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Master in Leadership vs MBA – Which is Best for your Career Goals

Masters in Leadership graduate leads a business meeting.

Executives of organizations understand that learning and leadership are two sides of one coin. It is almost impossible to have one without the other. Successful leaders in the top firms are often nimble learners who can gather information from every situation. The debate is that of earning a master’s degree in leadership versus an MBA. Both degrees are valuable and have similarities, but they do not replace each other. Let’s look at the differences, similarities, concentrations, and which best suits your career goals.

What Is a Master’s Degree in Leadership?

A master’s degree in leadership is a graduate degree specially made for those seeking to impact others and create change within an organization. It takes between one and half years to two years to complete this degree program. Typically, students from diverse backgrounds enroll in master’s degree programs. Some are individuals hoping to lead a team in the future. Others are already occupying leadership roles in their organizations.

Furthermore, students who are already leaders in an organization enroll in these programs to sharpen their leadership skills and become more effective. Others on the brink of promotion into managerial roles attend these classes to learn about the most effective leadership strategies.

Master in Leadership degree programs can be offered full-time, part-time, on-campus, and online. At the end of the school curriculum, students might have to complete a capstone project which involves developing solutions to demonstrate how they understand classroom concepts in real-world scenarios. Most universities and programs offer concentrations in Project Management, Human Resources Management, and Organizational Communication.

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Master of Leadership Degree Coursework

Master of Leadership programs focus on instilling students with core leadership skills. Students learn to lead in different capacities within organizations such as churches, schools, businesses, non-profits, and others. Instead of concentrating on accounting and finance, Master of Leadership programs pay attention to understanding human behavior, management, communication, and taking charge of complex systems.

Some of the coursework for this degree may include:

  • Ethical Leadership: Making Challenging Decisions
  • Foundations of Personal Leadership
  • Strategic Leadership and Planning
  • Leadership: Learning How to Serve
  • Conflict Negotiation and Resolution: Leading Difficult Conversations
  • Global Leadership: Leading with an Intercultural Perspective
  • Organizational Leadership

After completing the Master in Leadership Program, students should be able to:

  • Build their personal leadership styles
  • Promote inclusive and diverse organizations
  • Know the difference between micromanaging and managing well
  • Be prepared for occasional leadership challenges
  • Implement different leadership skills across various organizations
  • Have difficult conversations in a respectful and direct manner
  • Command respect from subordinates without losing a compassionate and empathetic outlook

Additionally, Master in Leadership graduates can enter roles typically reserved for MBA graduates. The main advantage is that this degree is much broader than an MBA, and graduates can work in various institutions and organizations.

What is an MBA?

An MBA (Master of Business Administration) degree appeals to business specialists. The program helps these professionals gain expansive knowledge on various business topics such as management, finance, entrepreneurship, accounting, and marketing. Full-time students can complete an MBA between two to three years, while part-time students typically have as many as seven years to earn their degree.

Students in MBA programs study experimental and scientific approaches to effective management trends, techniques, and results. They also learn about the best accounting and finance operations methods, foundational principles of marketing and entrepreneurship, and analyze how the corporate supply chain works in global and local markets. Some of the concentrations in an MBA program include Healthcare Management, Cybersecurity, Data Science, International Business, Supply Chain Management, and Technological Innovation.

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MBA Program Coursework

Students of MBA programs cultivate solid management and leadership skills. But unlike a Master of Leadership program, the focus here is more on managing businesses, plus the accounting and financial realities involved.

Some of the coursework in an MBA program include:

  • Global Business
  • Management Accounting
  • Business and Law
  • Business Essentials
  • Management Analytics
  • Marketing for the 21st Century
  • Exploring Business Strategies

At the end of an MBA program, graduates should be able to:

  • Outline the best techniques for marketing a business
  • Understand the best accounting principles for businesses
  • Define a successful business
  • Highlight the legal issues that business owners must know about
  • Point out the most effective strategies for business growth
  • Understand the cultural issues that play out in international business
  • Distinguish a business from the competition
  • Take note of the most significant economic factors that affect business outcomes

Enrolling in a master of business administration program is a great career move for professionals who are confident of venturing into business, either as C-suite executives or entrepreneurs. MBA programs provide an in-depth understanding of accounting, finance, economics, management principles, and leadership.

The Difference Between a Master’s in Leadership vs MBA

Both MBA and master’s degrees in leadership programs offer graduate training with the potential to increase employability, earnings, and management knowledge for professionals. However, there are vital differences between both programs. Professionals need to outline their career goals and go for the degree that aligns with those goals.

