While there are similarities between a Master's in Business Administration (MBA) and a Master's in Economics, the two degrees differ in previous experience, academic breadth and eventual goals. The choice of degree can be used to emphasize a specific subject, fill in gaps in the student's resume and add credentials toward an academic or professional career.
Masters in Business Administration
The MBA degree is the more varied of the two, given that it focuses on a wider swath of business management than a strictly economics standpoint. The MBA is one of the most popular degrees currently offered, as well as one that is more universally recognized than most. It is also, frequently, more expensive than a Master's in Economics, as the typical MBA program lasts two years while an Economics degree can be acquired in one. On the downside, the MBA is so plentiful that it can be difficult for individual MBA graduates to stand out from similarly credentialed students. Further, for purely economic professions, the MBA may be too broadly defined when compared to a concentrated economics degree.
Master's in Economics
A Master's in Economics degree is often designated for students who either wish to pursue a career in economic analysis, in either the public or private sector, or as a prerequisite for a Ph.D. in Economics. In fact, the Master's in Economics is considered the more academic of the two degrees, meaning that it's frequently used as a steppingstone for higher degrees instead of a terminal degree toward a profession. The specialization of the Economics degree is better suited either to analyst work or theoretical pursuits, such as academia. Because of the lack of a work requirement, students may choose to begin with an Economics degree and then return for an MBA once they which to expand.
At times, younger students, who don't have much real-world, professional experience, may choose a Master's in Economics degree because an MBA requires more work experience than they have, and the shorter program time allows them to get out of school quicker. Once their career has started, however, they return for the MBA degree. Similarly, students who have enough management experience already on their resume may opt to focus on the Economics degree rather than the broader MBA to shore up their economics credentials alongside their managerial ones.
If the student wishes for a career in either purely economic pursuits, or to become a professor by continuing through a Ph.D. program, the Master's in Economics degree would be the more viable choice. For a career beyond economics or analysis, such as one in management, the scope of the MBA is better. As the MBA places a greater emphasis on leadership qualities, those students who wish to have a managerial or supervisory position, or rather be open to a wider range of prospects, would be better suited with an MBA, while those who prefer a career singularly focused on finances should pursue the Master's in Economics.