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MSM vs. MBA: A Comparison of Graduate Programs in Business

MSM vs. MBA: A Comparison of Graduate Programs in Business

The American College of Financial Services
December 2, 2020

Leaders never stop growing. In a competitive business world, it’s important for you to stand out in all the right ways. A graduate program can help take your career to the next level. It can also make you a better leader, with the skills and confidence to lead your team to successful outcomes. 

So, which graduate degree will deliver the best return on investment based on your goals? Two graduate program in business standouts are the Master of Science in Management (MSM) and the Master of Business Administration (MBA). Each option comes with advantages for recruitment and career advancement. However, there are key variations with regard to each program’s recommended pre-existing experience as well as outcomes. 

This article will go over the differences between the two programs so that you can select the right designation for your career path. When you’re ready to take the next step, here’s how to start planning your studies.


What Does an MSM Offer?


The Master of Science in Management (MSM) degree is normally a 15-month course of study. you and your cohort will study leadership, organizational change, managerial processes, and ethics. An MSM graduate program is very hands-on, giving experienced managers the tools to grow their leadership skills with simulated environments and peer-to-peer learning opportunities.



What Does an MBA Offer?


A Master of Business Administration (MBA) program offers a comprehensive education in every aspect of business administration. If you’re an early-career learner with minimal experience in business, then an MBA can give you the tools to understand business from the ground up. You’ll learn about finance, marketing, and more. 


Key Differences Between MSM and MBA


These programs are similar in that they both offer students the chance to develop specialized knowledge in business. But the type of specialization and the outcomes of each degree are different. The right program for you will depend on your existing experience and your personal career goals.

The major difference between an MSM and an MBA is that the first program is about leadership whereas the second is about management. People who already have business experience and want to grow their leadership skills should enroll in the MSM program. In an MSM program, students have greater opportunities to delve into the specific leadership qualities necessary to become a business executive. It offers a much tighter focus than an MBA program. On the other hand, people who wish to learn about all general aspects of business management should enroll in an MBA program.

There’s another key difference you should know. When companies hire students with graduate degrees in business, an MBA qualifies you for managerial positions. Many MSM students are recruited for entry-level positions, but most MSM students already have robust experience in the industry. As a result, they can use the MSM program to augment their existing resume. 



Selecting the Right Program for You


First, determine how much professional experience you have. Do you have more than two years of business experience? The Master of Science in Management could be the right program for you. Many companies are willing to reimburse tuition costs as an investment in their employees. It’s worth checking with your human resources department at work before applying. 

Now, the next step is to think about your specific career goals and which specializations make sense, given your aspirations. If you’re looking to stay within your company, speak with your managers about the particular skills they’d like to see you improve. For instance, are you looking to advance to a position with more responsibility? Do you need more experience with decision-making tools like the SWOT analysis? A graduate program like the MSM can be tailored to your unique goals.

If you are looking to make a career change, make sure you research the trajectories of other people in the field. Do you want to pivot into a career in organizational change management? The MSM program can help you gain experience in these situations so that you can interview confidently. Make sure you select the program with proven outcomes that align with your goals.

It’s also worth noting that The American College of Financial Services MSM degree can be completed online in 15 months, with several brief residency periods. This program tends to work well for working professionals who need the flexibility of distance learning. 


Ready to Learn More? Next Steps


It’s never too late to become a graduate student. Advanced degrees can give your career the boost it needs. If you need help getting out of a rut or gaining practical experience alongside a group of passionate professionals, the MSM program at The American College of Financial Services can get you there. Learn more at