For thousands of students each year, the decision to pursue a post-secondary degree in finance or business can be a difficult choice to navigate. Two of the more prominent degrees, an MS in finance and an MBA, are often seen as being one in the same.

In reality, the two programs vary widely in the skills students acquire and the career preparation they undergo. Here are three main differences between the two:

  • For students interested in acquiring a wider range of management skills, the MBA will be a better fit. Students avoid focusing on a single discipline and instead work to develop a well-rounded business acumen. Classes range from traditional finance-intensive courses on accounting or capital markets to broader business (and life) skills such as leadership development. The MS in finance, however, will have a more academically-oriented curriculum intended to develop technical skills. Classes such as analytics of finance and finance theory push students to acquire a depth of knowledge. Following their MS, students may go on to pursue a PhD in economics.
  • Just as your course work will differ, so to will your classmates and peers. MBA students typically have 3 to 6 years of post-baccalaureate work experience to draw from. MS students tend to be younger with as little as 1-2 years of work. Some students may even enroll immediately following college.
  • Whether you decide on an MBA or MSF, you should consider your short and long-term career goals, as well as how each of the before mentioned programs will advance your progress. For those looking to switch a career altogether, an MBA will provide you more flexibility and a wider knowledge base. For students looking to apply specific skills to a specific job, an MSF will allow you to develop those most effectively.
About the author
Marc Zawel

As author of Untangling the Ivy League, Marc literally wrote the book on gaining admission to highly selective colleges. He earned a BA from Cornell University – where he met AcceptU’s co-founder – and an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Marc chaired the admissions advisory board; he has also conducted alumni interviews for Cornell for more than fifteen years.

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