1. How do universities train MBA students differently from MS students? Statistics and quantitative reasoning are vital parts of the MBA as analytics have become crucial to many aspects of business. In what sense does an MS in Statistics have better training in analytics than an MBA?

  2. How do MBAs add value to a person's career? Is their broad (if not deep) command of statistics, economics, finance, etc., the reason behind their astronomical salaries? Is there specific training that makes them 'managerial'? If yes, what is that training?

  • 1
    Broad question. Can you focus it to something like "How does an MBA in X (say Finance) differ from an M.S. in X (say Quantitative Finance)? Perhaps focussing will reduce the answer to searching through a few course catalogues.
    – mac389
    Commented Jul 5, 2015 at 14:14
  • 2
    MBA, as its name indicates, is training in specific business management skills. An MS is training in another set of skills They differ in the same way that an MS In EE differs from a MS in Anthropology.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jul 5, 2015 at 14:34
  • What do you mean by analytics? Your question stem hints that it is a field in statistics, but I have seen it used in the context of machine learning and decision support. I don't want to seem like I'm picking at semantics, just want to understand better part of your comparison.
    – mac389
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 23:47

4 Answers 4


An important aspect of MBA training that I haven't seen mentioned in other answers is networking. A huge amount of getting things done is business is about networking, and while you will not find a formal course on networking in an MBA program, most good MBA programs will have a lot of networking events and opportunities connected with them. MBA students are also often grouped together in cohorts or otherwise treated much more as a unified group of students than MS students. All of this adds up to a very important extra-curricular curriculum component that is often a key differentiator for success or failure after business school, and is largely neglected in the more technically focused track of MS students.

  • Exactly, from what I gathered the purpose of MBAs is almost exclusively networking. The content is irrelevant. Prestigious, expensive MBAs attract influential people from companies successful enough to afford the tuition. Very useful to have in your address book if you plan to climb the management ladder.
    – Cape Code
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 8:06

I believe an accurate rephrasing of your question is Why do some MBAs make so much?

The upper decile of MBA holders surely earns more than the upper decile of those with a MSc, although that is my educated guess. I, similarly, wager that the average MSc earns more than the average MBA.

I am not sure that an MBA derives its value from content, nor am I alone in that view point (See what a graduate and the FT say.) An MBA allows for powerful networking, especially if you already have a powerful network to barter with.

As to the content, A Master's in Business Administration (MBA) differs from a Master's in Science (MSc) in many ways:

  1. Curriculum: MBA classes do not cover technical subjects in as much depth as MS classes. An MBA student may take one class in financial economics that involves no calculus or concepts from analysis. An MSc student would take at least two courses, involving higher math and perhaps computer simulations.
  2. Point in career: An MBA is a terminal degree in business, inasmuch as degrees matter in business. An MSc can be a terminal degree in engineering and computer science. In math or economics the terminal degree is a PhD and one picks up an MSc along the way.
  3. Point in career (2): An MBA is supposed to be acquired after substantial work experience. Many pursue an MSc shortly after undergraduate education.
  • CS has phd as a terminal degree I think.
    – simonzack
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 22:38
  • I didn't say MSc is the only terminal degree in Computer Science. Edited to make that clearer.
    – mac389
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 23:41

This largely depends on the type of MS degree. An MBA is geared towards business. A graduate from a MBA program should be able to immediately apply his or her learning to a business environment.

MS degrees differ. Some are geared towards research, requiring a student to write a thesis. Others require only classwork. A MS degree in statistics that emphasizes research may not discuss how to use statistics to make business decisions. That MS degree may, instead, teach the mathematical underpinnings of statistical tests or how to analyze data. Data, here, means not just stocks or inventory, but time series in general.

One can leverage a quantitative research background into a lucrative career in business. I have known a few physicists who are well paid for their knowledge of mathematics, programming, or thinking processes, all valuable in a business setting but not taught in MBA classes.


From an educational stand point, a Master's degree in a specific discipline is not much different from an MBA degree, in that they both are Master level degrees. There is one caveat, though: Master of Science (MS) degrees are, naturally, focused on scientific research, whereas MBA degree is not. The consequences of that distinction can be found in different structures of academic programs as well as the typical requirement of a thesis or a similar major project for an MS degree. Those Master's degrees that do not use the MS designation are usually referred to as professional Master's degrees.

Now on to the core of your question. In it, stating the importance of analytics for business, you are making an IMHO unfounded implied assumption that analytics is vital for business. There is a big difference between being important and being vital. While analytics and data-driven decision making are, certainly, important (more or less, depending on the industry, business type, size and other factors), I would argue that, in general and by the very definition, having excellent business knowledge, skills and experience is more vital to a business than the same traits in analytics department. In other words, MBA holders potentially have a more significant and immediate effect on a business' performance and other results, than data-focused professionals. The former are "closer to the bottom line", so to speak.

For a case in point, an anecdotal example of Warren Buffett and his Berkshire Hathaway company. It is a well-known fact that computers and computer-based data analytics are almost unused by the company and, especially its boss, Mr. Buffett. However, that fact clearly does not preclude the company from achieving its tremendous growth and overall business success. Therefore, that is done by applying mostly general and specific business knowledge, skills and experience, rather than modern analytical approaches and tools.

Note that above, when referring to knowledge, skills and experience, I used the word "excellent", which, usually (but often unfairly!), implies that MBA graduates are top business schools. Therefore, their higher salaries on average, when compared with similar graduates from analytics, data science or similar MS programs. If we would consider graduates from both MS and MBA programs from programs beyond top tier, the latter not only will not have "astronomical salaries", but, AFAIK, their salaries (especially, starting) will be lower than narrow technical professionals, graduated from MS programs.

As for specific training for MBA graduates that "makes them managerial", certainly MBA programs offer specialized managerial courses (i.e., strategy, marketing, accounting), which are simply typically not offered in MS programs (or, are optional and significantly more limited). Hence, naturally, more significance of MBA graduates to business results and, thus, higher financial compensation (again, I imply here only top tier MBA graduates and their starting salaries).

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