Aerial view of the LSU Campus

MBA vs. MPA Programs

Newsroom | Articles May 20, 2022
Business Woman Working

MBA vs. MPA Programs: Similarities and Differences

When deciding on the next step for your career, an advanced degree can increase your options. More specifically, a master’s degree in administration provides you with a distinct advantage in the job market, especially when seeking a higher-level management position. Certain degrees, like a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Public Administration (MPA), can contribute to specific career goals. There are several similarities and differences between these two degrees, but the primary difference is in each degree’s focus on the private versus public sector.

What is an MBA?

An MBA program focuses on providing students with a comprehensive understanding of business fundamentals, such as management, economics, finance, and marketing. The degree is one of the most popular graduate degrees for students who desire to work in the private sector. Such popularity is due, in part, to the fact that MBAs provide a large amount of career flexibility. Graduates can typically find jobs in most industries, and several programs equip students to become leaders in almost any part of the world.

What Will I Learn in an MBA program?

Topics covered in an MBA program can include the following:

  • Data Analytics
  • Information Technology
  • Energy
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Healthcare Management
  • Human Resource Management
  • Internal Auditing
  • Management Consulting
  • Nonprofit Management
  • Sports Business
  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • International Business
  • Marketing
  • Project Management
  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Communications
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Budgeting
  • Business Analytics

MBA graduates usually emerge with a skill set in leadership, interpersonal and public speaking, problem-solving, and risk management. They also gain an understanding of the technical and operational functions of a business. Their expertise in these areas contributes to the high demand for MBA holders in upper-level positions.

What is an MPA?

An MPA is a targeted degree ideal for those interested in becoming public service leaders that work for government entities or nonprofit organizations. The program focuses on preparing students for the complex rules, operations, and management in public affairs. The MPA degree prepares students to manage people, projects, and resources in the public sector. While MPAs are more focused, graduates still have several career choices. MPA degree holders may work in nonprofits, government agencies, international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and private corporations.

What Will I Learn in an MPA Program?

Topics covered in an MPA program can include the following:

  • Public Policy
  • Policy Analysis
  • Community & Economic Development
  • Energy Policy
  • Environmental Policy & Natural Resource Management
  • Health Policy
  • Governmental Affairs
  • Information Systems
  • International Development
  • Local Government Management
  • Nonprofit Management
  • Public Management
  • Ethical Leadership
  • Healthcare Administration
  • Strategic Planning
  • Budgeting
  • Organizational Leadership

While a concentration can be helpful in certain instances, MPA degrees are versatile and comprehensive on their own. These programs offer a solid foundation for graduates to find their footing in any number of careers across the industry.

The Similarities Between MBAs and MBAs

A good deal of overlap exists between MBA programs and MPA programs. Some similarities stem from the two degrees’ coursework, program structure, and formats.

Core Curriculum

MBA and MPA programs cover many of the same topics within their core coursework. Students will get an education in budgeting, finance, statistics, management skills, and project management. Additionally, both degrees usually require a capstone project to help students transfer their learned knowledge to the real world.

Time to Completion

Many students often consider program length when deciding on a degree for themselves. However, the time needed to complete either an MBA or an MPA is similar. The LSU family of institutions provide access to two online MBA options, the Flores MBA and the MBA from LSU Shreveport. The Flores MBA requires 36 credit hours and can be finished in as few as 18 months. The MBA from LSU Shreveport requires 30 credit hours and can be done in just 10 months. LSU’s online MPA program also requires just 36 credit hours, and it can be completed in as little as 12 months.

Online Flexibility and Convenience

Since many MBA and MPA programs are aimed at working professionals, the popularity of online courses has increased. Many MBA and MPA degrees can be done 100% virtually. Such a format provides unmatched flexibility and convenience, perfect for students who want to return to school while working full time.

The Differences Between MBAs and MBAs

Though there are multiple similarities, there are also many differences between business and public administration degrees.

Career Trajectory: Public Versus Private Sectors

One of the most significant differences between MBA and MPA programs is their focus on the public and private sectors. An MPA degree offers education in public affairs and nonprofit management and administration.

Today, MBAs are more versatile and can prepare students for careers in any space. However, an MBA generally provides students with the analytical and leadership skills to manage change and create opportunities for businesses.

Coursework Focuses

While both an MBA and MPA will give students an understanding of organizations and leadership, MBAs tend to go into greater depth on subjects like financial markets. MPAs focus more on topics geared toward social change.


According to, the average salary for MPA graduates is $65,000 per year. The average salary for MBA graduates is around $86,000 per year. Of course, these salaries can vary greatly, and holders of either degree can bring in a very generous income depending on the position.

Career Options for MBAs

The career pathways for MBAs are abundant, and graduates can find roles in almost any industry. Job titles could include:

  • Accountant
  • Investment banker
  • Logistics manager
  • Operations research analyst
  • Marketing manager
  • Business operations manager
  • Financial analyst
  • Human resources manager
  • Health center manager
  • Purchasing manager
  • Budget analyst
  • Policy analyst
  • Sales manager
  • Consultant
  • Project manager
  • IT manager
  • Business intelligence analyst
  • Product manager
  • Chief executive officer
  • Chief financial officer

Career Options for MPAs

MPA graduates also have a range of positions to consider throughout their careers. Potential job titles could include:

  • News writer
  • News reporter
  • Data analyst
  • City director
  • Urban planning and development director
  • Local transportation board
  • Community health director
  • Parks and recreation director
  • Police commissioner
  • Director of transportation
  • United Nations representative
  • Chief executive officer
  • Chief financial officer
  • Policy manager
  • Public housing manager
  • Charity director
  • Economic development director
  • Public affairs director

Earn Your MBA or MPA

LSU and LSU Shreveport, in partnership with LSU Online, offer flexible, convenient, and competitively priced MBA and MPA degrees.

Learn more about how our online Master of Business Administration programs stack up to the competition. Or, take a look at our online Master of Public Administration.

Ready to reach your goals? Take the first step and apply to a program today!

Ready to reach your goals? Take the first step and apply to a program today!

Ready to reach your goals?

Take the first step forward by completing the form and our enrollment team will contact you soon to discuss:

  • What program meets your academic and career goals
  • Financial aid options (employer funding, military benefits)
  • Receiving credit for past education (transfer, professional development)
  • The admissions process and timeline
Email is invalid
Phone is invalid
Zip is invalid

I agree to the Privacy Agreement