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Online Degrees

Part of Western Governors University

March 25, 2019


Is the MBA or the MSML right for me?


Many prospective WGU students struggle with this question asking themselves:

●      Should I enroll in the MBA or the Masters in Management and Leadership (MSML)?

●      What are the differences between the MBA and MSML?

●      Which program supports my career goals?

Although similar in many ways, there are some big differences between the MBA and MSML programs. Both will help you gain management experience that can be applied immediately in a business environment. Both will also help you be successful in many different areas in the business field. Depending on what your goals and aspirations are and the direction you want your career to go, both will help you get there and achieve your goals. First, let’s begin by exploring the MBA, then we’ll take a look at the MSML. 

What Do You Learn in the MBA Program?

The MBA focuses on operations management and quantitative skills in accounting, finance, and economics. This program will benefit anyone who wants to further develop their knowledge of business, management, and strategy. The MBA curriculum also includes the principles of effective management and leadership and incorporates teamwork, development, and simulations to help students master the knowledge and skills necessary to qualify for department management and even executive positions — or to start their own successful business. The MBA may be more attractive to you if you are working in or interested in more quantitative areas of business like finance, economics, or accounting. The MBA capstone project challenges students to work in teams of three or four to simulate running a business, using what they’ve learned in the program and applying it to a real-world situation.

What Do You Learn in the MSML Program?

The MSML program focuses more on developing the comprehensive managerial and leadership skills needed to execute organizational change, drive strategic initiatives, and develop high-performance teams. The MSML helps students accomplish these objectives in their workplace by teaching them leadership theory and ethics, business acumen, leading teams, and strategic and tactical change management. Graduates of the MSML program possess the skills needed to become qualified, capable leaders—managers who inspire, mentor, model a strong culture, and drive employee satisfaction as well as performance. To acquire the interpersonal, strategic, and leadership skills required to manage strong, effective business teams, many experienced professionals choose to pursue a master’s degree in management and leadership rather than a masters of business administration (MBA), which typically focuses on a more traditional analytical approach to business management. 

There are many courses that are shared between the MBA and MSML program.  In fact, once you earn either the MBA or MSML, you can reenroll in the other program. You are able to transfer in the shared courses making it possible to earn the second degree by completing six additional courses. Please refer to the graphics below to see the specific courses required for both programs.  Evaluating the courses within each program, may help you decide which program suits you best.  

MBA/MSML Shared Courses

  • Managing Organizations and Leading People
  • Managing Human Capital
  • Management Communication
  • Ethical Leadership

MBA Specific Courses

  • Operations Management
  • Global Economics for Managers
  • Marketing
  • Accounting for Decision Makers
  • Financial Management
  • MBA Capstone
  • Data-Driven Decision Making

MSML Specific Courses

  • Business Acumen
  • Becoming an Effective Leader
  • Leading Teams
  • Change Management and Innovation
  • Strategic Management
  • Management and Leadership Capstone

The graphic below will give you an idea of the opportunities available to MBA and MSML Graduates:

Positions in the MBA field include:

  • Chief Executive Officer
  • Executive Director
  • International Business Development
  • Operations Manager

Positions in the MSML field include:

  • Top Executive (CEO, CFO, and COO)
  • Human Resources Manager/Director
  • Emergency Management Director
  • People Leader

Whichever degree you choose, there will be a wide variety of career opportunities open to you. Either the MBA or MSML degree from WGU can help you achieve your goals. Whether your goals relate to finance with a more quantitative focus or on leading people and managing innovation and change—it really just depends on your experience, your interests, and where you envision yourself in the future.

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