Masters Degrees in Project Management Compared: MS vs MBA vs MA

Project managers are needed in a variety of industries, from computer science to engineering. If you’re interested in working in this kind of leadership role within your industry of choice, your first step is to earn a bachelor’s degree, which takes about four years to complete. After earning this degree, however, you’ll typically want to earn a master’s degree, as most employers will only consider those candidates with an advanced degree. Confused about your education options? Let’s take a look at the three most common project management degree options for graduate students so you can determine which one is right for you.

Master of Science in Project Management

A Master of Science (MS) degree is extremely common for project management students, as most fields where projects managers are needed are science-based. MS in project management degrees take about two years to complete, and although many do not require you to submit standardized test scores or even transcripts from your career as an undergraduate, you do usually have to have several years of experience to enter this kind of program. In fact, many students in MS in project management programs already have a master’s degree in their respective field. For example, you might be an engineer with a master’s degree in your engineering specialization and later decide to enter a project management program.

The main advantage to a MS in project management is that your education will focus directly on becoming a project manager, but will not be specific to any one industry, so you can transition between industries in the future if your career path takes a turn. Some of the classes you might take as part of an MS program include problem-solving, communications, and organization. Many MS programs also require you to complete research projects, which is a way to tailor your education a bit to fit your field of choice.

Master of Business Administration in Project Management

Unlike MS programs, Master of Business Administration, or MBA, programs are less specialized and often do not require you to have work experience in your field. While you will still take a number of project management and leadership classes are part of your MBA program, you may also take classes in areas such as finance, marketing, and human resources. The biggest benefit to this is that you’ll have a stronger resume, should you choose to change not only industries, but positions  in general. In other words, you aren’t limited to only being a project manager with this type of degree – you’ll be best prepared for project management, but also prepared to work in a variety of business positions or even to become an entrepreneur.

MBAs have a few other benefits as well. First, most MBA programs have a large alumni network and internship resources, which allows you to more easily find a job after you graduate. MBA programs also often don’t require a research project – if research isn’t relevant to your interests, this may be part of an MS program that doesn’t actually help you in your career. MBA programs also carry a certain weight on resumes; although you’ll do the same amount of work, people tend to view this type of degree as more prestigious. This is especially true if you attend a top business school.

Keep in mind that many MBA programs are more expensive than MS programs, as well as extremely competitive. You won’t get away with not submitting standardized test scores and your undergraduate transcripts with this kind of program! While less common, so do also require you to have some work experience in your field. You may also have to have an undergraduate degree that is directly related to business, either business itself or something found in the school of business like marketing. If you have an undergraduate degree in another field, like engineering, it may not be appropriate for you to attend an MBA program to become a project manager in that field.

Master of Arts in Project Management

Lastly, some schools offer Master of Arts (MA) programs in project management. An MA is extremely similar to an MS, but more appropriate to humanities-related fields. For example, if you work in communications, you might go back to school for an MA in project management rather than an MS. In general, if you earned a Bachelor of Arts in your field, and MA typically makes more sense than an MS. Otherwise, the programs are extremely similar.

Top Master of Project Management Degrees

Project managers are relied on to plan and execute projects within a wide variety of industries, including computer networking/IT, construction, software development, telecommunications, and more. Typically, project managers should have at least a four-year bachelor's degree, but employers usually prefer a master's degree (either an MS, MA, or MBA). The schools below all offer accredited online degree programs specializing in project management.


Kaplan University has become a well-known university offering programs at their many campuses, as well as through their extensive online division. Kaplan offers an online Master of Science in Management with a specialization in Project Management is a 56-credit program, 16 of which focus specifically on various aspects of project management.
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Northcentral University is a completely online university that offers bachelor's, master's, and even doctoral degrees through distance education format. Students can pursue an education in business, education, and psychology at almost every level of study without ever leaving home. Some post-baccalaureate and post-graduate certificates are also available. Northcentral University first received accreditation in 2003 and is currently accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and The Higher Learning Commission.
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Ashford University offers traditional programs at their campus in Iowa, but the majority of their students are enrolled in one of their many online programs. Students can choose to earn an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree in the areas of business and professional studies, education, health, human services, and science, or liberal arts. Ashford University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association.
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With more than 307,000 students attending the online campus alone, the University of Phoenix is the nation's largest online university. Founded in 1976 to meet the growing need for flexible learning options for working adults, the university has been making higher education more accessible ever since. Programs are available in business, education, nursing, and more. UoP has been accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission, since 1999.
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Project Management is a specialization under the MBA program at American Intercontinental University. The Project Management specialization teaches critical management skills that will successfully take students through any project life cycle.
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As one of only 21 institutions in North America with Project Management Institute GAC (PMIGAC) accreditation for several of its programs, Colorado Technical University’s Project Management offerings give you everything you need – from skills and know how to confidence and credibility – to take charge of your career.
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