Four Things to Consider When Choosing Between an MBA and an MA in Leadership

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According to a study by OC Tanner, 79% of employees who quit their jobs cite a lack of appreciation as a reason for quitting. Poor leadership doesn’t just affect the bottom line of an organization; it affects the day-to-day lives of real employees.

Good leaders have more than people skills and charisma. They’re typically great self-managers, enjoy setting and achieving goals, and can learn quickly and think analytically. Some people may be “natural leaders,” but even the most natural leader has plenty to learn.

A Master’s degree can give you a clear path to expanding your skill set and turning those skills into leadership and management positions. But which advanced degree should you choose? Which one will prepare you to be the best leader you can be?

Students returning to school after spending time in the workforce have a lot of options when it comes to degree types, schools, programs, and even specializations within those degree programs. Two popular programs that professionals typically enter for a career boost or to facilitate a career switch are a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and a Master of Arts in Leadership Studies (MA in Leadership).

Differences Between an MBA and an MA in Leadership

While both an MBA and an MA in Leadership will make you a more marketable employee, it’s important to understand the differences between the two so that you can choose the program that will best put you on the road to achieving your goals.

How the coursework differs

An MBA is an all-encompassing business administration degree, and you’ll learn more than just management and leadership skills.

In short, during an MBA program you will learn everything you need to know to run a business at a high level, from the basics of finance and accounting to sales and analysis. An MBA focuses on hard skills, like accounting, marketing, economics and corporate decision making.

An MA in Leadership is more focused on the soft skills involved in leadership, and you will learn how to be an effective, compassionate, and competent leader.

While it’s not as broad as an MBA, an MA in Leadership offers a more in-depth education in leadership and mentoring, especially when it comes to managing teams and organizations through difficult transitions like mergers, digital transformation, and restructuring.

Who benefits from each degree type?

An MBA is a great choice for those who want to start their own business, make a career change, or move up the corporate ladder. Because of the breadth of skills learned, it makes a lot of sense for people moving along an entrepreneurial path or who are interested in working towards an executive position.

When it comes to an MA in Leadership, the skills learned during the program are more beneficial for people who are interested in the human capital aspect of management. Individuals who move through this program are prepared to lead individuals, teams, and organizations effectively and efficiently. These kinds of graduates make great team leaders and departmental heads.

What specializations are available?

Schools that offer MBA and MA in Leadership programs often offer specializations for their students that can prepare them for more specific career paths.

Depending on what skills you’re hoping to gain from an MBA program, there are a variety of specializations that you can take advantage of, usually related to fields like accounting, finance, entrepreneurship, healthcare, or marketing.

These specialty programs give you an in-depth education on running a business in a specific field and are a wonderful fit for those who are already established in a certain career field or have a clear idea of the industry they want to move into.

Students hoping to gain specialized industry skills through their MA in Leadership program can find degree paths for areas like organizational leadership and higher education.

While there are definitely skills that are universal to being a good leader, pursuing a specialized MA in Leadership will prepare you to lead people through the challenges unique to your chosen industry.

What jobs will be available to graduates?

While there is some overlap in the jobs available to MBA and MA in Leadership graduates, each degree prepares its recipients for different responsibilities.

MBA graduates are well-suited for starting or running a business, and many business executives are MBA holders. MBAs are also a good option for people who want to move into a middle management or c-suite position at their current company, especially if those positions involve working with different departments, clients, or outside stakeholders.

MBA holders have an advantage over those without the degree because of their ability to use business intelligence coupled with strategic analysis to make bottom-line decisions and are often sought out because of their acumen for financial results.

After getting an MBA, graduates can expect to find jobs in fields like project management, marketing and brand management, financial management, or consulting.

An MA in Leadership is an excellent foundation for those who are interested in people-centric jobs, like human resources or corporate training. Because these jobs require you to work closely with people and help them through difficult or frustrating situations, the skills learned in an MA in Leadership program are especially applicable. However, executive and management positions are also possibilities for MA in Leadership holders as they require the ability to see the big picture and lead people through changes and challenges.

After getting an MA in Leadership, graduates have a more varied job market open to them since leadership is an important part of any business or organization. Jobs such as strategic planner, project manager, religious leader, sales director, and hospital administrator all have a strong leadership component.

Concordia University Chicago’s Master of Arts in Leadership program will teach you the core qualities of a good leader and help you learn everything that you need to step into that role. An MA in Leadership won’t just prepare you to evaluate your team’s metrics; it will teach you to be a leader who can connect with, manage, and advocate for your team and give them the opportunity to do their best work.

Visit the individual program pages using the menu above or contact us for more information and to find out if this program is right for you.


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