July 12, 2019  |  Purdue Global  |  Updated December 23, 2020

A master’s degree can help you learn new skills, qualify for more prominent positions, and advance your career.* If you're interested in business, management, and/or leadership, you may be wondering which graduate business degree is right for you.

“We're often asked about the difference between the Master of Business Administration (MBA) and the Master of Science in Management and Leadership (MSML) programs here at Purdue Global,” says Jack Deem, academic department chair, strategic management and marketing in the School of Business and Information Technology at Purdue Global. “The MBA covers all of the key business disciplines and helps students develop key knowledge and abilities to make sound business decisions with a focus on general business skills. The MSML program focuses on specialized management and leadership skills that are applicable to a range of business and organizational settings. Thus, the MBA represents a breadth of knowledge, while the MSML focuses more heavily on a depth of knowledge.”

This article further examines the difference between an MBA and an MSML, so you can make the best decision for your unique career journey.

What Is an MBA?

In an MBA program, students complete practical, resume-building projects to achieve a well-rounded background in all aspects of business. At Purdue Global, the MBA program's mission is to help graduates pursue leadership positions in competitive business environments.

“The MBA program serves as a great launching pad for students seeking to move up in their current companies or make themselves more marketable for new employment opportunities,” says Deem. “Beyond that, the MBA is a great companion degree for those in almost any field who want to enhance their business knowledge, including those with degrees in engineering, law, medicine, and others.”

At Purdue Global, the MBA program consists of 15 core courses including:

  • Economics for Global Decision Makers
  • Financial Accounting Principles and Analysis
  • Ethics in Business and Society
  • Designing, Improving, and Implementing Processes

The MBA program at Purdue Global offers concentrations in:

  • Finance
  • Health care management
  • Human resources
  • Information technology
  • Marketing
  • Project management

To gain acceptance into an MBA program, some schools require that students take the GMAT test and achieve a certain score. At Purdue Global, there is no GMAT requirement. A bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and a minimum GPA of 2.5 is required for admission to the online MBA degree program at Purdue Global.

What Is an MS in Management and Leadership?

An MSML program is designed for adult learners to gain the knowledge they need to become effective leaders and make strategic business decisions that support business strategy. Students in an MSML program are taught to:

  • Communicate more effectively with others
  • Build and nurture team dynamics
  • Distinguish the difference between symptomatic issues and underlying problems
  • Strengthen their decision-making abilities
  • Be ethically and socially responsible
  • Be a transformational leader who appreciates diversity and the talents of others

“Our MSML students are well-prepared and practiced to be effective frontline managers and leaders who can implement effective strategies to achieve organizational goals,” says Craig McCoy, MSML faculty member at Purdue Global. “Our MSML students can demonstrate mastery of essential management and leadership competencies, which will certainly enhance their organizational performance in a competitive workplace market.”

The MSML degree program at Purdue Global consists of 10 core courses specific to management and leadership. The core courses include:

  • Strategic Human Resource Management
  • Management Theories and Practices
  • Leadership Theory and Practice
  • Organizational Excellence and Change

Additionally, the program includes four open electives from such areas as:

  • Health care management
  • Human resources
  • Information technology
  • Leadership
  • Organizational design
  • Project management

The program includes a research-based capstone project.

Like the MBA program, there is no GMAT requirement for the online MSML degree program at Purdue Global. A bachelor's degree and a minimum GPA of 2.5 is required for admission.

Possible Career Outcomes for These Degrees

Many possible employment areas of the MBA and MSML overlap, because both degrees cover business leadership. Here's how to think about the difference in career possibilities:

  • With an MBA, you gain the skills and knowledge to sharpen your business and leadership skills and add value to your current career path. Or, if you’re not already working in a business role, you gain the skills and knowledge to transition to a new business career.
  • With an MSML, you're armed with the knowledge to help you prepare for managerial and leadership positions in virtually any industry.*

With an MBA, you can also pursue managerial and leadership positions in your current industry, and with an MSML, you gain valuable skills and knowledge for wherever you are in your current career path. But while an MBA gives practical tips, an MSML teaches theory that helps graduates form meaningful leadership strategies at organizations.

To get an idea of career growth possibilities, consider the following data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Employment of management occupations is projected to grow 5% from 2019 to 2029, with about 505,000 new jobs added. There are management positions in virtually every field. Typical job titles in management include general and operations managers, administrative services managers, and sales managers.
    • With an MBA and relevant experience, a graduate may be able to move into a management role in their respective industry.
    • With an MSML and relevant experience, a graduate may work to transform a team or organization using management best practices and theories.

Which Graduate Business Degree Is Right for You?

Pursuing higher education is an important decision. The admission advisors at Purdue Global can help you decide between studying for an MBA, an MS in Management and Leadership, or another online degree based on your career goals. Contact us today.

About the Author

Purdue Global

Purdue Global delivers a fully personalized, world-class education online that's tailored for adults. We offer 175 programs, including associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees as well as certificates, in areas such as business, IT, education, health sciences, nursing, criminal justice, and more.

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Employment and Career Advancement: Purdue Global does not guarantee employment placement or career advancement. Actual outcomes vary by geographic area, previous work experience, and opportunities for employment. Additional training or certification may be required.

Job Growth Projections: National long-term projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual growth.