Suppose you are considering pursuing an advanced business degree to prepare for a management or executive position. In that case, you might have a decision ahead: Should you earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Arts in organizational leadership (MAOL)?
To choose a path, you must first ask yourself: Where do I want to go in my career?
Only you can determine your career goals, and it’s only natural to be a little unsure as you start your career journey. First, let’s look at what each degree entails. Then, we can consider what each degree might mean for your career.
An MBA is designed to create well-rounded business leaders who understand all the aspects of running a business — such as finance, accounting, marketing, planning, and decision-making — and how all those pieces fit together.
- It shows employers that you’re familiar with the components and activities that help organizations run efficiently and effectively.
- It provides experiential learning and collaboration opportunities.
- It helps you develop a professional network.
In general, people who have earned a bachelor’s degree in business and have garnered some experience in the business world are suited for an MBA program. An MBA helps students hone their planning, communication, and project development skills while expanding on the technical aspects of business learned as an undergraduate.
An undergraduate degree in a business area may be helpful for those earning an MBA, but it is certainly not a prerequisite. And an MBA is suitable for those who have just completed their undergraduate degree, as well as those who have several years’ experience in the workplace.
The MAOL, like the MBA, is very helpful in business settings but has a sharp focus on leadership. MAOL programs at designed to help professionals develop a personal leadership style that supports workers to active organizational goals in real-world settings. That includes education in areas such as communication, strategic thinking, and motivation. There is a strong psychological component in an MAOL education — in fact, Florida Tech’s MAOL program is offered through the School of Psychology.
If you pursue an MAOL, you can expect a thorough grounding in the leadership techniques of successful executives. Many MAOL graduates become human resources managers, training and development managers, postsecondary education administrators, and similar types of professionals.
You don’t need an undergraduate degree in a specific area to enter an MAOL program. And, just like with the MBA, it doesn’t matter if you want to enter the program right after earning your undergraduate degree or after a few years in the workplace.
Which is Right for You?
The MBA-versus-MAOL decision used to be easy: If you wanted to focus solely on business functions, you chose the MBA, and if you wanted to focus on leadership, you chose the MAOL.
But that decision isn’t as easy today.
The business world is evolving rapidly, so many historical distinctions between business functions are becoming blurred. As a professional, no matter which degree you pursue, you’ll be expected to collaborate with others, be an effective manager and leader, understand business operations, read and write reports, analyze data, develop and execute strategy, and make timely, fact-based decisions.
Today, the MBA-versus-MAOL decision is more personal than ever before. It’s not an either/or equation and, for many, there may be no right answer. As you reflect on your career goals, imagine the business role you want to have in five, 10, or 15 years from now. Which degree is most likely to lead you in that direction? Is it one that looks mainly at the practical side of operating a business or one that considers things such as psychology and leadership theory? No matter which degree you choose, you can gain the skills, knowledge and confidence to make a meaningful impact on the success of an organization.