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MSc, MA, MBA: Management degree programs

By Thomas Graf

If you want to decide for a management program understanding the different types of degrees is important. For example, imagine you are interested in a Master in Management (MIM), a Master of Business Administration (MBA), or a specialized degree in management such as the Master in Marketing, the Master in Finance, or the Master in Supply Chain Management.



The Master as a second academic degree

These programs are so-called postgraduate programs. This means that in general you need to have successfully achieved a first academic undergraduate program such as the Bachelor already - for instance a Bachelor of Business Administration or a Bachelor in Economics. Then you either continue directly with a postgraduate program and a Master degree as title or you start a professional career before you come back to University for a Master program later - for instance, as a full-time or part-time student. In other words, your Master is your second academic degree.

Management degree programs: Master of Science (MSc) and Arts (MA)

Postgraduate programs provide you with the degree "Master". Masters can be divided into subgroups such as the Master of Science (MSc), the Master of Arts (MA), or the Master of Business Administration (MBA).

  • The Master of Science (MSc) traditionally is granted for successfully completing a postgraduate program with a science or technical focus. 
  • By contrast, the Master of Arts (MA) traditionally refers to disciplines of the humanities such as history or philosophy. In reality today, however, this distinction is not strictly upheld anymore and, in fact, you can find both degree types for postgraduate programs in business or management. 
  • While business schools and universities appear to name their programs "Masters of Science" when they require a first degree in business or economics, and "Master of Arts" when the program targets also graduates from other disciplines, even this distinction is not strictly applied. As a consequence, there is no general guideline as for the degree granted and the eligibility of teh program. Future students, hence, need to check the respective admissions requirements to find out whether they are eligible or not.

Masters in Management degree programs in a nutshell

Masters in Management degree programs are usually the Master of Science in Management (MSc) or the Master of Business Administration (MBA) although also Master of Arts programs (MA) in management do exist.

  • Master of Science (MSc) in management: These programs are postgraduate studies for people who have recently finished their undergraduate studies and want to enhance their knowledge on a deeper and more scientific level. Oftem, these programs target graduates with a first degree in business or economics.
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA): These programs, in contrast, focus on people with a minimum of three years of professional experience (some schools even accept two years) and are more practice-oriented than Master of Science (MSc) programs. The difference between MIM and Master of Business Administration (MBA), however, is not always clear at first glance as both types of Masters are postgraduate management programs.
  • Master of Arts (MA) programs in management or business are similar to Masters of Science in Management; sometimes this degree is granted, however, to signal that the program specifically targets graduates from academic disciplines other than business or economics.


Master of Science (MSc)

Postgraduate studies such as Masters of Science are abbreviated MSc. The Master of Science in Management or the Master of Science of Management are postgraduate programs in general management. This is the type of program that the Financial Times Ranking for Masters in Management is about.

These Masters programs in management provide their students with a profound education in the field of management. This means that the students receive an academic education with the respective depth of reflection and abstraction that such courses can offer. At the same time the students cover a broad field of management functions. Courses in statistics or in general methods that help you analyze business or management issues from a scientific perspective are included on top of management disciplines such as Marketing, Strategy, or Controlling - or synthesizing subjects such as Strategic Marketing.

In addition, most business schools try to bring their students into contact with local or regional businesses so that they can apply directly what they learn in class. This is an important point as - in contrast for example to Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs - Master in Management students aiming for a Master of Science (MSc) usually do not have any professional experience. These programs are specially designed for graduates of undergraduate programs (for example, those with a Bachelor degree) and not for young professionals or executives.

Since Master in Management students do not have professional experience but need to be attractive to businesses after their graduation with a Master of Science, in-company projects or internships offered by business schools as part of the program mitigate this problem. Indeed, these in-company projects or internships may even provide the Master students with a network that they may utilize at the end of their studies, for instance as a job entry platform.

Typical Masters of Science programs such as the Master in Management can be found in the Financial Times Masters in Management Ranking, for example the:



Master of Arts (MA)

Masters of Arts programs have the title "Master of Arts", "MA" or "M.A." As Master of Science programs (MSc) or Master of Business Administration programs (MBA), Masters of Arts are postgraduate programs that can be taken after graduating in an undergraduate degree program (Bachelor). As the name suggests, programs with the title "Master of Arts" traditionally include liberal arts subjects such as philosophy, history, or literature. Today there are also management studies granting a Master of Arts. To the best of our knowledge there is no superior and definable logic why some schools grant a Master of Science or a Master of Arts for their Management Masters. Both degrees are equally valuable. Some schools such as the Steinbeis University offers a Master of Science in International Management for students with an undergraduate degree in business or economics and a Master of Arts in Management for students from all subjects. But in general this distinction between "of Arts" and "of Science" is not a good indicator for the entry requirements.

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

Masters of Business Administration (MBA) are postgraduate degree programs in management "of their own". The MBA is the traditional academic offer for management education and the universities answer to requests from business for a systematic and profound qualification for future and current managers based on a standardized title. The standardization, actually, is not provided by business schools or universities themselves but by internationally accepted accreditation agencies such as the AACSB, AMBA, or EQUIS where many schools at least require similar admissions methods such as the GMAT. Nevertheless, the MBA from its origins at Harvard in 1908 to the present managed to become THE degree for young professionals, experienced professionals, future executives, executives and senior executives.

The degree Master of Business Administration is neither a Master of Science nor of Arts but a Master title of its own. It is often abbreviated as MBA or M.B.A. and in contrast to the Master of Science (MSc) or the Master of Arts (MA) it clearly points to one program only. It is worth remembering that the Master of Science just points to programs rooted in the Sciences or Social Sciences and can mean a Master of Science in Management, a Master of Science in Psychology, or a Master of Science in Biology. The same applies for the Master of Arts (MA) which can refer to a Master of Arts in History, a Master of Arts in Management Studies, or a Master of Arts in Liberal Arts.

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)

The DBA sounds similar to the MBA but is fundamentally different. Please read our articles on similarities and differences between the DBA and the MBA to get a better understanding of it.