MBA vs. MSA, The Best Choice for You


Six MBA students talking

For many years graduate education, with a focus on management was centered upon the ever prominent Master of Business Administration (MBA). As new economic landscapes have emerged, so have postgraduate degree options. Many prospective business school candidates are moving away from the traditional path of an MBA to focus on specialized master’s degrees such as finance, accounting, business analytics or information technology. Let’s drill a bit deeper to help you decide on the best fit.

An MBA is often pursued by students who have spent at least a few years in the workforce. Most MBA programs require such professional experience. U.S. News & World Report publishes an annual survey regarding MBA schools and students. In 2016, they found that close to 90% of the new full-time MBA students had over four years of work experience whereas almost all of the executive MBAs had over 13 years of work experience.

An MBA will cover finance and economics, but is more general in nature with a focus on other business concepts that might include operations management, or organizational analysis. A benefit of a more generalized approach is acquiring a broad range of skills and understanding how multiple branches of an organization function. The UMass Boston MBA with specialization in accounting gives students broader coverage in business topics, such as operation management and marketing with a specific focus on the area of accounting. Additionally, the salaries for graduates of an MBA are huge (in comparison to those with a four-year undergraduate degree).

One guiding factor toward a specialized degree is the amount of exposure to more specific accounting subjects. For example the MSA at UMass Boston, is designed to provide in-depth coverage in accounting topics and to meet the needs of accounting professionals. Since the MSA at UMass Boston, is classified as Level One status by Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy, students will be qualified to sit on the CPA exam upon the completion of the program. Students will develop specific skill sets that make them more attractive to employers who are in search of experts in the field.

Government statistics show that all business and financial occupations are projected to experience 9% growth from 2016 to 2026. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median salary for all accountants in 2016 was $68,150. The top 10% earned in excess of $120,000 per year.

In summary, if you’ve decided on accounting as your future career and would like to take the CPA exam upon graduation, the MSA is likely the best choice. The MBA with specialization in accounting may be more suitable for those who want to understand different business perspectives in relation to accounting, or those who have already met the CPA exam requirements through undergraduate curriculum.


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