Some of the differences include:

  • Earnings

According to Payscale.com data, the average base salary for professionals with an MBA degree is $92,000 annually. On the other hand, Master of Leadership graduates earn an average of $108,000 per annum. The difference lies in the fact that Master of Leadership graduates take on a wider range of roles, including pastoral and non-profit jobs.

  • Coursework

Although both degrees offer multiple courses on leadership and management, Master of Leadership programs concentrate on leadership principles. MBA programs incorporate economics, marketing, finance, and other business essentials. Because of this specialized training, it is common to find MBA graduates in niche roles such as accountant and marketing manager.

  • Human and Organizational Behavior

A Master of Business Administration program hinges on general management principles. In contrast, a Master of Leadership program seeks to understand the rationale behind the same principles. Master in Leadership programs explore organizational dynamics, interpersonal psychology, and cultural influence on businesses, among other topics.

  • Personal Interests

Both degrees work for individuals with a strong leaning toward management and leadership. However, an MBA highlights management and leadership skills in other business-related fields. On the other hand, Master of Leadership degrees seek to develop students’ management and leadership skills.

  • Job Opportunities

Graduates of both degrees can fill many crossover roles, the most common being the CEO position. However, graduates of Master of Leadership degrees have a broader focus. They can take positions in government, churches, community organizations, and non-profit organizations.

  • Terminal Degree

Another difference between both degrees is that an MBA is a terminal degree most of the time. A terminal degree is usually the highest degree a professional student can earn in a professional or academic field. On the other hand, professionals who complete a master’s degree in leadership can earn a doctorate or even another master’s degree in a different subject area. Alternatively, terminal degree holders can also enroll in Master of Leadership programs. They do this to enhance their knowledge of administrative roles. For example, it is common to see doctors enroll in a Master of Leadership degree program when switching to healthcare administration.

Similarities Between Master of Leadership and MBA

Employers are always scouting for candidates willing to learn and who have gained the skills and knowledge required for top management positions. Both MBA and Master of Leadership degrees prove that the candidate is armed with the requisite knowledge and skills to manage at the top levels.

The most significant similarity between both degrees is that graduates are eligible to take on executive and managerial roles. Irrespective of the degree, graduates can display their interpersonal, critical thinking, and communication skills.

Master in Leadership vs MBA Career Paths

It is easy to notice the overlap between both degrees because they offer in-depth management and leadership training.

Careers Paths for MBA Graduates

Students who seek a career in business will fare better with an MBA degree. These are some of the popular career paths for MBA graduates:

Career Paths for Master in Leadership Graduates

Master of Leadership graduates can pursue the same roles as MBA graduates. Still, the program also prepares them for broader prospects, including:

  • Government positions such as city manager, policy expert, and elected official
  • Director, CEO, or founder of non-profit organizations
  • Church leadership positions such as board member, elder, or pastor
  • Art organizations’ leadership (e.g., museums)
  • Executive board members in schools

Factors to Consider Before Choosing a Master in Leadership vs. an MBA

Both degrees provide excellent training for any individual who desires to lead others. If you’re not still sure which degree is right for you, here are some factors to consider when choosing between a Master in Leadership vs an MBA:

  • Career Path – Professionals who want to keep their options open can pursue a Master of Leadership degree. However, if you are business-oriented, an MBA is the best choice.
  • Interests – Individuals interested in economics, marketing, and finance should consider an MBA. Those with interests in the human aspects of leadership can consider a Master of Leadership degree.
  • Location – Before venturing into any master’s degree program, individuals have to consider what kind of jobs are available in their location, their earning expectations, and the average salary. They should also consider the employment rate for both degrees in their area.
  • Current Job – Anyone seeking to earn a master’s degree should consider their current role and if a specific degree can help them move up the professional ladder. Anyone with aspirations for the upper echelons of leadership in a business can go for an MBA. In other organizations, a Master of Leadership might be right. It is also essential to speak to other professionals with either degree to get an insight into what is obtainable.

Master’s Degree in Leadership Careers

There are so many career opportunities for those with a master’s degree in leadership. Some of the most attractive careers are at the C-suite level. These jobs help to give professionals visibility and relevance within and outside their associations. Some of these job titles include:

C-Level Executive

Professionals with a master’s degree in leadership are qualified to take C-level executive roles in organizations. Sometimes called C-suite executives, these professionals are at the top level and in charge of departments or units. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the highest C-level role and the highest position within a company. Other C-level executives include the Chief Operating Officer (COO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), and Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO). CEOs earn an average of $156,413 yearly.

