Skip to main content

Degree Comparison: Traditional MBA vs. International Business Graduate Programs

April 10, 2024
A business woman and a peer discuss opportunities while studying a global map.

For decades, professionals looking to advance their careers have been drawn to the benefits of a Master of Business Administration (MBA): higher salaries, increased opportunities, expanded networks and elevated business skills and knowledge. Corporations hiring MBA graduates have also reaped big rewards, adding high-caliber staff ready to hit the ground running with critical thinking skills, leadership capabilities and superior skill sets.

Today, the playing field is changing. Just as COVID illuminated how interconnected our world is — and redefined how businesses operate — so too has the pandemic upended how students prepare for business careers. Today’s prospective students, looking to differentiate themselves in competitive job markets, are more likely to pursue MBA degrees that offer greater specialization and maximum flexibility.

Universities are listening, increasing their online learning opportunities and restructuring programs to dig deeper into the challenges facing today’s business leaders in areas like business intelligence, finance and international business. Despite these advancements, many MBA programs within university business schools lack the global perspective that post-COVID business leaders want.

The online Master of Global Business Administration (GBA) from the Fletcher School at Tufts University is uniquely positioned to prepare tomorrow’s business professionals for leadership roles on the global stage. With flexible online classes through the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, this degree goes beyond the traditional MBA program, equipping students with the management skills, international perspectives and contextual intelligence needed to stand out in a crowded field of MBA graduates and succeed in corporations, nonprofits, the public sector and beyond.

Build Cross-Disciplinary Mastery With a GBA

Gain Hands-On Real-World Experience
Find Out More

What is a Master of Business Administration? 

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a graduate-level degree that educates professionals on theoretical and practical business management concepts. The degree focuses on understanding how businesses operate successfully through a curriculum that touches on nearly every aspect of business, including accounting, finance, strategy, the law, marketing, operations, and organizational behavior. A global MBA program adds international elements.

In addition to standard business principles, MBA programs offer varied concentrations that provide expertise in a specific aspect of business. These include business analytics, entrepreneurship, health care, real estate, strategy, supply chain management and technology management.

For MBA graduates, career options span the business spectrum. Depending on the concentration path, professionals with a master’s in business administration can find positions in finance, marketing, computer and information systems, business intelligence, human resources and more.

What is a Master’s in International Business? 

Master’s degrees in international business offer an alternative for professionals seeking a business degree with a global perspective. In contrast to an MBA, which focuses on business management, a Master of International Business (MIB) centers on international business development. The Fletcher School offers an MIB that typically appeals to younger students looking to attend an on-campus program.

These programs typically reside within a university’s business school, with international-focused offerings in supply chain logistics, global finance, and emerging markets. Coursework provides MIB students with the foundations for managing multi-region business operations. Career opportunities for MIB graduates include export officer, product manager, global communications specialist and sales director.

Another option for students seeking an international curriculum is a master’s degree in international affairs. This interdisciplinary degree blends theoretical and practical instruction to study the interaction among global political, social, and religious forces.

Typically housed in a university’s foreign or public affairs division, international relations programs lean toward political science, geography, world history, and social science but may also include subjects like immigration, terrorism, and policy analysis. This degree aligns with careers that include diplomat, NGO administrator, political analyst, translator, foreign lobbyist, immigration lawyer, and military officer. 

How the GBA Compares to Other Business Programs  

For prospective students looking for a unique amalgam of international relations and business education, The Fletcher School’s Master of Global Business Administration delivers. The Fletcher GBA program takes the business fundamentals taught in an MBA or global MBA and overlays them with critical international forces — economics, legal, social, and others — that impact business decisions. GBA students graduate ready to anticipate the international business risks and opportunities facing 21st-century leaders. Offered through the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, the curriculum includes courses in international law, security, and emerging markets policy. 

Enrollment in The Fletcher School provides students access to all this prestigious institution has to offer. Whether prospective students are considering a corporate position, a nonprofit role, a political posting or a military placement, the dedicated career services department at The Fletcher School is prepared to assist. Each GBA student has access to in-network job postings and a dedicated professional career coach to provide personalized support.

Fletcher’s community of over 8,000 alumni, including CEOs, ambassadors, award-winning journalists and writers, political and military leaders, investors and successful entrepreneurs, constitute a rich source of advice and information. Fletcher’s Institute for Business in the Global Context (IBGC) provides opportunities to engage in discussion and research about the effects of geopolitical, legal, humanitarian, and environmental issues on businesses—and the impact of business on these domains.

Student Success: Realizing the Impact of the GBA Program

For Margaret Richardson, earning a GBA degree provided the perfect combination of business knowledge and international politics. “In my opinion, this is where the magic happens: at the intersection of business, international policy, and development.” Other graduates agree, citing the “multifaceted curriculum” and “quality of education” as primary drivers to their enrollment. 

With the flexibility of online learning coupled with the Fletcher School’s “quality of education and reputation,” the GBA program’s “innovative approach to higher education” provides graduates with the knowledge to tackle the international challenges facing our world today.

“Now more than ever, we see how interconnected our world is, and if you are someone who hopes to have a positive impact on the world, the GBA program gives the practical tools and theoretical knowledge needed to figure out where you fit into the changing global landscape of sustainable impact.”

—Margaret Richardson, chief of staff at Devex, a global development media platform

Which Degree is the Right Fit for You?

Whether you are looking to grow your career, increase your income, or expand your business knowledge, a graduate business degree can help achieve your career goals. However, choosing the right degree program can be challenging. 

  • An MBA can help build your business management skills and elevate your resume, with a focus primarily on essential business, management, and leadership skills.
  • An MIB caters to business professionals seeking a global perspective with a focus on international business development. 
  • Global MBA programs and international business degrees add electives covering worldwide markets and business practices to a conventional business core curriculum. The focus on global practice can be siloed to electives rather than integrated as a throughline throughout the program.
  • The Fletcher School online Master of Global Business Administration at Tufts University covers a broad range of global issues that significantly impact business while also building foundational skills in strategy, finance, marketing, and management.

If you’re looking for a global business education that extends beyond the borders of a traditional MBA program to contextualize the geopolitical, legal, cultural, and environmental factors that impact business, consider the Tufts online Master of Global Business Administration program. Make an appointment to speak with an enrollment advisor to learn more about the program or to start your online application.

Prepare for Complex 21st-Century Business Challenges

Merge Management Skills and International Knowledge
Apply Now