MBA or MSBA: Which online degree is right for you?

July 14, 2018 · 7 min read · By ASU Online

Business is constantly changing based on developments in technology and industry. Earning an advanced business degree online can help you navigate this evolving landscape with confidence and give you a competitive edge in the job market.


Advance your career

Many people choose to earn a Master of Business Administration degree to help advance their careers and develop leadership skills. In fact, the MBA is the most popular type of master's degree in the U.S., according to data released by the U.S. Department of Education and analyzed by the popular higher education resource, Poets & Quants.

However, there is another business-related master's degree professionals may want to explore – the Master of Science in Business Analytics. This degree prepares students to analyze complex data to make informed strategic business decisions and has great relevance in an increasingly data-driven world.

If you're interested in studying business, how do you know which type of online degree is right for you – the MBA or the MSBA? Both programs center on exploring business issues and solutions and aim to equip students with the proficiencies necessary to succeed in their careers. Comparing the learning outcomes, curriculum and potential careers of an MBA and MSBA can help you make the right decision for your professional goals.

A group of professional discussing business matters with laptops.

Key learning outcomes of an MBA

MBA programs provide a comprehensive business scope that covers the development of both hard and soft skills. The hard, or technical, competencies learned in an MBA program relate to the building blocks of business. Students typically study coursework such as accounting, economics, statistics and marketing. Abilities in these subjects can allow professionals to analyze business environments and improve company operations. The soft skills practiced through an MBA include effective communication, teamwork and problem solving – all traits that can enable individuals to build productive relationships with colleagues, stakeholders and customers.

Most notably, developing strong leadership abilities is a significant component of any MBA program. The degree aims to provide students the skills, knowledge and confidence needed to effectively lead others. MBA programs are geared toward individuals who are determined to take on management, executive or other supervisory roles at organizations.


Key learning outcomes of an MSBA

Analyzing data is crucial in today’s business world. Therefore, MSBA programs focus on equipping students with the skills needed to analyze complex data sets from which to derive informed business insights. Students can develop in-depth analytical skills by learning coding languages, data mining techniques, data quality management and analytical modeling to influence business strategies.

The goals of an MSBA program are to not only teach students how to analyze data, but also how to effectively communicate their findings to key stakeholders. By using techniques such as data modeling, which can condense complicated data into easy-to-digest formats, as well as effective communication skills, professionals can translate their interpretations of information into business recommendations to achieve organizational goals.



Though both degrees can help prepare students to improve business strategies, MBA and MSBA programs have different curriculums that reflect the MBA's emphasis on a holistic education and the MSBA's focus on analytic skills.

MBA programs often include courses on business communication and ethics, organizational psychology, entrepreneurship, finance, accounting, marketing, business law and strategic management. In comparison, MSBA programs are more technical in nature and provide courses related to data mining, coding, information technology, business analytics software, analytical modeling and programming. Such classes teach students how to use coding and programming languages like Python, Hadoop and SQL, as well as software programs that may include Microsoft Access, AzureML and Decision Suite.

In terms of coursework, both online MBA and MSBA programs may require students to complete group projects, participate in online discussions and pass exams. They also often include an applied project that summarizes what a student has learned during the program or delves into a specific area of interest related to the student’s career goals.

Career paths

Both MBA and MSBA degrees can prepare students for a wide range of careers.

MBA programs often help students develop qualifications for management, executive-level and leadership roles. Since business skills are required throughout a range of industries, students can often find career opportunities in the fields that interest them most. Within an organization, MBA graduates can be found working across business departments from finance and operations to marketing and sales.

Some examples of job titles that an MBA may prepare you for include financial analyst, marketing director and director of supply chain management. Individuals with MBA degrees can also work as consultants to companies of various sizes, helping organizations overcome modern-day business challenges by developing creative solutions.

An MSBA can prepare students to pursue technology-focused roles that require specific expertise in analyzing data. With various types of organizations, such as consumer products groups, media companies, higher education institutions and more, collecting customer data, there is a breadth of professional opportunities available to those with skills in data analysis. In fact, IBM predicted that there will be a 28 percent increase in demand for data scientists by 2020.

Given the fact that companies are eager to hire professionals who can sift through vast data stores to find actionable strategic insights, there is great demand for individuals with the skills learned through MSBA programs. Some possible roles for professionals with an MSBA include business intelligence analyst, data warehousing specialist and market or operations research analyst.


Choosing the right program for you  

So, which degree should you pursue? MBA programs are designed for students who want to achieve leadership roles by learning business fundamentals as well as valuable soft skills integral to effective relationship-building. The competencies developed through an MBA can help prepare graduates for a wide variety of roles at organizations, including those in business operations, management and human resources.

MSBA programs take less of a general approach to business matters and instead focus on one main specialty of study. Students learn how to analyze complex sets of data and translate their findings into strategic business recommendations. MSBA programs focus on developing technical skills, including programming languages and analytical modeling. Finally, they prepare graduates to pursue careers as analysts throughout various types of organizations and industries.

In the end, the best choice for you depends on your interests and career goals. If you are motivated to strengthen your business relationships, management strategies and leadership skills, an MBA may be the appropriate degree for you. However, if your passion lies more with understanding and interpreting data within a business context and engaging with technology, perhaps an MSBA is the better fit.


MBA and MSBA degrees with ASU Online

Today, many professionals are enrolling in MBA or MSBA programs online. These options offer coursework that can be completed anytime and anywhere, giving students with full-time jobs, families or other responsibilities the utmost flexibility in their education.

Arizona State University offers both an online MBA and online MSBA program through the W. P. Carey School of Business, an AACSB-accredited business school. Each program is administered completely online and offers classes taught by the same world-renowned faculty who teach on campus.

The business world is constantly evolving, and there is a need for professionals with outstanding leadership skills and an expert understanding of data analytics. You can respond to the demand for qualified business professionals by pursuing the online MBA or MSBA program offered by ASU.

Why The MBA Is Now The Most Popular Master’s by Poets & Quants
Hot Jobs for MBA Grads by U.S. News & World Report
ASU Online - Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA)
ASU Online - Master of Business Administration (MBA)
What do they teach you in an MBA program? by Quora
4 Key Career Benefits From MBA Programs by U.S. News & World Report
Why Study Business Analytics? By
3 Questions to Ask About Business Analytics Programs by U.S. News & World Report
Dive Into Data With a Master's in Business Analytics by U.S. News & World Report
Five Career Paths and Job Opportunities for MBA Graduates by American Marketing Association
25 Best Things You Can Do With A MBA Degree by Online MBA Page
IBM Predicts Demand For Data Scientists Will Soar 28% By 2020 by Forbes
How to Excel in Analytical Decision Modeling

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