MSBA vs MBA: Which online program is right for you?

December 13, 2022 · 6 min read · By ASU Online

A master’s in business analytics vs MBA: Want to earn a business graduate degree but aren’t sure which of the two to choose? Learn about the differences between them and how to pick the right program for you.


Advancing your career with a MSBA or MBA

Many people choose to earn a Master of Business Administration 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.

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

Both programs center on exploring business issues and solutions and aim to equip you with the proficiencies necessary to succeed in their careers. Comparing the learning outcomes, curriculum and potential careers of the two can help you make the right decision for your professional goals.


MSBA vs MBA: The differences in curriculum

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

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

  • 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. You'll 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 you with 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 for businesses. Therefore, MSBA programs focus on equipping you with the skills needed to analyze complex data sets from which to derive informed business insights. You 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 you 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.


Career paths for MBA and MSBA graduates

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

MBA programs often help you develop qualifications for management, executive-level and leadership roles. Since business skills are required throughout a range of industries, you 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 you 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. 

Given 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.

Earn your graduate degree while working full-time

With the right strategy and support, you can strike a balance between your educational goals and busy life. Learn more about the time management and strategic planning it takes for working professionals to earn their online master's degree.

Choosing the right program for you

So, which degree should you pursue: MSBA or MBA? In summary:

  • 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 a specialty. 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.


Earn your MSBA or MBA online with Arizona State University

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

ASU Online offers both programs 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 renowned faculty who teach on campus.

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

Everything you need to know about ASU Online classes and degree programs

We’ve compiled what you need to know about online classes and degree programs at Arizona State University. Read on to learn all about what to expect from the ASU Online learning experience.


About ASU Online

Earn your degree completely online from the nation's most innovative university. ASU Online offers more than 300 degree programs and certificates in high-demand areas such as nursing, engineering, business, education and more. Explore all of our areas of study.

Our offerings include:

  • Elite expertise and research.
  • Innovative curriculum design.
  • Superior student support services.

Learn more at our about us page. And follow ASU Online on Facebook, YouTube, X and Instagram, and connect with us on LinkedIn.

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