Get our weekly advice

Keep up-to-date with the latest advice from Abound MBA.

Should I Consider an MBA or a Certificate Program?

Ana-Marcela Lopez / Abound: MBA »

Your success in the business world depends on your ability to meet the ever changing needs of the industry. No matter where you are in your career, advancing your education is always a great way to make sure you keep up. For years, a Master of Business Administration, or MBA was the gold standard of higher education in the business world. But now, graduate level certificate programs are gaining popularity and it’s no secret as to why! These programs are fast, effective, and best of all, affordable. If you are looking to advance your education, you might be wondering if an MBA or certificate program is right for you. The answer depends on a few things, but it’s important to remember that these programs are not necessarily interchangeable. An MBA is a broader education, whereas a certificate program focuses on a specific skill or industry sector. Here 7 considerations to help you decide between an MBA or a certificate program:

1. Goal

The most important consideration is what you hope to achieve with either an MBA or a certificate. Take stock of where you are in your career and where you hope to go. MBA programs are still the industry’s top credential, so if you are a young professional with your sights set on a CEO position, then an MBA will help you get there. If you are an experienced professional, then a certificate is a great opportunity to bolster an already impressive resume. 

2. Time

MBA programs can take up to 2 years to complete, while a certificate program can be completed in a few months or less. The difference in time is substantial, and you might be tempted to opt for a quicker certificate program. But it’s important to prioritize the program that will help you achieve your goals even if it means taking some extra time. 

3. Cost

Certificate programs, by institution, can be expensive. Is a degree worth more?If you’re just looking to add one or two certificates to your toolbox, then the cost is certainly worth it. However, if you want Marketing, Business Analytics, Finance, Management, etc then you should consider an MBA program, which will cover all this and more! 

4. Specialization

If you’re looking to hone in on a particular skill set (i.e. AI/Blockchain), it’s worth a certificate. If you’re looking to learn finance, a degree may be more appropriate. MBA programs are designed to cover the important parts of business administration, which makes it ideal for students who want a broader education. If you’re looking to increase your knowledge or expand your skill set in a specific area, then a certificate may be better for you.

5. Value

Return on Investment is a term that most business students are well acquainted with. Higher education is a significant investment and you want to be sure that it’s going to pay off. Rest assured that business degrees have some of the highest returns on investment of any master’s degree. Certificates offer key learning components without the time commitment of a degree program, but do not necessarily have the same value of an MBA. 

6. Networking

Both often offer access to talented classmates –but certificate courses generally tend to be full of executive professionals who might already have an MBA. However, MBA programs often incorporate collaborative projects into the curriculum and coordinate on-campus networking events. So, if networking is important to you, then an MBA program with built in networking opportunities is a great option. 

7. Company Reimbursement

Companies may reimburse for each but check to see. If they don’t consider pitching the idea to them. Your value as an employee only increases as you advance your education, so it’s in their best interests to support your education. Not sure how to ask? Here are 8 strategies to help you persuade your boss. 


Ultimately, the choice is up to you. But we lean towards MBA degrees for those looking for a holistic, general approach—and certifications for those looking to hone specific skill sets. One is not inherently better than the other since they serve different purposes. It’s up to you to decide which program will serve your needs and help you accomplish your goals. Whatever you decide, Abound: MBA is here to help. We get you in touch with schools that we can confirm are Accessible, Affordable, Accelerated, and Advanced. Take a look at the schools we trust and find the program that works for you. 

Get our weekly advice

Keep up-to-date with the latest advice from Abound MBA.