Master of Science in Entrepreneurship vs MBA: What is the Right Program for You?

June 2, 2022

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How to choose an academic business program and the similarities and differences between a Master of Science in Entrepreneurship and an MBA

Which path should I take?

Many students wonder when it comes to enhancing their education credentials: Is a Master of Science in Entrepreneurship better than an MBA? What will work better for me? The answer, of course, is it depends.

First, choose the right business school.

Before we look at the differences between Master’s in Entrepreneurship and MBA, let’s look at the similarities. Both MBA and Master’s in Entrepreneurship are master’s degrees in business. They are both valuable and rigorous if you choose them from the right business school, and like any other business discipline, they do not require a master’s thesis to complete the degree. So, what do we mean by the right business school? Regardless of the degree you choose, you should first consider four critical aspects of the school that offers them:

  1. Is the business school accredited?
    Not all business degrees are created equal. Just because an institution offers a degree, and they call it MBA, Master’s in Entrepreneurship (or similar), it doesn’t make them a good investment or valuable for your educational portfolio. A program from an accredited business school brings the credentials that the curriculum, the courses and the faculty teaching those courses have gone through internal and external audits to assure the quality of learning and rigor.
  2. Which accreditation?
    Not all accreditations are created equal. You must also investigate the type of accreditation of the business school of your choice. Higher education in the U.S. is primarily a self-regulating market. This means that just about anyone can claim some form of certification, and just about anyone can give it. When choosing a program from an accredited business school, you should also ask, certified by whom? In education, reputation is the most important value that a degree can have. Have you noticed that when someone says, I have a bachelor’s degree in marketing, they usually follow with from so and so institution. That follow-up line implies that I didn’t just receive my degree from Springville Correspondence School. My degree comes from a respected accredited institution.
  3. What to look for?
    Look for schools with the highest, most respected accreditation badges. In the U.S., look for programs from business schools that are AACSB accredited. In Europe, look for EQUIS. Most of the world’s top-tier business schools are accredited by either AACSB, EQUIS, or both.
  4. What to avoid?
    As tempting as they may be. Try to avoid schools whose programs advertise how easy or adaptable they are to your needs. Avoid programs that promote “extensive credit for real-life work done.”  Remember, a degree is all about your educational investment's long-term value and reputation. It is about perception. Suppose you chose a program only because it seems easy, doable or they are willing to bend over backward to let you pass. In that case, anyone looking at your credentials will also know that you took “the easy way” and assume you were not willing to do the rigorous work from an AACSB or EQUIS accredited school.  As unfair as it may be, some may wonder if taking the easy way out is also part of your professional ethos. Perception alone will quickly decaffeinate the value of your educational investment.

Should I study for a Master’s in Entrepreneurship or an MBA?

Now that we understand the value of the right business school. Let’s reconsider the path: Master’s in Entrepreneurship or MBA? Remember I said that it depends. It depends on what best fits your professional and academic needs. An MBA is a part of a generalist degree. In an MBA, you typically cover courses in various business topics (usually in the first year) and then in the second year, you take courses as part of a concentration.

What is an MBA good for?

MBAs are helpful if you plan to work for a large corporation right after graduation. Like most graduate business degrees, MBAs dwell firmly on rankings, and Full-time MBA rankings include items such as starting salaries and bonuses out of the MBA program. Therefore, most MBAs and their curriculum often focus on you working for someone else, particularly for a large corporation with its high starting salaries and juicy signup bonus. Why? Because this helps with MBA program rankings and (once again) with the perceived prestige of the degree.

The downfall is that an MBA may not be as helpful if you are thinking about establishing your own business or joining a startup, a smaller high-growth company or choosing a long-term career path besides working for a large corporation. If you are considering any of these options, you may not be as attractive of a candidate for the MBA program and the curriculum may not be such a good fit for you.

What is a Master’s in Entrepreneurship suitable for?

A Master’s in Entrepreneurship is a specialty degree. Like most specialty business masters, the Master’s in Entrepreneurship targets the curriculum to one specific concentration—in this case Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Since it is more targeted, the Master’s in Entrepreneurship is shorter (one year) and more specialized in the courses you will take. After an introduction to entrepreneurship, you quickly focus on the master’s concentration and cover various topics within entrepreneurship and innovation: global social entrepreneurship, corporate entrepreneurship, healthcare entrepreneurship, small business entrepreneurship, etc. The Master’s in Entrepreneurship has a substantial value if you are thinking about either creating or joining an existing startup or if you are currently working in a large corporation earlier in your career and would like to bring an entrepreneurial mindset into your skill canvas. A Master’s in Entrepreneurship is also particularly useful for mid-career professionals who, after several years as part of a large corporation, that would like to consider a career change and join an up-and-coming startup.

The bottom line

Both MBAs and Master’s in Entrepreneurship are valuable master’s degrees. An MBA takes a bit longer and prepares you mainly for a corporate job. The Master’s in Entrepreneurship is leaner and more focused on the startup mentality and innovative mindset. Both degrees will help you jumpstart your career and take it to the next level as long as you mindfully choose a program from a top accredited business school.  

By Carlos J. Alsua, Ph.D. May 2022


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