MBA vs. Master of Finance or Economics: What’s the difference?


Thursday, August 27, 2020

MBAs and other Master’s Degrees related to the area of business, like finance or economics, are believed to be the same or very similar. However, if you are considering pursuing any of them, it is important that you know the differences between them in order to choose the one that benefits you the most.



Individuals interested in furthering their education after they obtain a bachelor’s degree have many options to choose from. The ones that business graduates are more interested in are MBAs, Masters in Finance and Masters in Economics.

These degrees share some similar features. However, that doesn’t mean they can be studied or referred to interchangeably. It is important that you know the main differences between the three of them if you want to make sure that the one you choose is the right one for you. 

Each degree has its advantages and disadvantages. In order to make out which one you want to pursue, you need to figure out what type of skills you have and want to obtain and the career prospects you expect when graduating. 

MBA and non-MBA programmes differ in that, whereas in the former you will get a taste of many disciplines, in the latter you will be focused on one area specifically.


Master of Business Administration: What you need to know

  • Generally, MBA applicants have often already been in the workforce for a couple of years. Actually, many MBA programmes require candidates to have experience in the world of business in order to apply to business school.
  • MBA modules will certainly cover finance and economics, and other business areas as well. However, those subjects are approached from a general perspective in order to provide you with a main idea of what each area is about because your job will require a basic knowledge of them all. 
  • The main benefit of studying an MBA is that you will learn to see the bigger picture. How so? Because you will learn something about many disciplines. It is common knowledge that MBA students generally gain a deeper insight into how the different parts of a business relate to one another and how they operate. 

Many employers look for MBA graduates because they have a wider perspective since they are aware of their surroundings and of what is going on in every area of the organization. They are also sought after because they already have experience in the workforce, which is very important because they can provide organizations with knowledge and skills not only gained when studying, but also when putting them to practice at work.


On the other hand: Master of Finance or Master of Economics

In these types of Master’s degrees, students don’t learn a variety of business related subjects from a general perspective. On the contrary, they focus on an area of specialization and they acquire a deep understanding of that field in particular. 

Finance programmes generally include modules such as:  investment analysis, corporate finance, forecasting, and risk analysis. On the other hand, in an economics programme, you would study advanced microeconomics and macroeconomics, econometrics, and monetary policy. 


Pursuing a specialized degree instead of a MBA can have many advantages: 
  • The skills graduates acquire are focused on the area of specialization, which makes graduates more marketable for employers looking for experts in a specific field.
  • Instead of spending 2 whole years studying, which is what an MBA would take, finance or economics courses are completed from 12 to 18 months. 
  • Earning your degree up to one year earlier will also allow you to enter the workforce earlier and you will have more short-term earning potential. 
  • Economics and Finance Master’s degrees are generally less expensive than MBA’s, not only because they are shorter programmes but because their tuition fees are cheaper.

Career prospects for each area:
Many finance graduates go on to work at major corporations, global banks, and mutual fund companies. Economics graduates often work in the private sector, but many also enter academia or go into research roles after receiving a master’s degree or Ph.D. 

MBA’s degrees seem to be an obvious way to get ahead for many individuals looking to advance their careers. However, if you already work in finance or economics, it would be a better alternative if you choose a specialized degree in the field you already work. 

You should consider which one of these degrees’ advantages budges the scale. If you prefer a broad degree rather than a specialized one, then an MBA is clearly the way to go. If, on the other hand, you prefer a specialized degree in order to increase your knowledge and skills in a specific area, either a Master in Finance or in Economics is the best option. 

If you are interested in pursuing any of these degrees, the following are programmes offered by prestigious universities in South Africa: 




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