According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ 2012 study, U.S. colleges and universities awarded more than 690,000 master’s degrees between 2009 and 2010, and 26 percent of those degrees were in business. Advanced degrees in business can be either an M.A. or an MBA. While an MBA is a type of master’s degree, there are significant differences to consider when choosing which degree to pursue.

M.A. Degrees

As the next degree level following a bachelor’s degree, Master of Arts degree programs are more specialty focused and stringent. Degree programs range from one to three years and require completing at least 30 credit hours. The two main types of M.A. degrees are academic and professional. Academic M.A. degrees are usually in the social sciences or humanities, such as history, but there are also programs like general business administration.

MBA Degrees

The Master of Business Administration is a professional degree and requires completing between 36 and 48 credit hours. For an MBA degree, students typically follow a structured schedule of coursework. Students take courses including finance, marketing, management, ethics and business law. Students can also specialize in areas such as e-commerce, entrepreneurship and international business.


M.A. degrees are typically designed for students who want to go on to earn doctorates; while MBA degrees are usually terminal degrees for students planning to go directly into the workforce. Because of this difference, M.A. programs tend to focus more on theory and research, and MBA programs focus more on the business responsibilities students may have in their jobs. M.A. students may begin their studies straight from earning their bachelor’s, but most MBA programs require that students have two to three years of work experience before enrolling.


When choosing between an M.A. and an MBA, there are a few considerations. One is what you plan to do after you have earned either degree. If you plan to go into a doctoral program, an M.A. degree may be more appropriate. Consider if you have the required work experience to enter the MBA program of your choice. Also consider program costs and what specializations you may be interested in.

Related Articles