There’s no way around it: graduate school is hard. But choosing a graduate program when you’re torn between a couple of different options? That’s much harder. When you’re interested in the world of business and economics, it is difficult to know whether to choose an MBA or a Ph.D. in economics, but it’s important to pick the program that’s right for you.

MBA is Applied

A Masters of Business Administration isn’t intended to support you in making a new discovery or compelling argument about the business world, it’s intended to support you in entering and excelling in the business world. Through hands-on experience and group work, a good MBA program will give you the skills and knowledge that allow you to be a leader in the practice of business, not the study of it. If you want to participate in business, then an MBA is for you, but it is not for students who prefer to observe from a distance.

Ph.D. in Economics is Research Based

A Ph.D. in Economics is a research-based program that encourages you to make an original contribution to the field of economics. It gives you the skills and the knowledge to evaluate and investigate economic systems and structures. While some Economics Ph.D.’s go on to work for companies or the government, a doctoral program isn’t specifically designed to help you excel in the business world. If you love research, then there’s a good chance you’ll love doing a Ph.D. But if you can’t wait to be a manager or account executive, then an MBA is a better fit.

MBA is a Two Year Program

An MBA program will give you a lot of expertise at a fast rate. Unless you study part-time (which many programs allow you to do, since many MBA students have careers they don’t want to give up while they study), you can complete your MBA within two years. The relatively short length of an MBA is intended to get people into the workforce as soon as they’re prepared.

Ph.D. is About Five Years

A Ph.D. program in economics takes a lot of focus, a lot of determination, and -- perhaps most of all -- a lot of time. That time is dedicated to completing coursework, studying for comprehensive exams, designing a research prospectus, publishing research papers and, finally, to finishing a dissertation. It isn’t for the faint of heart, or for people who want to hurry up and get a job. If you have patience, then you may very well have what it takes to get a Ph.D.