The Difference Between an MPA and an MBA

More and more, businesses are starting to seek out experienced workers who are specialized in a certain area of their field. As a result, the completion of a graduate degree has become increasingly popular. However, it can still be difficult to differentiate between an MPA and an MBA as there is little information available about the two degrees.

Therefore, many are left wondering which one is the right one for their specific interests. If you find that you are one of the many people confused about the difference between the two degrees, here’s some information to help put you back on track.

Energy and Motivation

First and foremost, in order to determine whether you want to invest your time and energy into obtaining a Masters of Public Administration (MPA) or a Masters of Business Administration (MBA), one needs to take the time to closely explore where their interests fall.

More often than not, MBA students will wind up working in the private business sector while MPA students are more likely to work in the public industry, accepting various leadership roles. For these reasons, private businesses typically look for MBA applicants whereas nonprofit organizations look for those with an MPA degree. When examining your interests, try asking yourself this question: Where do you see yourself in five years?

The Breakdown: MPA vs. MBA

As defined by Investopedia, an MBA is a “graduate degree […] that provides theoretical and practical training to help graduates gain a better understanding of general business management functions.” In opposition to this, an MPA is a “degree in public affairs that prepares recipients of the degree to serve in executive positions in municipal, state, federal levels of government and non-governmental organizations (NGOS).”

In simpler terms, when deciding between an MBA or an MPA, take a moment to reflect on which of the two you are more interested in; business or public affairs. Both an MBA and an MPA will take roughly two years to complete, however, there is more to factor in if you are leaning towards completing an MBA. For instance, an MBA student typically pays more for their degree, but they will be the ones who see a rapid monetary return on their investment.

Testing and Test Requirements

Most MBA programs will require the applicant to take the GMAT before entering the program while MPA programs typically ask for the GRE. With that said, the requirements for these graduate program are always changing.

As testing requirements fluctuate, the best way to prepare for these changes is to take both the GMAT exam and the GRE, if you have the time and the resources readily available. Completing both entry exams puts you into your own category, and allows for yourself to stand out from the other applicants, which is extremely crucial in any graduate program.


Mentioned previously, MBA students are in a program that focuses primarily on business, therefore their classes include everything from economics and personal finance to marketing. The intention of these classes is to teach MBA students the tips and tricks of the industry.

This, of course, differs from the MPA program which is much more focused on teaching students how to manage various groups of individuals. Depending on the school and the student’s primary focus, most MPA students will enroll in courses ranging from administration to community engagement.

Income and Annual Salaries

As one might suspect, it is the MBA students who take home a larger paycheque in comparison to MPA students. Average starting salaries for MBA graduates is roughly between $90,000 and $100,000 per year, while the starting salary for an MPA graduate falls around $60,000.

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