MS or MBA – Which Program to choose ?


MS or MBA – Which Program to choose ?

If you struggle to choose between MS and MBA programs from US universities, you are not alone. It seems as easy a choice as it could be but one should consider all aspects before taking the decision. We would like to share our opinion on this matter.


First, think about your own career aspirations and figure out what motivates you the most. It could be money, fame, power or pure academic or industry specific work. Look into the particular industry that you are interested in and find out a few people who you aspire to be one day. Check out their profiles on social media (linkedin et. al.) and see their career paths.


Second, given a chance, what kind of work you would like to do day after day. Do you have a detail oriented, very practical and problem solving kind of personality or are you more like a big picture thinker, a natural leader influencing others without authority and seamlessly delegating tasks to get the job done ? There is no direct linkage of the answers to these questions to MS or MBA. But answering these questions will make your selection easier. MS is getting a master, a deep expertise in a particular area of science (say as Analytics, Computer science, Neuroscience etc. al.) whereas MBA is getting the breadth of the knowledge of running a business across many streams including but not limited to finance, Marketing, Operations, IT, HR, Entrepreneurship and so on. The depth Vs breadth question is a big part of your decision process. Nevertheless, the MBA program also provides specializations in one or more streams, but data shows that people doing MBA never take as many intense focus classes as people in MS are forced to do. 


Third, Prior Work experience is a big plus while selecting MBA as your next educational goal. The MBA selection process is fundamentally more competitive than the MS selection. There are prerequisites and fundamental concepts in many areas of the corporate world, the MBA schools would expect you to know. So the profile of the MBA class and selection process evolve a lot around the average number of years of work experience and the industry involved. If you just completed  your undergraduate degree, you might want to give MS a higher weightage. Considering MBA later in the career after doing MS and a few years of job is a smart choice that many industry leaders have been following.


Fourth, one’s financial situation also plays a crucial role selecting the right program in US universities. Getting a scholarship from MBA schools is a lot harder than getting that from MS programs. MBA programs are more expensive than MS programs. For example, A 2 year MBA from a mid level school would cost you from $60K to $110K whereas a 2 year MS from a mid level school would cost you from $45K to $80K. If you are not financially stable and you have less chances to get approved for a financial loan, this could be another factor to choose MS over MBA.


Fifth, if you are a foreign student applying to the US, you need to consider the work authorization rules and regulations after your education is complete. MBA programs are generally non-STEM programs that allow you to work for any corporation in the US for a period of ~1 year. MS programs are all STEM related which allows you to work for ~2 years. This is a big difference to consider as it gives you a bit more flexibility to win over your first manager and employer to sponsor your H1B visa. You will also have a few more chances for H1B visa lottery service. 


MS or MBA – it’s a hard choice. But once you go through the above 5 questions and be honest to yourself, you will have no second thought. If You need more help and need a second opinion, we are here to help, please contact us.


Decisioning Criteria Recommendation for MS Vs MBA


Decisioning Criteria



What’s  your career aspiration or What motivates you the most ?

Money, Power, Fame, Innovation, Owning Intellectual Property

Heavy (30 to 40%)

What kind of work do you like to do day to day ? (more detail oriented or more abstract – big picture thinker) 

Analytical, Leadership, problem Solving, Strategy

Low (5 to 10%)

Do you have any corporate world work experience ?

Yes (# Years), No 

Medium (10 to 20%)

How financially stable are you ?

Self Vs Family Sponsorship Vs Financing

Low (5 to 10%)

Do you need work authorization & sponsorship to work in the US after your graduation ?

STEM Vs Non-STEM program

Medium (10 to 20%)