MSc programs are usually lower than those of an MBA – they are still a sound financial investment that can help you advance your career.

Highest paid masters degrees

This table shows the official salary statistics according to the most recent UK government postgraduate outcomes research for the top 10 highest paid masters degrees by subject, according to the median salary and the percentage of graduates of these degrees experiencing sustained employment five years after their graduation.

Postgraduate subject

Median salary

Percentage of graduates in sustained employment







Medicine and dentistry






Business and management



Mathematical sciences



Pharmacology, toxicology and pharmacy






Architecture, building and planning



Education and teaching



As you can see, with the exception of the final masters subject (Education and teaching) these masters degrees are all likely to be MSc degrees (apart from the MBA degree, obviously!). So, an MSc is a great investment both in terms of providing a good median salary and reliable pathway to employment.

Don’t forget, when you are studying an MSc and an MBA, associated living costs also need to be considered when you are looking into the financial costs.

Class sizes and cohort:

MBA class sizes tend to be smaller than MSc classes, offering students the chance to collaborate and network with peers and professors at a closer level. MBA students also tend to be that bit older than MSc students because they will have been required to have some relevant work experience to have been accepted onto the course

MSc classes tend to be larger as the courses are in high demand but maintain lower tuition fees. Students on an MSc degree are likely to be part of a much larger alumni network – which could work to their advantage as they will have plenty of peers to form connections with and potentially work with in the future.

Career prospects: 

The MBA is suited to professionals looking to advance their career into senior positions such as Senior Manager, Managing Director or CEO (Chief Executive Officer).

MBA students will be taught plenty of skills to enable them to advance in the business world, such as leadership, management and communication skills. They will also gain a good understanding of business administration as well as international business and global management challenges. These skills and business knowledge will give the students excellent career prospects within the business and finance industries.

An MSc degree will provide students with a greater understanding of their chosen subject area, often at a more academic level. MSc students are likely to succeed in specialist roles such as Head of Marketing, HR Management, CFO (Chief Finance Officer) or Department Director.

With an MSc, the opportunities for career progression are not limited to the degree achieved. For example, students could study an MSc in one of the humanities and still end up succeeding in a career in HR. MBA students are more likely to end up working within the business domain, and if they choose a Specialist MBA – they could end up working in the exact field they specialised in.

Both types of postgraduate degree offer students higher earning potential after graduation than people without a postgraduate qualification. According to UK employment agency Indeed, the salary increase from bachelors level to the masters level is approximately 20% – their research shows that the median income for US masters degree holders is $77,844 per year versus the median salary of bachelors degree holders being $64,896 per year.

Starting salaries may be higher for MBA graduates, but these graduates are likely to have more business experience than MSc graduates so may well be further along in their careers – and this will be reflected in their salaries.

Which one is better, MBA or MSc?

MBAs and MScs are both highly valued postgraduate qualifications, so when considering which course to study you need to consider various factors, including your academic and work experience.

An MBA is more suited to students who have professional work experience and want to move into senior management roles within the business world.

An MSc degree does not usually require work experience and is good for students who want to excel in their particular field of interest as well as those who want to move onto postgraduate study straight after their undergraduate degree.

When deciding between an MBA or MSc, one course is not necessarily better than the other and the ultimate choice should depend on the career goals of the student.

Both masters degrees provide graduates with a significant professional advantage. 

Is MBA equal to MSc?

MBAs are often considered to be a more professional degree choice than an MSc.

Although they all have a business focus, apart from the elective modules, MBA topics are usually quite broad. MSc degrees in business-related topics are usually more in depth and technical – for example an MSc in Finance is likely to cover the topic of ‘finance’ at a much more intense and academic level than an MBA in Finance.

In truth, neither course is superior to the other – both are level 7 postgraduate qualifications and meet the same academic standards. Both qualifications will also demonstrate to potential employers that the student is capable of studying a subject at a high level.

When entering the job market, graduates of an MBAs or MSc should find that employers will view each qualification on its own merit.

Can I do MBA and MSc together?

It is not possible to study an MBA and an MSc together at the same university, however students who want to study both may choose to do one course in-person at university and one course as distance learning from another university simultaneously. This is not necessarily recommended as it will be very demanding and you could find that you underperform on both postgraduate courses.

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