What’s the difference between an MBA specializing in business economics vs. finance?


When it comes to picking a specialization for a master’s in business administration, there is a dizzying array of options these days. Perhaps none create as much confusion as the MBA in business economics and the MBA in finance.

There are similarities. Both are numbers-driven at their heart, and both degrees are great ways for finance or economics majors who have worked for a few years to advance their knowledge in their field, while adding all-around business skills that could potentially lead to career advancement. Many finance and economics graduates choose the MBA route over a master’s in their original discipline because they’d prefer to learn less theory and more about business operations as a whole.

Both are also potentially lucrative degrees. According to data from PayScale.com, men with MBAs in economics can expect to earn up to $126,000 a year. Men with MBAs in finance bring in about the same amount. Unfortunately, women with MBAs lag men in both categories though salaries still can exceed $100,000.

Though there is some crossover in career paths for both specializations, there are differences as well.

The MBA in business economics

The focus of an MBA with a business economics specialization is on how forces such as unemployment, inflation, and monetary policy impact a business. Students learn about the natural relationship between business and finance, and they’re trained to formulate strategies that position companies to address challenges and seize opportunities.

At Ashford, students study the macroeconomics of financial markets. They become adept at applying economic analysis to business decisions. They complete capstone projects in which they generate and present an industry economic analysis.

An MBA in business economics can open doors to careers in consulting, strategic planning, and economic development. Entrepreneurship is also a possible path.

The MBA in finance

The goal of an MBA with a finance specialization is to produce graduates well-versed in financial theory as well as real-world best practices. Students learn how to apply what they learn in corporate-level accounting, economics, and investing. Graduates become skilled at protecting a business’ financial health and helping it thrive in a competitive, ever-changing economy.

Ashford students take courses that focus on securities markets and understanding risk and return. They learn to merge financial theory and practice to maximize investors’ returns. As part of their capstone seminar, they delve into corporate risk and portfolio management.

Possible careers with an MBA in finance include banking, financial consulting, investment banking, and commercial finance.

Which MBA specialization you choose depends in part on your career goals. Specializations in either business economics or finance can open doors at major corporations. The skills that come with the credential are in demand in smaller companies as well.


Written by Ashford University staff.

For more information about on-time completion rates, the median loan debt of students who completed each program, and other important information, please visit ashford.edu/pd/omba. Certain degree programs may not be available in all states.

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