Though both the Master of Business Administration and the Master of Public Administration are professional degrees rather than academic degrees, these programs specialize in different areas and lead to different career opportunities. The MBA degree focuses on business administration and management, whereas MPA graduates focus more strongly on public sector and nonprofit administration. If you are having difficulty deciding whether an MPA or an MBA is right for you, consider which career paths you would like to pursue.
Deciding to pursue an MBA or an MPA
The MBA degree focuses on issues in modern business, especially in the private sector. Students in MBA programs learn about finance, marketing, management and other important areas of the private sector in order to ensure that a business operates smoothly. They may also focus on certain MBA concentrations such as accounting or sales, equipping MBA graduates with the skills necessary to succeed in competitive business environments. If you are interested in working in a management role for a private company, then the MBA is a great choice for a professional masters degree.
If you are interested in working in a bureaucratic capacity, you should consider the MPA degree instead of an MBA. Nonprofit organizations also value the MPA degree as it provides a broad skill set including management and financial skills as well as public policy, sociology and law. The MPA is a less common degree than the MBA, meaning that job openings for MPA graduates will often be less contested than those for MBA graduates, though there may be fewer of them. If you are more interested in the public or nonprofit sectors, then the MPA is a better choice than the MBA.
If you are already involved in either the public sector or the private sector, you may want to choose the degree that focuses on skills valued by your current employer. Having a foot in the door can help you use your MBA or MPA degree more effectively by allowing you to quickly advance within the same company or organization, and some may sponsor you to study for an appropriate degree.
Career options with an MBA
MBA programs are usually accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and require about 60 credit hours of study over the course of 2 years. These programs include the study of finance, marketing, management and economics during the first year, providing students with a strong foundation in business education. The second year usually involves a more specific focus on the student’s area of expertise and may also require a trip or other field learning opportunity.
Many who study for an MBA are already involved in the business world and are interested in further education to enhance their marketability to employers or move up in their companies. Those who complete MBA degrees may work as marketing managers, financial analysts and information managers or in other positions of authority. These degrees are popular among established professionals and many schools offer online programs with flexible schedules to meet the needs of these individuals.
Career options with an MPA
MPA programs are typically accredited by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration and have credit requirements similar to MBAs. Both are professional masters degrees, though an MPA is usually offered by a policy, government or law college within a university. The coursework covers public institutional values, administrative analysis and organization theory. Courses may also cover public administration law, ethical theory or service leadership, especially if you choose MPA concentrations in these areas.
Those who complete MPA degrees may work as policy analysts, bureaucratic managers or county officials. They may also work at nonprofit organizations such as charities and activist organizations in a managerial or financial capacity, allowing these nonprofits to operate efficiently and effectively. Some programs offer specific concentrations that provide further information on specific roles in organizations or parts of the public sector.