MBA vs. MPA Programs - Similarities and Differences
Those who want to lead have to be willing to go the extra mile. That is one reason why so many aspiring leaders pursue graduate-level degrees, such as a master’s of business administration (MBA) or a master’s of public administration (MPA). While both degree options offer advanced education in how to run an organization, the two have distinctly separate areas of focus: the private versus public sectors.
An MBA is a versatile degree that spans all facets of the private sector. Students gain a firm understanding of business fundamentals, such as management, economics, finance, and marketing. And depending on one’s concentration, the MBA curriculum may include instruction in healthcare administration, technology, project management, hospitality, or other disciplines to help students understand the core of what makes specific industries run and learn how to lead them best.
MBA graduates use their education to operationalize efficiencies in budget, time, labor, and other resources, usually in the interests of the bottom line and boosted sales. Those with an MBA may go on to be middle and upper management executives at corporations across all industries, as well as investment banks.
An MPA is a more targeted degree. It focuses on the intricate and often labyrinthine operations of the public sector. MPA programs are similar to MBA programs in that they include a background education on management and financial operations, especially as they relate to budget planning, human resources, and funding opportunities. However, most MPA curriculums are heavily focused on social sciences, such as public policy, government, ethics, and law.
MPA graduates use their skills to lead governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and nonprofits. They often go on to work in national, state, or local governments; direct nonprofits and NGOs; or coordinate between intergovernmental offices for social change.
Both MBA and MPA programs prepare students to be leaders, but the differences are more nuanced than the private or public sector differentiation. Admissions requirements, salary potential, and course curriculum can all differ dramatically between the two.
Read on to learn some key similarities and differences between MBA vs. MPA programs.
|What is It?||An MBA is an advanced degree designed to boost skills in business and management while preparing students for leadership roles, particularly in private firms and global companies.||An MPA is an advanced degree designed to boost skills in public administration and governance, preparing students for leadership roles in nonprofits and government.|
Admissions requirements for MBA programs vary from school to school, but may include some or all of the following:
Admissions requirements for MPA programs vary from school to school, but may include some or all of the following:
|Typical Duration||While the average duration of an MBA program is two to three years, programs can be quite flexible in intensity and length. A full-time student on an accelerated track may earn their MBA in as little as 18 months, while a part-time student with a full-time career may take up to six years to complete the degree.||While the average duration of an MPA program is two to three years, different schools provide different options for the length and intensity of the degree. An accelerated track full-time student may earn their MPA in as little as 18 months, while a part-time student may take up to six years to complete the program.|
Typical coursework in an MBA program may include topics such as:
Typical coursework in an MPA program may include topics such as:
|Who Can Benefit From This Degree?||MBAs can benefit those looking to increase their business acumen and advance their career. Recent graduates, working professionals, entrepreneurs, and even those seeking to change careers can all benefit from an MBA.||MPAs can benefit anyone looking to gain an advanced understanding of policy and administration, either in the public sector or a consulting or management role. Recent graduates and working professionals seeking leadership roles often pursue an MPA.|
|Salary Prospects||MBA graduates can expect a high earning potential, often doubling their salary upon earning the degree, even during a financial downturn. While exact figures will depend upon location, work experience, and area of focus, a graduate of a top MBA program can expect $125,000 a year and a signing bonus. A mid-career professional who specializes in strategy or IT can earn $150,000 a year and above.||MPA graduates can expect a modest to high salary potential, depending on their career sector, location, and level of experience. An MPA graduate can expect to enter federal service at the level of GS-9 and above—around $45,000 to $60,000 a year. Nonprofit coordinators and NGO managers can expect a similar range. Executive directors and experienced federal workers could earn close to $76,000 a year, with the highest end of the range reaching over $100,000 a year.|
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|The Bottom Line||An MBA is one of the most flexible advanced degrees one can attain, with applications across all industries. An MBA translates into a wide range of businesses and leadership roles and almost always provides a high salary potential. Earning an MBA from an accredited, high-ranking program can be a wise investment for a business-oriented individual.||An MPA is a targeted degree that focuses primarily on the public sector. An MPA prepares one for the world of public service by equipping them with the organizational savvy needed to succeed in leadership. While an MPA may not earn as much as an MBA, an MPA graduate is more likely to see direct social benefit from their work in the field. Overall, it is designed for those who want to exact social change and shape public policy for the better.|