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Baker Online

The Difference Between an MBA and Master’s in Organizational Leadership


Matthew R. Bice, PhD

Dean of Graduate and Online Education

MBA vs Master’s in Organizational Leadership


If you want to create influence in the world of business, you have several master’s degree options to choose from. But what’s the difference between an MBA and a master’s in organizational leadership?

Many prospective students who want to build powerful business careers compare an MBA to a master’s in organizational leadership. On the surface, these two degrees may seem to offer similar benefits, but key differences can help students decide between MBA career paths or careers in organizational leadership.

Master of Business Administration

One difference between an MBA and master’s in organizational leadership is found in the skills these degrees help you develop. An MBA is designed to build the specialized business talent that organizations need from their senior-level managers and directors.

If you want to lead business operations—from data analysis and marketing management to strategy and sales—then, when comparing an MBA vs master’s, an MBA can deliver the necessary analytical, organizational, and management capabilities.

Another difference between an MBA and master’s in organizational leadership is that many MBA programs offer the opportunity to focus on a specific area to build business skills to tailor your career.

With Baker University’s MBA program, for example, students can choose from eight MBA concentration areas to personalize their MBA career paths:

  • Data analytics
  • Finance
  • Health care administration
  • Human resource management
  • Strategic management
  • Supply chain management and logistics
  • Transformational studies
  • Venture and innovation development

Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership

In a leadership-focused program, you’ll build coveted skills to take innovative approaches that promote creativity and teamwork; facilitate organizational diversity; support group problem-solving; and inspire, motivate, and encourage people to achieve business goals.

This degree prepares you to lead change, motivate teams, resolve conflict, run valuable negotiations, and ensure effective communication among different groups.

As you study the theories of leadership, change, and organizational behavior; the difference between management and leadership; and how to use technology in leadership, you’ll develop critical thinking skills to promote originality and collaboration.

Curriculum Differences: MBA vs Master’s in Organizational Leadership

Master of Business Administration

MBA coursework is built to address the way business works today—and how it will work in the future. With this degree, you get an inside look at how leading companies operate and innovate and understand what it takes to make business better.

You’ll spend time examining many different business fundamentals, including accounting, finance, marketing, organizational behavior, economics, management, and ethics—and how these areas affect one another.

If you choose an MBA concentration area, then your coursework will also include electives that take a deeper dive into the specialization you choose. For example, if you choose an MBA in supply chain management, then you’ll study logistics, planning, procurement, distribution, and supply chain flows.

Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership

When comparing an MBA vs master’s in organizational leadership, courses for organizational leadership build skills, strategies, and tools that prepare you to take on expanded leadership responsibilities and direct people toward goals and positive change.

Programs that lead to careers in organizational leadership typically begin by teaching leadership fundamentals and then build from there, taking you to design and implementation of a leadership project of your own.

Courses help you develop your skills on the human side of the business, from coaching and mentoring to conflict resolution.

A graduate degree in organizational leadership is adaptable, equipping you with competencies that apply in nearly any type of career or industry in a corporate and community leadership role.

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MBA Career Paths

An MBA is a credential that boosts your business career in many ways. It qualifies you for new job titles, enhances career prospects, and makes you a frontrunner for high-level business roles by giving you an edge over the competition.

The skills you build can easily transfer to several roles and types of businesses. When considering an MBA vs master’s in organizational leadership, many organizations expect incoming high-level leaders to have an MBA degree—or commit to earning one. If an organization needs someone to manage business, then it needs someone with an MBA instead of a master’s in organizational leadership.

There are many viable MBA career paths for graduates. After earning this degree, you’ll be qualified for roles that involve the creation of strategic business plans, managing and overseeing business operations, innovatively solving business problems, and implementing process change.

Careers in Organizational Leadership

All organizations rely on people—and those people need someone to set direction, inspire and motivate, and create a vision. With this degree, you’ll be ready for careers in organizational leadership that allow you to empower, coach, and guide others through challenging and successful times.

When comparing careers for an MBA vs master’s in organizational leadership, careers in organizational leadership are a great fit for professionals who can articulate goals and inspire success through communication, collaboration, and strategy.

The opportunities are nearly endless when it comes to careers in organizational leadership, with every industry looking for leaders who can encourage people at all levels. From health care, manufacturing, and hospitality to education, technology, and retail, every field stands to benefit from leaders who can guide individuals toward the same strategic organizational goals.