Should you study a leadership master’s degree or an MBA?

study a leadership master's
Masters Degree

Should you study a leadership master’s degree or an MBA?

Should you study a leadership master’s degree or an MBA? When you are looking into business master’s degree programs, you’ll find a lot of options to choose from. From marketing master’s degrees to leadership master’s degrees to MBA degrees, the sky’s the limit when you want to study a business master’s degree.

You might feel confused about which kind of degree you want to choose. This is especially if you want to become a manager in the future. This is kind of the goal for most business professionals!

Here’s a quick guide to help you choose between studying a leadership master’s degree and an MBA degree. This is so that the decision is easy for you to make.  

What’s the difference between Leadership and management? 

Before we go into whether you should study a leadership master’s degree or an MBA, let’s first define what leadership and management are. You might think they are the same thing. In fact, they are more like two different sides to the same coin. They complement each other, and you can’t separate them! To be successful, any company needs both leaders and managers. These are sometimes the same people and sometimes different ones.

Leaders inspire people, share goals and help people get inspired to follow them. They make other employees feel they are part of a big thing and like they truly matter. They make people feel like their efforts pay off.

On the other hand, management is more practical and focuses on planning and administrating tasks. Managers follow the vision of a leader and make sure that employees go along with that vision to achieve company goals. 

Not all leaders are great managers. Similarly, not all managers are good leaders. One person can be both a good manager and a leader. However, that isn’t a typical case, as leaders are more likely just to inspire everyone, even their managers. You don’t need to be in a top-tier role to be a leader. Though to be a manager, you do need to have the work experience and qualifications to do so.  

Read more: What’s the difference between leadership and management?

study a leadership master's degree
Students attending a business lecture.

What’s a leadership master’s degree vs an MBA?

So the next important question to ask is what a leadership master’s degree is versus an MBA degree. In this section, we discuss the difference between a leadership master’s degree and an MBA.

Leadership master’s degree focus

A leadership master’s degree teaches students to be good leaders. This is not only in business but across the board of industries. They get trained to run many organisations.

These organisations range from schools to non-profit organisations and many more. The degree focuses on understanding the human psyche and behaviour. It also involves being an excellent communicator and simply leading, even when it’s challenging to do so. 

If you study a leadership master’s degree, you’ll study to answer questions like these: 

  • How can we create an organisation that is diverse and inclusive?
  • How can challenging conversations be had in a way that is respectful and with the best possible outcomes for all?
  • How can I be respected and seen as someone empathetic and compassionate?
  • How can I create my own leadership style? 
  • What different leadership styles work best for each organisation type?  
  • What are the leadership challenges most commonly faced by leaders? 
  • How can I avoid micromanaging?

MBA Degree Focus

On the other hand, an MBA, or a master’s of business administration, allows you to build powerful management skills. The focus is different from a leadership master’s degree. This is because it focuses more on managing businesses.

It also focuses on the financial and accounting tasks required by a manager. You’ll also learn about business strategies and about the legal issues that you will face as a business manager in your professional career. 

If you choose to study an MBA, you will answer management-focused questions like the following ones: 

  • What’s a successful business, and how do businesses define success? 
  • What legal issues do managers deal with? 
  • What accounting practices do businesses follow? 
  • What are the best marketing strategies for you as a manager? 
  • How can a business get a competitive advantage and set itself apart from the crowd? 
  • How do you deal with cultural issues in international business?
  • What economic factors have the most significant roles in businesses? 

Read more: Study an MBA degree in Europe in 2023

Leadership master’s versus MBA specialisations

There are many degree programs in a leadership master’s to choose from. There are also various MBA programs available if you want to study business. There are also several specialisations you can pick from. This is whether you decide to study leadership or an MBA.

Leadership master’s specialisations

The most popular options when it comes to Leadership master’s specialisations are the following: 

  • Organisational Leadership
  • Educational Leadership  
  • Nursing Leadership  
  • Agricultural Leadership  
  • Strategic Leadership

MBA specialisations

The most popular options when it comes to MBA specialisations are the following focuses:

  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Operations
  • Supply chain
  • General business 
  • Information Technology Management
  • Project Management  
  • Design Management  
  • Healthcare Management
  • Engineering Management  
  • International Hotel Management  

Read more: What’s the difference between leadership and management?

Leadership master’s versus MBA courses 

There are also specific degree courses studied by each course, whether it’s a leadership master’s program or an MBA. Each school sets their own curriculum and course list. However, there are general common courses offered during a leadership master’s program or MBA program. 

Leadership master’s courses

Common courses during a leadership master’s program might be some of the following:

  • Leadership Fundamentals
  • Leading Teams
  • Ethical Leadership
  • Global Leadership
  • Leadership Communication
  • Conflict and Adversity
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Cross-Cultural Leadership
  • Strategic Analysis and Decision Making
  • Strategic Planning 
  • Leadership Styles
  • Personal Leadership 
  • Conflict Negotiation and Resolution 

MBA master’s courses

Common courses you might study during an MBA master’s program might be some of the following:

  • Business Environment
  • Applied Finance
  • Business Models
  • Financial Analysis and Reporting
  • Operations Analysis and Control
  • Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility
  • Strategic Management
  • Presentation Skills
  • Global Marketing
  • Business & Law 
  • Global Business 
  • Management Analytics 
  • Managerial and Financial Accounting

Read more: Best online MBA programs for 2023

Skills developed with a Leadership master’s or MBA degree

When you choose to study a master’s degree in a business field like leadership or an MBA, you’ll develop some essential skills. This is whether you go on to become a manager or just a leader. Important skills include communication skills, both verbal and written communication skills. For example, you need to be able to send a professional email and communicate well in a team meeting.

