MA in Management and Leadership vs. MBA: Comparing Two Key Advanced DegreesMA in Management and Leadership vs. MBA: Comparing Two Key Advanced DegreesMA in Management and Leadership vs. MBA: Comparing Two Key Advanced Degrees

What does it take to be a business leader? Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg once said “the ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have,” according to Inc. Individuals looking for opportunities to learn more can start on their path to becoming a business leader by getting an advanced degree: for example, an MA in Management and Leadership or an MBA. Sandberg is a recognized business leader who happens to have an MBA degree. Other CEOs do not have MBAs, but rather advanced degrees in other areas. According to a Poets & Quants report, 29% of the world’s CEOs have an MBA, while another 64% have a master’s degree in other subjects.

A business manager leads a team meeting

Why do some business leaders have MBAs or other advanced degrees? It’s because business leadership is more than knowing about managing the critical functions of business and finance. It’s about knowing how to manage people to perform at their best. Business leadership also takes on various forms. For example, some leaders are trailblazers, launching startups and then growing them to become global powerhouses. Others specialize in fostering collaboration, bringing many talented people into the mix to optimize the success of companies.

While a strong foundation in business is essential in any business leadership role, in-demand leadership skills and qualities like communication, team-building, critical thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving are equally important. An advanced degree can prepare students with the necessary skills and knowledge to make an impact in the business world.

Popular graduate level degree programs include the Master of Arts (MA) in Management and Leadership degree and the MBA degree. A comparison of an MA in Management and Leadership vs. MBA reveals that graduates of each program can excel in diverse fields. Graduates of both programs may work in the same industries, including marketing, healthcare, manufacturing, consulting, nonprofit, higher education, retail, and technology.

Both programs help students develop in-demand business leadership traits. While an MBA program typically focuses more thoroughly on the quantitative and financial aspects of business, a management and leadership program like Maryville University’s online Master of Arts in Management and Leadership focuses on the people side of the business and helps students establish a firm foundation for success in various business roles across diverse industries.

MA in Management and Leadership and MBA programs have similarities, and they don’t substitute for each other. Each program provides a different learning experience. Read on to understand the similarities and differences to determine which program fits best with their career goals.

Similarities and Differences

Students deciding between an MA in Management and Leadership vs. MBA should consider their career aims first. An examination of each program reveals the comparable and contrasting elements between them.


Both the MA in Management and Leadership and MBA help prepare individuals with diversified leadership and management skills that are essential in every industry. Delegating and developing strategies are essential skills. Another critical competency is the ability to forge relationships with people, according to a survey of over 15,000 managers worldwide. Other highly ranked skills include good communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and trust building.

Both programs are advanced postgraduate degrees in general management. As such, applicants will need to have completed their bachelor’s degrees before enrolling in any of these programs. Students can select from concentrations that focus on specific areas of business: from cybersecurity and information technology to health administration and marketing.

Each degree can help individuals pursue positions that prefer candidates with advanced business-related degrees, such as marketing manager, human resources manager, industrial production manager, and management consultant. Both programs teach students core competencies that establish a firm foundation in business concepts, including management, accounting, and finance. Graduates also develop soft skills essential for effective leadership, such as leadership development, analytical and critical thinking, communication, problem-solving, decision-making, and team building.


An MA in Management and Leadership program covers a broad range of business topics, including quantitative theory, accounting, ethics, finance, and economics, but the program emphasizes leadership development in business. Students won’t dive deeply into finance and economics, but will gain the foundational knowledge needed to manage a business plan. Learning is focused more on the people side of management, which includes building successful teams and developing critical thinking skills through coursework and case studies..

Admission requirements for the MA in Management and Leadership program are similar to the MBA program. However, one program may be a better fit than the other based on a student’s experience and career goals.

Students from all academic backgrounds — business, communications, psychology, nursing, science, technology, and math — can enroll in the MA in Management and Leadership program. However, it’s not about the type of experience students have, but where they want to go in their careers, leaving ample opportunity for experienced professionals to enroll as well.

