A question that is often asked is “What is the difference between an MBA and an MSc?” Which is better? How do the dissertations differ?
Specifically, if it is an MSc in Management. This post will look at what differentiates an MBA from an MSc, however it will also help you think about the project dissertation for either. Here is a short video clip on the subject.
The Difference Between a Master’s degree and an MBA
An MBA is a Masters of Business Administration, and an MSc is a Master of Science. There are many other Masters levels designations, including MA – Master of Arts.
An MSc qualification might cover scientific topics, examples from engineering would include; thermodynamics, oil extraction, or software algorithms. But it may also cover management topics, such as Human Resources, Project Management, or Quality Management. An MBA qualification could (and should) be about the implementation of these into a business – it does not have to be about administration!
So an MBA student and an MSc student could both perform research into ‘Project Management’, however, the qualifications are still quite different, and care needs to be taken when writing the project dissertation or thesis.
MBA Entry Requirements
The MBA is a globally recognised standard for higher managers and executives, (assuming that the MBA course is properly accredited by a certifying body). The MBA is there for leadership skills development, and will provide recognition for business expertise. For this reason, the main entry requirements for an MBA qualification are experience. Perhaps 2 ,3 or 4 years working at a management level within a company. Some universities will ask for an honours level first degree, and perhaps even a master’s degree with 2 years’ experience. All of these entry requirements are often debatable, and each candidate will be looked at on their own merits, so several years of good experience may be acceptable with a second-class degree as an example.
MSc Entry Requirements
With recent UK governments setting targets for 50% of school leavers to continue into Training, Further or Higher Education, it is now estimated (2013 data) that 38% of the work-age population hold a bachelor’s degree.
In a bid to differentiate themselves from their peers, students often continue their studies after their bachelor’s degree to a master’s level. Engineering students typically take an MSc qualification, and Social Science or Arts students an MA. Hence an MSc is taken at the start of a career, before any work experience.
There are exceptions. Many mature students enrol on MSc (and MA) courses to further their education, and demonstrate their ability to “Master” a technical subject.
Depending on prevailing “Market Forces” a university may accept a 21 or 22 years old student with a First Class (above 70% average), or 2:1 (Upper second class – above 60% average) level of first degree. Frequently the students “current” university will entice them to stay on with financial discounts and might accept a 2:2 (Lower second class – above 50% average) level first degree.
Project Dissertations for MBA and MSc Qualifications
After the “taught” elements of the Master’s course, the students will have to submit a research Thesis or Dissertation. How do the different qualifications reflect in the project content?
Master’s Project Topics
MBA students may base their research project around their past or current company to help examine or solve a particular problem. This is also an option for mature MSc students. This makes the projects more practical in terms of their usefulness to an organisation. Younger students, with little experience, may have to consider at length what area their project topic is to be about, and it is likely to be more theoretical.
MBA students, with their previous work experience may have access to ‘Primary Data’ from their old employee. This means that they may choose to use data collection techniques to gain primary data from interviews or questionnaires. Again, this applies to mature MSc students. Younger MSc students may not have access to these sources for primary data collection, and will therefore have to reply on secondary data sources such as case studies for their projects.
Project Breadth and Depth
A critical difference between the MBA and MSc is the breadth and depth. The MBA student must look at the broader business context for their research. Whatever their project, they will have to consider the broader concerns of the company strategy, organisation structure, culture, etc. in their research. The MBA student will therefore be judged on how their topic fits into this broader context. Whereas the MSc students project will be narrow to show their expertise or “mastery” of a particular topic. For this reason, these projects will be deeper, narrow, and more technical.
Poor Research Projects
Good and bad research is therefore different between the MBA and MSc. A poor MSc dissertation will be too shallow, and not show enough knowledge or expertise, and perhaps have a flawed methodology due to the difficulty of access to primary data. A poor MBA project dissertation might be too deep in the project area, and not consider the wider business context for the research.
MBA and MSc qualifications are different things. They test different abilities of the students, have different expectations from the dissertation, and the content of the research projects are therefore significantly different.