Master vs. MBA: What is the difference?

Both the Master's and MBA degrees are postgraduate programs that can be taken after a Bachelor's degree. Although they are similar in level and have some overlap, there are some important differences. Learn more and find out which degree is right for you.

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Academic Focus


The Master's degree is a consecutive program that focuses on a specific subject area and builds on the content of the previous Bachelor's degree. The focus is on theoretical knowledge, research methods and scholarly work. Master's programs are offered in various fields, such as Master of Science (M.Sc.), Master of Arts (M.A.), or Master of Engineering (M.Eng.).


MBA stands for Master of Business Administration and is specifically designed to meet the needs of individuals who aspire to management or leadership positions. As a non-consecutive degree program, the MBA does not provide further training in the subject area of the completed Bachelor's degree, but rather provides additional qualifications on an interdisciplinary and practice-oriented basis at the operational level in various management and business areas, such as finance, marketing, human resources and corporate strategy. MBA programs typically emphasize practical applications, case studies, and hands-on experience.

Did you know that our International MBA (Dual Degree) program is EFMD accredited? Learn more here.

Admission Requirements


Generally, a Bachelor's degree or equivalent in a related field is required for a Master's program.


Admission requirements for an MBA program are often more selective than for a Master's degree. Typically, a Bachelor's degree and one or more years of work experience are required.

Career Goals


A Master's degree allows you to specialize in a field and pursue an academic or research-oriented career. It may also give you access to specialized positions in business.

Career prospects: Specialist, management and leadership positions, research


An MBA program is ideal for you if you want to pursue a career in management or leadership positions in business. You will acquire the necessary skills to qualify for management positions in companies and organizations. Compared to a Master's degree, an MBA also gives you the opportunity to take your career in a different direction.

Career prospects: Generalist, management and leadership positions, diverse career opportunities

Duration and Structure


A Master's program usually takes 1 to 2 years of full-time study. Some Master's programs are also offered on a part-time basis.

  • Part 1: Courses and modules for specialization
  • Part 2: Master's thesis

The content of the program includes in particular theories, literature analysis and case studies within the framework of classical lectures and seminars.


An MBA program usually takes 1-2 years of full-time study. Many programs are also offered on a part-time basis.

  • Part 1: Core modules
  • Part 2: If applicable, specialization & Master's thesis

Content components of the program include theories, practical relevance through external practitioners, hard & soft skills, teamwork and discussion sessions, as well as case studies and consulting projects.

Checklist: Which program is right for me?

Here's a checklist of important considerations you should take into account when deciding between a Master's degree and an MBA:

  1. Career goals: What are your career goals? Do you want to become a specialist in your field, or do you aspire to a management or executive position?
  2. Area of expertise and personal preferences: What area of expertise are you most interested in? Are you particularly interested in a particular area of business, science, or the arts? Which program best fits your personal learning preferences, individual background, and interests?
  3. Work experience: How much work experience do you have? Work experience is a prerequisite for an MBA program, while Master's programs can be started immediately after a Bachelor's degree.
  4. Academic vs. practical focus: Do you want to focus on theoretical knowledge and academic research (Master) or on practical management skills and case studies (MBA)?
  5. Program structure and content: Compare program curricula to determine what subjects and topics are covered. What types of courses and projects appeal to you?
  6. Networking opportunities: What opportunities do the programs provide for building professional contacts and networks? Which network might be more valuable to your future goals?
  7. Program format: Does the program offer flexibility in terms of full-time, part-time, or online study? Does the format fit your current life circumstances and commitments?
  8. Alumni experience: Research how graduates rate their experiences. This can give you insight into the practical relevance and quality of the program.

Please note that the differences between Master’s and MBA programs can vary from university to university and from country to country. In this article, we have focused on programs in Germany (learn more about the accreditations and quality characteristics in the German higher education sector). It is worth researching the programs that interest you to find the right option for your career goals.

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