MBA vs. MSA: Which Master’s Degree is Right For You?

A Master of Business Administration, or MBA, is the most popular advanced degree in the United States. Business degrees currently account for more than a quarter of all master’s degrees [1], but current statistics group MBAs with more specialized business master’s degrees including the Master of Science in Analytics, or MSA. While MBAs still make up the majority of advanced business degrees, some experts suggest the growing popularity of courses like the MSA has helped business qualifications overtake the master’s in education [1].

Today, specialized business master’s degrees like the MSA are as easily accessible as the more traditional MBA. Students can choose to study such programs at bricks-and-mortar institutions or remotely via online courses offered by leading education providers like Villanova University. Such availability increases the options of students across the United States, but it can also make it difficult for them to choose.

An MBA gives students a broad base of knowledge about the business field that builds on the knowledge gained during a bachelor’s degree. An MSA offers a more specialized education in analytics, a growing field that concerns the analysis of business data [2]. Both courses have their strengths and weaknesses, but is an MBA or an MSA the right choice for you?


Master of Business Administration (MBA)

  • Build on your professional experience [3]
    • Most require work experience before enrolment [3]. Do you have this, or can you get it?
  • Develop a broad range of business skills including abilities in accounting, finance, and statistics, then applying them in the real world [3]
    • Do you know what you want to do, or are you open to a range of possibilities?
  • Build leadership skills like communication, collaboration, and negotiation [3]
    • Are you interested in becoming a manager or executive?
  • Choose electives to customize a third of your degree [2]
    • Do you enjoy the freedom to pursue your passions?
  • Deal with many case studies [3]
    • Do you learn better when education relates to real world?
  • Graduate in as little as two years [2]
    • Can you afford the time and money to study for two years or more?
  • Increase your earning potential

Average Earnings of Business Graduates in the United States

Years of Work Experience| Average Salary

< 1 year = $30,030 (BB) [4]; $50,324 (MBA) [5]
1-4 years = $42,764 (BB) [4]; $58,095 (MBA) [5]
5-9 years = $51,560 (BB) [4]; $75,364 (MBA) [5]
10-19 years = $67,160 (BB) [4]; $98,224 (MBA) [5]
20+ years = $78,612 (BB) [4]; $116,800 (MBA) [5]

  • Earn qualifications recognized and respected around the world [3]
    • Would you consider working abroad?

Master of Science in Analytics (MSA)

  • Build on your academic background [3]
    • Can enroll in most MSA programs without work experience [3], so you can earn your degree sooner
  • Focus solely on analytics [3]
    • Are you certain you want to specialize in this field?
  • Gain skills in a specialty that’s in demand across a range of industries [2]

By 2018, 140,000-190,000 individuals with advanced analytical skills and 1,500,000 managers and analysts for analyzing and acting upon big data findings will be required to fulfill a worldwide deficit [2]

With a compound annual growth rate of 10.3%, the global business analytics industry is expected to be worth close to $67 billion by 2019 [6]

North America is expected to be the world’s largest business analytics market [6]

  • Take classes that are very theoretical in nature [3]
    • Will you struggle with the abstract nature of the coursework?
  • Graduate in as little as 20 months [2]
    • Can take less time than MBA, great for people with limited time or funds.
  • Increase your earning potential

Average Earnings of Business Graduates in the United States

Years of Work Experience| Average Salary*
< 1 year = $30,030 (BB) [4]; $53,658 (MS) [7]
1-4 years = $42,764 (BB) [4]; $59,006 (MS) [7]
5-9 years = $51,560 (BB) [4]; $70,999 (MS) [7]
10-19 years = $67,160 (BB) [4]; $85,347 (MS) [7]
20+ years = $78,612 (BB) [4]; $94,578 (MS) [7]

* Note that as the MSA is a relatively new degree, little data exists on this specialty. Figures reflect the average salaries for all Master of Science degrees.

The MBA and MSA are both high-quality degrees that will help increase your earning potential and job opportunities in the business sector. Which one will you choose?