Human Resource Manager

Human Resource Managers (HRM) are essential in the corporate environment, and they can work in almost any industry. These professionals are in charge of recruiting staff, designing job roles, and managing personnel. People are the most significant resources in workplaces, so they must be well-managed for maximum output. Human Resource Managers (HRM) shape and build the office culture and monitor employee relations. They are responsible for ensuring a positive work environment, developing HR strategies, and maintaining payment and benefits plans. Human Resource Managers (HRM) make an average annual income of $69,585, and senior HRM professionals earn an average of $93,133.

Staff Officer

Most times, people assume that the primary duty of a staff officer is to transmit the orders of their superiors, but the job is more than that. As a staff officer, you provide updates to team leads and the management at set intervals. The position also entails developing policies and procedures, managing conference room schedules, and sometimes representing superiors at planning conferences. Staff officers are responsible for solving performance issues in the managerial system and providing reports. These reports could be information papers, executive summaries, work summaries, and presentations.

Community Service Manager

Many organizations hold social service programs in their host communities, and community service managers coordinate these programs. These professionals have to communicate with the community members and superiors to organize programs. In addition to that, this job has an administrative aspect. They analyze and determine how effective a service program is and then implement changes to improve the program. Apart from having a master’s degree in leadership, this job requires individuals with analytical, communication, and managerial skills. On average, these professionals earn $50,971 yearly.

Administrative Supervisor

Administrative supervisors mainly work in companies or organizations with many employees. As the job title suggests, they supervise entry-level and sometimes mid-level administrative employees. They provide guidance, serve as mentors, and coordinate the daily activities of these administrative employees. Administrative supervisors should have the clerical or supervisory experience to properly understand and perform their jobs. Administrative supervisors earn up to $55,089 annually.

MBA Careers

According to Indeed, MBAs are the most popular graduate degrees, and it is easy to see why. An MBA degree is flexible and prepares students for business analysis and management roles. These are some roles that require an MBA degree:

Financial Analyst

Financial analysts work in banks, pension funds, insurance companies, and other financial organizations to carry out financial analysis, financial planning, and forecast future revenues. They analyze and consolidate organizational financial data like budgets, accounts, and financial statements. Financial analysts carry out analyses and submit reports on the organization’s financial status. Additionally, they are responsible for developing economic models, observing trends, and advising the company. Senior financial analysts work directly with the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) in many organizations.

Business Operations Manager

Business operations managers are responsible for managing resources in a company and making the entire operations process more streamlined and straightened. They design and execute the company’s operational objectives. Sometimes, the job title falls under Chief Operations Officer (COO) or Operations Director. The role itself is considered a C-suite job, and the professionals report to the CEO. Business operations managers supervise money handling, implement plans and strategies to improve the company’s growth, and ensure that the company follows the best business practices. They earn up to $78,861 per annum.

Management Consultant

Some companies hire management consultants to solve management problems and help with maximizing staff performance and the organization’s growth. Management consultants conduct research on their clients and then give advice on solutions and even offer ideas. They also have to interview their client’s company staff and teams as part of the research. After interviews, they identify the issues through a series of set processes. After identifying the problem, some management consultants organize sessions with the staff to discuss their observations and how to solve the issues. For salary, marketing consultants earn a yearly average of $90,241.

Marketing Manager

MBA programs teach a lot about marketing. As a result, MBA graduates can pursue careers as marketing managers. In companies, marketing managers lead and serve as a mentor to the marketing team or department. They are responsible for drawing up elaborate plans to promote its product, business, or services. To excel in this field, professionals must be knowledgeable in marketing and how to conduct marketing research. Apart from knowledge, communication skills are vital for this role. Marketing managers have an average annual income of $67,696.

Financial Controller

A financial controller or comptroller is concerned with taking care of a firm’s financial documents like the reports, income statement, and balance sheets. These professionals supervise the daily economic activities of an organization. They are in charge of billing, company budget preparation, and publishing financial statements. Individuals with an MBA degree can pursue careers as financial controllers. Still, it is vital to have working experience in finance and accounting. On average, financial controllers make $86,734 annually.

Master in Leadership vs. MBA: Which is Best for You?

As we’ve seen, both degrees help build and strengthen professionals’ communication, management, and interpersonal skills. You must now decide which degree is best for you, considering your aspirations, interests, and career goals. An MBA can help you build business acumen to accomplish specific business goals. In contrast, a Master of Leadership prepares you for leadership positions in different industries. In the general sense, no career is better than the other. It all depends on individual choices. And the most important indices are your career goals and interests.

Only you can decide between a Master in Leadership vs an MBA. You can visit our educational resource center for more insight into the best online MBA programs, online Master of Leadership Programs, and tips to make the most out of your career.

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