MSOL vs. MBA Degree: Which is Right for You?

Are you an aspiring business professional considering obtaining your Master’s degree?  A graduate-level education could lead you to new job opportunities, possible positions in upper management, as well as a higher salary potential.

There are two major routes towards a Master’s in the business and management field: the traditional Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) and the newer, more interdisciplinary Master’s in Organizational Leadership (MSOL). These degrees are similar in many ways, and offer graduates benefits such as executive-level readiness and leadership preparedness. However, they differ in terms of their philosophical approach and therefore teach distinct skill sets for business leaders.

What are the major differences between an MSOL vs. MBA degree, and which option is right for you? Let’s start with a little history of these two programs, identify your interests within the subject of management, and then move towards your professional and learning goals.

MBA Degree

For a person interested in the theory of business and management principles, an MBA degree would be a good choice. As mentioned, the MBA is the more traditionally-focused option, with the first MBAs being invented in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in America. With the Industrial Revolution came the replacement of human labor jobs by mechanized and specialized labor, and managers were needed to control and direct workforces for an industrialized economy. Companies sought managers who could uphold more rigorous product standards, internal company governance, and hierarchy; who could manage large and complex labor forces, and who could drive productivity.

These managerial skills were incorporated into a curriculum of specialized management techniques; thus, business schools were born – and management professionals with them. MBA course offerings and program models evolved in varying ways throughout the 20th century. The modern MBA now covers the analytical aspects of managerial leadership. Contemporary MBA programs often include studies in human resources, statistics, information systems, and technologies. Most recently, however, studies report that MBA graduates tend to lack experience-based skills in favor of theory. Yet more than 100,000 MBAs continue to be earned annually, worldwide, therefore showing that the demand for this degree program is still high.

MSOL Degree

In contrast to the MBA, the MSOL investigates philosophy and psychology, as related to an organization and its employees. MSOL programs were developed as the answer to this serious issue highlighted about the MBA, which relates to career and workplace readiness. Without the correct “people” skills, new MBA managers could be, essentially, ineffective in a 21st century workplace. Peter Drucker, an incredibly influential management consultant, author, educator, and writer, anticipated the leap of society from muscle to mind back in 1959. He declared that management education’s greatest influence on modern society was understanding the key to increasing the productivity of “knowledge workers,” a term he coined for employees whose main capital is – you guessed it – knowledge.

A knowledge worker is essentially a modern worker: someone who plans, researches, acquires, analyzes, organizes, distributes, or programs information, often in the technology, academic, systems, or programming fields. The MSOL specifically focuses on the leadership of knowledge workers within business organizations. Therefore, in many ways, the MSOL is a continuation of Mr. Drucker’s legacy in understanding and teaching leadership for a new millennium. In top-notch MSOL programs, students grow their critical thinking, ethical management, future-thinking, risk-calculation, and change-making potential, and are able to apply those skills to an ever-evolving marketplace. For someone interested in an in-depth dive into the subject of leadership, and most importantly, its application in the workforce, an MSOL degree would be the right choice for the future.

Your driving goal in pursuing any sort of Master’s degree is essentially career improvement and forward propulsion. Both MBA and MSOL degrees can get you where you need to go, however, it’s important to look at what companies and hiring managers are favoring: Leadership development, business planning, decision-making, collaboration, mentoring, and performance management are at the top of employers’ lists for in-demand skills. These are also the specific skills taught in an MSOL program.

The value of high-demand and career-oriented knowledge offered by an MSOL program, like the program offered by Goodwin College, is hard to put a number on. The resulting callbacks and interviews you’re likely to receive post-graduation with an MSOL degree will have you thanking yourself for making this choice. Learn about earning your MSOL today by calling Goodwin College at 800-889-3282 or visiting