MSM vs. MBA: Which degree is right for you?

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Both Master of Science in Management (MSM) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees can put you in an advantageous position for recruitment and advancement. For example, each study track allows students the opportunity to specialize their degree based on their future career goals. Yet that’s not to say that MSM and MBA programs don’t have fundamental differences. Additional information about application requirements, including the number of years of work experience needed to apply for each program, and sample career opportunities are outlined below.

MSM vs. MBA: Defining the Degrees

The goal of an MSM degree is to provide recent college graduates — or professionals who have less than two years of post-graduation work experience — with the knowledge and acumen they’ll need for management-level positions. Skills gained in an MSM program include critical thinking, communication, and enhanced leadership capabilities. This graduate degree is an ideal choice for individuals who want to earn a specialized degree tailored to their career goals. In addition to providing analytical skills and managerial acumen, some programs allow students to pursue specialized certificates. MSM certificates include business analytics, business venturing and entrepreneurship, human resource management, and operations and supply chain management. Graduates of MSM programs work in both the public and private sectors. Typical postgraduate business occupations include financial manager, sales manager, compensation and benefits manager, and human resources management.

The goal of an MBA is similar to that of an MSM degree; however, this program is designed for college graduates who have two or more years of professional experience. In some ways, the core coursework of an MBA program is similar to an MSM, in that it helps students gain specialized knowledge that can assist them in advancing their careers. MBA programs also focus on helping students develop practical business skills, such as strategic marketing practices and operations management, that will serve them well in the real business world. MBA students may also choose to complete a focused curriculum, with concentrations in areas 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. Some typical career paths include product manager, consultant, and financial manager.

Experience Needed

Recent college graduates who have less than two years of professional experience may find themselves leaning toward an Online MSM degree. Professionals who have completed their undergraduate studies and have several years of practical work experience may be more drawn to an Online MBA program.

MBA students also study to develop their career whereas MSM students on average are about to start a career or new career path. For instance, employers at career fairs recruit MBA students for advanced jobs and MSM students for entry-level positions.

Opportunities for Specialization

Both MSM and MBA programs allow for specialization. In addition to gaining knowledge through a generalized 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.

Ohio University’s Online Master of Science in Management features a comprehensive curriculum designed to help you become a stronger manager, motivate teams, and guide organizations to success. Throughout the program, you’ll take 12, three-credit course. A student will earn 36 total credits to graduate.

In addition to a Management and Leadership Certificate that is part of the degree, you can customize your degree with two stackable certificates. Choose from certificates in Business Analytics, Business Venturing and Entrepreneurship, Human Resources Management, or Operations and Supply Chain Management. 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.

On the other hand, the Online MBA program at Ohio University consists of 26 credit hours of core classes, including strategy and management of operations. Students can then choose from eight MBA concentrations: accounting, business analytics, business venturing and entrepreneurship, executive management, finance, health care, operations, and supply chain management, and strategic selling and sales leadership. Each MBA concentration requires nine credit hours. Thirty-five credit hours are needed to graduate.

The Unique Benefits of MSM vs. MBA Degrees

A key benefit of an MSM degree is students can graduate with stackable graduate business certificates, meaning they can customize their study to pursue and earn multiple certificates toward their MSM degree. Those enrolled in the Ohio University Online MSM program have the opportunity to complete three graduate business certificates before graduation. Students can also complete additional certificates in the future, which allows them to diversify their skill set. In contrast, while an MBA program is more in-depth, students who choose this track focus on one concentration.

Distinguish Your Career

You may be a recent college graduate or a working professional who is interested in enhancing your career. In both cases, completing an advanced business education — such as an Online Master of Science in Management or Online Master of Business Administration 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 Reading

Ohio University Blog, “What Does an MBA Curriculum Look Like?”
Ohio University Blog, “Popular Scholarships Available to MBA Students”
Ohio University Blog, “Are MBA Programs Hard?”


Bizfluent, “What Is the Difference Between an MBA and an MSM Degree?” 
Forbes, “Are Online Business Courses Worth It?” 
Financial Times, “Masters In Management and MBAs Go Head To Head On Salary Benefits” 
Ohio University, MSM Careers
Ohio University, Online Master of Business Administration
US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Management Occupations