The MBA offers students a core in business, with optional concentrations that allow them to specialize in certain aspects of business. MBA coursework typically includes accounting, business ethics, finance, economics, management, marketing, and organizational behavior. Applicants with several years of business experience are generally preferred. Still, some cater to recent bachelor’s degree graduates.

These programs are not terminal degrees, which means that students can continue to advance their studies at higher levels. Some  may choose to stop their formal education after receiving their advanced business degrees. Others may decide to acquire a graduate certificate, an additional master’s degree, or a doctoral degree.

Both programs offer seasoned professionals opportunities to advance their education. For example, a common type of MBA program known as an executive MBA caters to current senior managers at organizations who are seeking to move up the executive ladder. Additionally, both programs create opportunities for students to grow their professional networks.

How Maryville University Can Help

Maryville University offers both its  online Master of Arts in Management and Leadership program and online Master’s in Business Administration Online program to prepare graduates with essential leadership, communication, team-building, critical thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving skills to make a positive impact in the business world.

The curriculum of the Management and Leadership program focuses on teaching business concepts, such as accounting and finance, and competencies, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and ethics of management. The program’s eight concentrations are:

  • Business Data Analytics. Learn how to leverage data for business through coursework in data analytics, data visualization, and forecasting and predictive modeling.
  • Cybersecurity. Learn about effective cyber defense controls, forensic examination, and legal aspects of privacy and compliance.
  • Health Administration. Explore concepts related to the healthcare industry, including healthcare management, operations, law, and ethics.
  • Human Resource Management. Learn about human resources management, workforce management, employment law, and compensation.
  • Information Technology. Discover concepts in information technology management fields and learn about agile systems, database principles, and data analytics.
  • Marketing. Learn about strategic marketing, branding, social networking, search engine optimization, and integrated marketing communications.
  • Project Management. Discover project management principles, operations management, supply chain management, and enterprise planning.
  • Software Development. Gain knowledge of programming, data structures, web applications, and agile systems analysis and design.

The curriculum of the MBA program exposes students to advanced business concepts like networking, technology, analytical thinking, leadership, finance, and accounting, and systems-level thinking. In addition to concentrations in Business Data Analytics, Cybersecurity, Health Administration, Human Resources Management, Information Technology, Marketing, Project Management, and Software Development, Maryville’s online MBA program also offers concentrations in Accounting, Emerging and Digital Media, Financial Services, and General Management.

Make Your Next Big Career Move in Business

Looking to pursue high-level positions of leadership in an organization? Either the MA in Management and Leadership or MBA can help you get there.

Learn how Maryville University’s online Master of Arts in Management and Leadership program or online Master’s in Business Administration Online program can help you become a highly effective business leader.

Recommended Reading

Workforce Trends of Today and Tomorrow: A Changing Landscape

Maryville’s Approach to Technology and Higher Education in the Digital Age

20 Reasons to Go Back to School in 2020


CNBC“From Jeff Bezos to Mark Cuban: What Some of the World’s Richest Billionaires Studied in College”

Forbes, “8 Essential Qualities that Define Great Leadership”

Forbes, Sheryl Sandberg

Graduate Management Admission Council, “The Key Differences Between a Master in Management and an MBA”

Graduate Management Admission Council, “What Is a Master in Management (MiM) and Why Get One?”

Inc., “Sheryl Sandberg Said This About Leadership and It Was Incredibly Insightful”

Investopedia, “Master of Business Administration (MBA)”

Investopedia, “When Is an MBA Worth It?”

Market Business News, MBA: Definition and Meaning

Maryville University, What Can You Do with an Organizational Leadership Degree?

Poets & Quants, “Only A Third Of World’s CEOs Have An MBA”

Quartz at Work, “The Three Traits Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Looks for in Leaders”

U.S. News & World Report, “What an MBA Degree Is and What You Need to Know”

Wiley, “Mind Tools for Managers: 100 Ways to Be a Better Boss”

Be Brave

Bring us your ambition and we’ll guide you along a personalized path to a quality education that’s designed to change your life.