MBA, MSc, MA, what is the difference?

Interested in studying a master’s degree in business? In general there are three different degrees available: MBA, MSc and MA. But are they different and what is the right one for you? The options might vary a bit between countries. Here in Sweden MSc is the most common option offered by universities, whereas in some countries, MBA is the most common one. I actually hadn’t really thought about the differences before and assumed all degrees were somewhat similar.

MBA = Master of Business Administration

Pursuing an MBA usually requires a couple of years professional work experience after completing a bachelor’s degree. So the people who study an MBA are usually professionals who want to deepen their expertise and understanding about business. The studies are usually on general business, with some elective courses for deepening knowledge on a specific field. The studies are often more practice and less research oriented, as most of the students want to proceed in their careers. The admission is usually based on a GMAT or GRE test score.

MSc = Master of Science

MSc usually doesn’t require prior work experience and the focus when applying is on previous academic record, or it can be based, for instance, on GMAT test score. The biggest difference between MSc and MBA is that in MSc you specialize on one specific topic, for instance, accounting, finance, management or marketing. Many other fields of university studies, such as chemistry or psychology may also lead to a MSc degree, so having a MSc doesn’t actually say much about what the person has studied.

MA = Master of Arts

MA refers to a broader scale of programmes and as with MSc, it’s not necessarily business related. However, some business schools offer programmes leading to a MA degree, with the major topic being for instance, management or innovation. As in MSc, MA usually doesn’t require prior work experience and the studies are often research oriented.

If you don’t have work experience and want to continue studying right after a bachelor’s degree, it’s easier to pursue an MSc or an MA. The people who study an MBA are often professionals with longer work experience who want a higher education demanded for some positions in working life and learn new skills they can use in their career. Also, MA and MSc tend to focus more on research, whereas MBA is more practically oriented. So if you’re interested in pursuing PhD later on, MSc or MA might be better suited for that. But at the end, it depends on your interests and plans whether you want to gain work experience before studying further, or vice versa.

I hope this was helpful for clarifying the biggest differences some of you might have been wondering about. 🙂


A Finnish student studying for a master's degree in marketing at Umeå University. Contact me at leonilla.studyinsweden(at)
Read more about Leonilla

Comments (6)

Reply or leave a comment

Study in Sweden on Instagram

Go to Instagram