MSM vs. MBA: Which Degree Is Right for You?

Business professional lecturing a seated group around a table with a chart in a well-lit office space.

Both the Master of Science in Management (MSM) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees can provide an advantageous position for recruitment and advancement. For example, students pursuing either track can specialize their degrees based on their future career goals. However, a close look at MSM vs. MBA programs reveals some fundamental differences between the two degrees that are important to consider. There are different MSM and MBA degree requirements, and each program offers unique specialization options, curriculums, and career benefits to students.

What Is an MBA?

An MBA is a business leadership degree designed for college graduates who have two or more years of professional experience. The goal of an MBA program is to help students gain specialized knowledge that can assist them in advancing their careers. MBA programs focus on helping students develop practical business skills, such as in strategic marketing practices and operations management, that will serve them well in the business world.

MBA students may choose to complete a focused curriculum with a concentration in an area such as finance, health care, business analytics, or executive management. Graduates of MBA programs are qualified to pursue jobs in the public and private sectors, with some typical career paths including product manager, consultant, and financial manager.

MBA Degree Requirements

Professionals who have completed their undergraduate studies and have several years of practical work experience may be drawn to an Online MBA program. Typically, MBA degree requirements include undergraduate work in business leadership, marketing, human resources, or another business-related field.

Many MBA students are interested in developing their existing careers, in which they have demonstrated leadership capabilities. This could include guiding and training new employees or volunteering to spearhead projects when the opportunity arises.

What Is an MSM?

An MSM degree is designed to provide recent college graduates — or professionals with less than two years of postgraduate work experience — with the knowledge and acumen they’ll need for management-level positions.

Skills gained in an MSM program include critical thinking, communication, analytical, and enhanced leadership capabilities. This graduate degree can be a great choice for individuals who want to earn a specialized degree tailored to their career goals. Some MSM programs allow students to pursue specialized certificates, such as in business analytics, business venturing and entrepreneurship, human resource management, or operations and supply chain management.

Graduates of MSM programs work in both the public and private sectors. Some common postgraduate business occupations include financial manager, sales manager, compensation and benefits manager, and human resources manager.

MSM Degree Requirements

Recent college graduates who have less than two years of professional experience may find themselves leaning toward an Online MSM degree, as they are often better suited to students about to start or change careers.

When comparing MSM vs. MBA, it’s worth noting that employers generally recruit MBA students for advanced jobs and MSM students for entry-level positions. Most aspiring MSM students will have a bachelor’s in business leadership, human resources, marketing, or a similar, business-related degree.

Opportunities for Specialization

Both the MSM and MBA degrees allow for specialization. In addition to a core business curriculum, students who choose to specialize can gain enhanced expertise and knowledge in a particular field, such as business analytics, finance, or supply chain management.

MSM Specialization Options

Ohio University’s Online Master of Science in Management is made up of 12, three-credit courses, totaling 36 credits to graduate. The program features a comprehensive curriculum with many specialization options.

In addition to a Management and Leadership Certificate that is part of the degree, students can customize their degrees with two of six available stackable certificates. They can choose from certificates in Business Analytics, Business Analytics Leadership, Business Venturing and Entrepreneurship, Human Resources Management, Operations and Supply Chain Management, or Strategic Sales and Sales Leadership.

Professionals who want to specialize in multiple areas are likely to be drawn to this type of program, as students can customize their degree based on their needs and wants.

MBA Specialization Options

The Online MBA program at Ohio University consists of 26 credit hours of core classes, including strategy and management of operations. Each MBA concentration requires nine credit hours. Thirty-five total credit hours are needed to graduate.

Students can choose from nine MBA concentrations, including finance, health care, executive management, business analytics, operations and supply chain management, accounting, project management, strategic selling and sales leadership, or business venturing and entrepreneurship.

MSM vs. MBA Degrees: The Unique Benefits of Each

When considering MSM vs. MBA degrees, it’s important to look at the unique benefits of each.

A key benefit of an MSM degree is that students can graduate with stackable graduate business certificates, meaning they can customize their study to pursue and earn multiple certificates toward their MSM degree. Students can also complete additional certificates in the future, which allows them to diversify their skill set.

By contrast, an MBA program offers a more in-depth, focused education. Students who choose this track choose one concentration, honing their skills and proficiencies in a targeted direction.

Distinguish Your Career

You may be a recent college graduate or a working professional who is interested in enhancing your career. In either case, completing an advanced business education — such as an Online MSM or Online MBA degree from Ohio University — can provide you with the hard and soft skills to qualify for rewarding managerial roles. Most students find they can graduate with either of these degrees in as few as two years.

Your path toward leadership positions starts today. Learn more about the opportunities and benefits of pursuing either the Online Master of Science in Management or the Online Master of Business Administration from Ohio University.

Recommended Readings

Are MBA Programs Hard?

What Does an MBA Curriculum Look Like?

Popular Scholarships Available to MBA Students


Career Trend, “What Is the Difference Between an MBA and an MSM Degree?”

Financial Times, “Masters in Management and MBAs Go Head to Head on Salary Benefits”

Forbes, “Are Online Business Courses Worth It?”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Management Occupations