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When deciding whether to pursue an MBA or a specialized master’s degree, you need to carefully consider your short- and long-term career goals. Do you want to pursue a business management career and achieve a greater leadership position in an organization? Or, do you want to become a specialist within a particular field, gaining in-depth knowledge to become an industry expert within your chosen field? These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself when considering higher levels of education.

The primary distinction between an MBA and an MS is breadth versus depth. An MBA is an internationally-recognized degree designed to develop the broad-based skills required for careers in business and management. An MS hones in on a single specialty, such as accounting, finance or business analytics. MS students typically want to focus and deepen their knowledge in a specific subject area

When it comes to the admissions process, MBA programs typically do not accept individuals with little or no professional experience because MBA students are required to draw on their own personal experience. Full-time MBA programs are best suited for students with well-defined career goals who are financially able to spend two years out of the workforce. However, if you are unsure of your career path, that lack of focus can limit the value of what you learn and what you gain from networking opportunities.

For specialized master’s degree programs, many have been designed for recent graduates who want to increase their professional expertise and marketability in a short period of time. If you are interested in pursuing a career that requires extensive training in a field such as accounting, finance, management or marketing, you may find the specialized master’s degree a great fit. Most specialized master’s degrees are generally full time, but can be done part time, and can take six-24 months. Some programs are created to build upon knowledge already garnered from professional experience, while other programs assume that you will be starting from the very beginning to learn the content, so the admissions requirements can vary.

It may seem there are endless considerations when weighing your business school options. It’s reasonable to want to make the right decision, but remember that your degree is only the first step in your long-term career success. Make sure you do your research, and then trust your instinct. Whether you choose an MBA or an MS degree, it’s how you use the education and the connections you develop that will be larger factors in whether you reach your career goals and what your return on investment will be after you graduate.