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If you want to land a promotion or give your resume a boost, a business master’s degree is a great choice. One of the most popular degree types you may have heard of and considered is the Master of Business Administration (MBA). This is a highly respected degree and well worth the investment of time, effort, and finances. This isn’t the only degree program to consider, though. You may also want to look into a Master of Science in Management (MSM).

Each degree program has advantages, so it’s smart to consider both and find the best fit for your preferences and goals.

Are Business Administration and Business Management the Same?

In everyday speech, the terms management and administration are often used interchangeably. When it comes to degree programs, there are some definite similarities between business administration and business management, but they’re not quite the same.

Both programs focus on core business principles that have a wide array of applications. Although there is quite a bit of overlap between the course offerings for these programs, an MSM tends to focus more heavily on management, whereas an MBA will include a more intense focus on the student’s chosen concentration, which may be management-focused or may relate to a specific job function, such as finance or marketing.

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Which Degree Program Is More Popular?

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, MBA programs attract the largest pool of applicants. However, recent years have seen an uptick in applications to other business master’s programs, including the Master of Science in Management.

Traditionally, MBA programs are the go-to choice for seasoned professionals looking to take their credentials to the next level. MSM programs are another excellent choice for these professionals, but they may also attract a higher percentage of students who are moving straight into a master’s program from an undergraduate program or are new to the field of business.

What Are the Differences Between Business Administration and Business Management Degree Programs?

Before we explore the differences between business administration and business management, a quick disclaimer: Every institution has its own ways of labeling degree programs and determining which courses a student must take to graduate with that degree. Therefore, what might separate an MSM and an MBA program at one university may differ from another university. That said, let’s dive into how these programs differ here at Mount Vernon Nazarene University (MVNU).

Total Credit Hours

One of the first differences you might notice if you compare these programs from MVNU is that the online Master of Science in Management is a 30-credit-hour program, whereas the online Master of Business Administration program consists of 36 credit hours. That means you can earn your MSM with two fewer classes compared to the MBA. If you’re looking to fast-track your degree, an MSM may be the better choice. Our online learners usually complete their MSM in 16 months compared to 19 months for the MBA.

Core Curriculum

Both business administration and management degree programs consist of a core curriculum that all students take, along with concentration courses students elect to take (more on concentrations in the next section).

The MBA and MSM programs also share many of the same instructors, courses, and educational materials. In fact, six of the core business courses included in each program are the same, including:

  • Ethical Leadership
  • Marketing Management
  • Legal Issues in Management
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Global Business
  • Strategic Management

These courses cover foundational principles that serve students well in business, no matter what role they find themselves in. That’s why we ensure all our business master’s students receive this instruction.

The MBA program includes three additional courses as part of the core curriculum, including:

  • Managerial Economics
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Corporate Finance

Notice that these courses give the MBA—regardless of the concentration—a more math-heavy focus compared to the MSM. The MSM does not include these courses and instead includes “Budgets and Forecasting in Organizations.” The MSM program is typically a better choice for someone who wants to build their business credentials without taking advanced quantitative courses.


In addition to core business courses, both degree programs offer the chance to choose a concentration, allowing you to focus on a specific area you’re interested in. Concentration courses get into the specifics related to a certain industry or role, so you’re especially well prepared to enter that field.

So how do MSM and MBA concentrations differ? With MVNU, you’ll find some overlap between concentrations offered in both programs, but generally, the MBA allows you to go a bit deeper into your area of focus. Let’s take a look at the concentrations for each program:

Master of Business Administration (MBA) Master of Science in Management (MSM)
Organizational Management Organizational Management
Logistics Management Logistics Management
Human Resource Management Human Resource Management
Human and Social Services Leadership Human and Social Services Leadership
Business Data Analytics
Ministry Leadership

You’ll notice that the MSM offers four concentrations, each of which is focused on a particular type of management. The MBA offers these same concentrations along with five other concentrations to choose from. If you’re unsure whether you’re interested in a management role, note that the MBA’s list of possible concentrations includes areas that aren’t necessarily tied to management positions. Whether you want to lead a company’s marketing efforts or become a senior accountant, you can find an MBA tailored to your goals.

The Bottom Line: Choosing Between a Business Administration and a Business Management Degree

Although both degree programs will equip you for a leadership role in business, the bent of each program is slightly different. The MSM is generally best for someone pursuing a managerial role, whether in people leadership or logistics. On the other hand, an MBA is a better fit if you want to boost your quantitative skills and prepare for a specific type of administrative role.

Whatever program you choose, you’re sure to learn transferable skills that will serve you well as you advance your career.

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