What is the difference between a Master degree and an MBA? What are intensive short-term courses for? Let’s finally figure it out

In the changing market scenario, it is extremely important to keep being updated and constantly gain more knowledge in your professional field.

If you’ve already graduated or are still studying, you’ve probably wondered what to do next. And one of the most common questions that arise at this point of your academic life is about the difference between a Master, an MBA and intensive short-term courses. The names can be confusing and, for this reason, we will explain the meaning of each one of them in this article and also tell you more about other course options you can seek to turn into a more competitive professional.

Postgraduate studies

In Europe as well in the US, postgraduate education involves any course or qualification that one can get after an undergraduate degree:

  • Master’s degree
  • MBA courses/ Executive MBAs
  • PhD
  • Postgraduate qualification courses
  • Professional qualification courses
  • Conversion courses

However, the main challenge arises for those aspirants who are willing to pursue a postgraduate course in management. The difficulty is often present when candidates are not aware of the differences between an MBA and a MiM which stands for Master in Management. Let’s first take a look at what MBA is.


MBA studies include courses which focus on deepening the professional’s knowledge mainly for the job market. Students who choose an MBA are usually already qualified in subjects related to their area of ​​expertise. In other words, this type of education is aimed at those who want to delve into more specific topics within a certain professional field. This type of courses usually includes subjects such as people management, project management, finance and entrepreneurship, to name a few.

In addition, MBA is an interesting alternative for those who want to be promoted, change roles, positions or departments in companies they already work in for the following reason: the chosen course is not necessarily linked to the area of ​​knowledge of the undergraduate course, but to that of professional experience.

In terms of the duration, an MBA will definitely be conducted over a two-year period if the student is enrolled as a full-time participant in the university. This period can be reduced for Executive MBAs, where students take more courses per semester and get the degree in about a year or one year and a half. An MBA can be longer if the student is working.

Regarding the structure, MBA classes are spread out during the day with breaks in between. What courses are taken depends on the students and how they choose to arrange their schedules. During the hours of the day when students are not attending classes, they usually work.  MBA is generally highly valued in the market and the selective process is demanding for those who want to enter universities and obtain this degree. While MBA courses usually offer flexibility, career enhancement and advancement opportunities, it can also come with a steep price tag. MBAs, especially in private business schools, can accumulate between $100,000 and $200,000 in expenses during a two-year period in the US, although programs at public universities offer less expensive options.

Master in Management

For those interested in understanding the difference between a Master and an MBA, it is important to know how the Master in Management course works.

Master in Management, like any other Master’s degree, is more focused on the academic area aimed at students who want to proceed with scientific activities and research in order to become professionals with a more theoretical bias, such as university professors and/or researchers. This type of Master is usually abbreviated as MiM. Masters in Management target mostly recent graduates who have little or no professional experience. MiM candidates can have less than one year of full-time postgraduate corporate work experience or less than two years in a non-business position. Thus, MiM students are typically younger than their MBA colleagues, with an average age of 23 years. By contrast, MBAs address professionals, ranging from 27 to 32 years old. 

In terms of the course structure, most Masters in Management’s don’t offer many electives and concentrate on the core courses. This does not allow students to delve deep into specialized areas like MBA students can. The duration is another point to consider: though the average course duration is about 10 months, there are Masters in Management schools which offer a more comprehensive curriculum with core courses, varied electives and specializations: such schools have MiMs which last between one year and a half or even two years.

Tuition fee is a definite plus for Masters in Management which are usually two to three times cheaper than the average MBA degree. The lower price-point of MiMs opens up a wider range of options to students who would otherwise have a more difficult time financing their business studies abroad. Tuition fees for a MiM degree can range from $3,000 to $30,000 year depending on the university, specialization and even the location. MiM courses provided by schools from the UK and the U.S. usually have higher tuition, but even the most expensive ones are usually half the price of an MBA program offered by any school worldwide.

What other options are there to prepare me professionally?

In times of Industry 4.0, innovation is omnipresent and the search for up-to-date professionals is great. Taking this scenario into account, there is nothing better than improving your skills and knowledge.

Investing in a graduate degree is important, but considering the fast-changing needs of the labor market, short courses is an interesting alternative for those who follow the evolution of companies in the digital transformation process and want to find quick ways to stand out in the market.

Today, the possibility of finding good short-term courses which prepare the student for the most diverse stages of their professional lives and also enable them to experience the job market and encourage networking is a decisive factor and an important next step to take after graduation.

Whether you are entering the job market, find yourself among those who already have extensive professional experience, hold a high position or would like to set up or already own your business, there is a wide variety of courses available nowadays that could still boost your performance. IBS Americas has been organizing short-term international programs since 2003. The programs are offered at partner universities in the United States and Europe, and classes are conducted by PhD professors with extensive market experience. You will study for 3 weeks together with students of different nationalities. To know more, check out our list of courses by clicking here.

So, did this article help you better understand the difference between a Master degree and an MBA? If you liked the content and want to know more about academic and professional life, follow IBS Americas on social networks and find more tips on how to develop yourself efficiently and stand out in the job market!