They also learn presentation skills, especially in leadership master’s degrees. Managers will also learn time and people management skills. These skills are critical to the job.

Other important skills for both master’s degree types are problem-solving, delegation, managing feedback, strategic thinking and mentoring. Because leaders and managers both work closely with people, interpersonal skills are the most critical ones to develop. Without interpersonal skills, you can’t be a good manager or leader. 

Read more: Top 8 Skills Required to Become a doctor

Career options following a Leadership master’s or MBA 

Leadership master’s and MBA degrees both give high salaries. Unfortunately, they aren’t stable jobs. They have many responsibilities. Furthermore, they are always the first to answer critical questions in an organisation. The average master of leadership alumni earns a salary of $71,821 a year. Alumni of MBA master’s degrees earn around $88,494 a year after graduation from their program.

This difference might be due to the different job roles. For example, leadership graduates may take on nonprofit work. This typically pays them less than the managerial positions that MBA graduates often work in. However, you can be a manager no matter which master’s program you graduate from.

Leadership master’s graduates may choose to work in entrepreneurship as they are typically more creative. They also usually want to spread their vision more than MBA graduates. MBA graduates usually have a more traditional career path in mind, so you usually find them in more traditional job positions.  

Common jobs for leadership master’s degree graduates

Typical jobs for those who graduate with a leadership master’s degree are some of the following:

  • Human Resources (HR) Manager. They earn salaries of about 68,000 USD/year. 
  • Organisational Trainer. They earn around 56,700 USD/year. 
  • Executive Director at Non-Profit Organisation. These earn about 67,600 USD/year. 
  • Social Service Administrator. They earn salaries of around 56,000 USD/year. 
  • Sales Director. They earn about 100,900 USD/year. 

Common jobs for MBA master’s degree graduates

On the other side of the spectrum, those who graduate with MBA degrees tend to work in the following management positions:

  • Project Manager. They earn an average of 74,700 USD/year. 
  • Engineering Manager. They earn about 94,900 USD/year. 
  • Healthcare Administrator. These earn around 69,820 USD/year. 
  • Operations Manager. These managers earn around 66,260 USD/per year. 
  • Marketing Manager. They earn an average salary of 68,000 USD/year.  
  • Office Manager. These earn an average 48,970 USD/year. 

Best online master’s in leadership programs

After finding out the difference between the leadership master’s programs and the MBA programs, you might be interested in the best online master’s in leadership programs. If you want to study a leadership master’s, this might be a great option for you. 

Here at UniApp, we’ve rounded up for you the top 4 options for online programs: 

1. The University of Dallas in Texas

The first option is the online master’s in management at the University of Dallas in Texas. The Naveen Jindal School of Management offers this program. The school offers several online leadership master’s degrees to choose from. 

For example, a good one is the Executive Master’s of Science in Leadership and Organizational Development. This course is made up of 36 credit hours. The course teaches students the science behind how people behave in organisations. It takes students two years to complete.

The degree program has fall, spring and summer start dates. That means you’re flexible to choose the start date that is suitable for you. However, keep in mind that applicants must have five years of previous work experience to qualify for the program. They don’t additionally need GMAT/GRE scores or a minimum cutoff GPA.

Read more: So you wanna take the GMAT exam

2. Purdue University Global

Purdue University also has an online master’s of science in leadership program. The excellent program is made up of 56 credits. The program is made up of online courses that each take six weeks to be completed. An advisory board constantly updates the curriculum. 

There are 6 different concentrations you can choose from if you want to study a leadership master’s degree there. These are health care management, human resources and information technology. The remaining ones are in general leadership, organizational design and development and project management. 

3. Regent University

Third on the list is Regent University. The school offers an online master’s of the arts in leadership. The program is 33 credit hours in total. Students also have the option to choose a fast track.  If they do this, they can finish in 1 year rather than 2. 

Courses studied in the curriculum include subjects like Small Business Data Mining & Management. There’s also the option to choose a specialisation to delve into. These specialisations include Global Business Leadership & Communication, Healthcare Management and Human Resource Management.

Students might also choose to study Interdisciplinary Studies, Leadership Coaching & Mentoring, Not-for-Profit Management or Organizational Development Consulting. 

Read more: Everything you need to know about Public safety degrees

4. Arizona state university

Finally, Arizona State University also offers a great program for those who want to study a leadership master’s degree. The program master’s of applied leadership program is made up of 30 credits. It can either be an online or hybrid program. 

The program is offered through the Thunderbird School of Global Management. It aims to teach students globalised leadership skills and also prepare them for high-growth and emerging markets. Keep in mind that when applying, those with at least 2 years of working experience will have an advantage. 

Should I choose a leadership master’s degree or an MBA degree? 

In conclusion, you might not know which degree you should choose to pursue for your master’s degree. They both give a great background in business and leading others, but have a different focus. If you still don’t know which you want to pursue, you can ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Am I sure about what I want to do with my career? If no, keep your options open and study a leadership master’s degree. 
  • Do you want to be a manager in a business corporation? If yes, go for an MBA degree. If you don’t know where you want to work, choose a leadership master’s instead. 
  • Do you want to become a high level manager and build upon skills you already have? If yes, go for an MBA master’s degree. 
  • Are you interested in marketing, finance and economics? If yes, choose an MBA program to study. If you’re more interested in the human aspects and people then leadership is the right choice for you. 

These are all questions to answer, among many others to help you figure out which degree type you want to pursue. If you are still on the fence, reach out to an expert at Uniapp who can mentor you and help make the decision easy peasy lemon squeezy!

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