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Project Management Degrees: MBA or MS?

masters in project management vs mba

You have paid attention to the ever-growing profession of Project Management, and you have made the wise decision to pursue your Master’s in Project Management in order to join the field. Because you are already on the right track, you’ve made the even wiser decision to pursue your degree online. It makes perfect sense—you can get a quality degree from any number of the best online Master’s in Project Management degree programs on your time, at your own pace, and from your own home. An online degree has all the benefits of an on-campus degree, with the added advantages of convenience and flexibility. There really is no downside to the online degree—online programs are just as rigorous and respected, and as more and more professionals are emerging with online master’s degrees under their belts, employers are finding it evident that the quality of the education is just as valid as on-campus programs.

So, all of these positives confirm your decision, but there is one more question to consider: should you pursue a Master of Project Management (or, as some schools offer, a Master of Science) degree, or should you pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in Project Management? Obviously, there will be differences in the two approaches to gaining Project Management knowledge and experience, but what’s the best way to go? Does it ultimately matter? It comes down to what, exactly, it is you will want to do with your degree. Understandably it will depend on specifically what you want to learn to get you the job that best fits your skill set and talent—and that will make you the happiest—but we are here to help you explore the different approaches of the two degree types. It’s important to know what both the big departures are and what the nuances may be between the MBA and the Master of Science in Project Management/Master of Project Management (MSPM/MPM) degree.

According to the U.S. News and World Report, MBA degrees often focus on the larger technical picture of financial analysis, accounting, critical and global thinking, and a grounding in information technology. Specializations in Project Management will certainly address the specific goals of working in project management, but students must first move through the MBA core courses before getting into the concentration. Typical MBA program core courses include such topics as applied managerial finance, accounting methods, ethical decision-making, and analytical and quantitative tools. These subjects are certainly beneficial to any professional, but if a student wants to focus more on coursework that will bolster a career in project management without focusing on the business industry, then a MSPM or MPM degree be more worthwhile. Project management classes typically promote team management, leadership strategies, risk management, and organizational behavior. If a focus on the technical understanding of numbers, financials, and analytics speaks to you—go for an MBA with a Project Management concentration or emphasis area. But if you want to really delve into the psychology of leading teams, guiding projects through to completion, and managing in industries other than just business, then a MSPM or MPM seems like your goal. Whichever you choose, best of luck!

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Michael Templeton
Managing Editor

Kacey Reynolds Schedler
Contributing Editor