There are several similarities between the Master of Business Administration (MBA) and the Master of Public Administration (MPA):
- Both are advanced professional degrees that provide the skills required to lead organizations
- Both degrees include coursework in finance, operational management and organizational behavior.
The most significant difference between the MPA and MBA degrees is the career path that graduates pursue. MBA programs prepare graduates for roles as managers and executives in the private sector, while MPA programs focus on management and policy-making positions in the public sector.
MBA programs cover a broad spectrum of subject related to private business management, with an emphasis on economics and finance. Subjects covered include:
There are also several areas of specialization to choose from, such as international business, real estate and entrepreneurship. MBA students are prepared to lead retail, manufacturing, banking and financial organizations where profit generation is the primary goal. They are not prepared to create or implement public policy.
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In order to prepare graduates for careers in government and nonprofit organizations, MPA programs cover topics in:
- Public policy
- Research methods
- Human resource management
- Economic development
- Budget processing
- Administrative law
Students acquire the knowledge and skills needed to serve as program administrators for governments, schools, health agencies and service organizations. They also are prepared to run for political office at the local, state or national level. Individuals working in public service organizations must make trade-offs between public goals and demands that go far beyond the concern for profitability that guides most businesses. MPA programs train students to work effectively in complex environments and address the competing needs of citizens, governments and politicians.
Students who are more interested in working towards the public good than in contributing to the bottom line of a private enterprise will find an MPA degree is more in line with their career goals. MBA graduates are hired to increase the profits of individual companies, while MPAs are needed to make public organizations more effective. Before enrolling in either an MBA or MPA programs, students should assess their personal goals and interests, and decide which career path will be most satisfying.
Financial and Career Outlook Comparisons Both MBA and MPA degrees typically take two years to complete. In general, MPA programs have lower tuition fees than business schools. Students seeking financial aid will find that more funding is available for MPA degrees. In addition to scholarships offered by private foundations, there are student loan forgiveness programs that cancel loan debt in exchange for a few years of public service employment. Because MBA graduates often move into high-paying corporate careers, there are fewer loan forgiveness opportunities available. According to Public Service Careers, MPA graduates benefit from greater long-term career flexibility. MPA graduates can move between public and private sector employment with relative ease, while MBA graduates tend to work in the private sector for their entire careers.