Universities and colleges, eager to reach out to as many students as possible, have degree and diploma options to suit almost all needs. This is especially true in business degrees, where universities offer students two postgraduate options: a postgraduate diploma and a master’s in business administration (MBA). The key difference between the two options is specificity: MBAs focus on broad management skills while postgraduate diplomas focus on a particular aspect or area of business.

MBA Basics

An MBA is a master’s program that usually takes two years to complete, though some programs are accelerated and some are designed to suit the needs of employed students who wish to study part time. According to the University of Pennsylvania, MBAs are typically designed to give you management skills, create network connections and build your personal brand. Those skills might involve study of a range of topics, including economics, accounting, marketing and finance, though you’ll also learn what the University of Pennsylvania calls “soft skills” like leadership, teamwork and ethics.

Postgraduate Diploma Basics

Postgraduate diplomas serve a different function than an MBA. Where the latter is designed to prepare students for business leadership, a business postgraduate diploma is designed to give the student a depth of knowledge in a particular field to prepare them for entry level employment, according to Thompson River’s University in British Columbia, Canada. Postgraduate diplomas aren’t available in the United States, though you could study abroad to pick up a postgraduate in most of the Commonwealth countries and a few European nations.

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Postgraduate Diploma Advantages

Many universities offer postgraduate diplomas in different fields of study, but if you’re interested in working in business you should consider postgraduate business diplomas. The specification for these programs include accounting, new venture creation (or entrepreneurship), finance, human resource management, marketing, information analysis, organizational behavior and operations management. If you’re only interested in one of these fields, a post-grad diploma is the best choice. Additionally, these programs may only take a few months or a year to complete, but an MBA is usually two years. Many postgraduate diploma programs are taught by experts in the field, so you’ll have networking opportunities with the diploma too.

MBA Advantages

As the University of Pennsylvania states, an MBA has a certain amount of credibility that comes with it. MBA programs are notoriously competitive to enter, so getting in and completing the program shows companies that you’re tenacious and capable. If your goal in your career is to be a leader in a corporation and to manage a large office, the MBA prepares you for a life in business. Additionally, it often means a pay bump; the average salary for someone with an MBA in the United States is $113,000 as of May 2013.

About the Author

Living in Canada, Andrew Aarons has been writing professionally since 2003. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Ottawa, where he served as a writer and editor for the university newspaper. Aarons is also a certified computer-support technician.