Choosing an MBA vs. Master of Nutrition Business Leadership

As you consider advancing your professional standing and education in the natural products industry, often what comes to mind is getting an MBA. While there are similarities, there are distinct differences between an MBA and the Master of Science in Nutrition Business Leadership.

Understanding the difference is vital as you research the path that matches your academic and professional interests, goals, and objectives in the natural products, nutraceutical, and nutritional supplement industry.

When contemplating an MBA or the MSNBL, consider this:

MBA program: prepares individuals for general approaches to management.

Master of Science in Nutrition Business Leadership: addresses issues specific to the nutrition industry (such as regulatory, supply chain, marketing, management, leadership, and nutritional sciences) and enhances skills that can be applied in the workplace.

Before determining what type of master’s degree is the best fit, ask yourself:

  • Do I want to apply functional business knowledge of the global natural product industry to support effective business outcomes and professional success?
  • Do I want to showcase effective leadership and communication skills to cultivate collaboration and effective outcomes in business?
  • Do I want to gain nutrition and health sciences knowledge to lead the development of evidence-based natural products and supplements to benefit human health?
  • Do I want to implement personal, environmental, and corporate sustainability strategies to cultivate a responsible and purpose driven organization?
  • Do I want to be a lifelong learner and remain current in the natural foods and products industry?

Master’s Education in Nutrition


The following provides a detailed framework of an MBA. This type of master’s is applicable for those who wish to focus on general approaches to management. The following information is sourced from U.S. News & World Report.

  • A full-time MBA program usually takes two years to complete. Part-time and executive MBA programs vary in length and are designed for the working professional.
  • MBA applications usually require standardized test scores, resumes, academic transcripts, essays, and recommendation letters.
  • MBA programs require significant work experience and admissions officers like to see evidence of career progression and success stories.
  • Most MBA programs offer concentrations or specializations, but they’re specific to business, such as marketing or finance (nutrition is not often seen as a specialization).
  • Annual tuition for traditional full-time MBA students exceeded $50,000 at the top 15 ranked MBA programs in the 2019 Best Business Schools rankings, and at some schools, annual tuition costs exceed $70,000. Among the 10 highest-ranked public schools, the average in-state tuition for the full-time MBA student was more than $42,000 per year.
  • MBA programs help students develop the skills required to excel as business executives, such as the ability to quickly and accurately analyze large amounts of information and the ability to develop solutions to business problems.
  • MBA programs typically include courses in financing, marketing, organizational behavior, economics, management, and business ethics.

The MSNBL program is designed to educate and inspire business leaders within the nutrition space to grow the global natural products industry through evidence-based and sustainable practices.

  • The MSNBL program takes 15 months to complete and is designed for the working professional.
  • The MSNBL application requires two letters of recommendation, a letter of intent/personal statement, resume or curriculum vitae, and official transcripts. To see the full list of admission requirements click here.
  • The MSNBL does not necessarily require significant work experience. The program is designed for bright, energetic, and ambitious professionals who seek to become leaders in the natural products industry.
  • Students in the MSNBL program gain the essential evidence-based, scientific, and business knowledge and skills that add value to the companies they work for and help advance their careers.
  • SCNM developed the innovative and 100% online curriculum with input from global industry experts and thought leaders to equip graduates with current, realistic, and evidence-based training.
  • Total tuition cost for the MSNBL is $36,100—a truly affordable degree in nutrition.
  • The MSNBL educates students in the nutritional sciences, supply chain (including ingredient procurement, product manufacturing, regulations, sales, finance, and marketing), and in leadership and management—all specific to the multi-billion-dollar nutraceutical, natural foods, and dietary supplement industry.


The expertise required of future natural products industry leaders is best taught in a non-MBA, industry-specific master’s program. THE MSNBL is different from the traditional MBA in both the content and educational experience, which is meant to be relevant to, and immediately applied to, the student’s professional work experience. Unlike the MBA degree, the MSNBL is solely focused on the nutraceutical, natural foods, and nutritional supplements industry. The MSNBL provides extensive flexibility and industry-tailored courses.

An MBA is less relevant to the nutrition industry because it doesn’t educate on common considerations, practices, and regulations vital to success in the natural products industry. The majority of MBA graduates are taught marketing, accounting, economics, finance, and management. While useful, these skill sets do not fully encompass the needs of the natural products industry. Without industry-specific education, leaders may lack knowledge of critical policies and regulations, emerging trends in research and product development, and the ability to make evidence-based decisions thereby threatening the growing natural products industry’s integration within traditional healthcare.

The MSNBL not only offers curricula addressing general business practices, but also includes experiential learning opportunities through Applied Projects, where students can cultivate meaningful business projects in conjunction with their company. Graduates will take knowledge back to their companies to address:

  • Evidence-informed practice and
    decision making
  • Strategic sales and marketing
  • New product development and manufacturing
  • The role of nutrients in health and disease
  • Evidence-based applications of botanicals and phytonutrients
  • Negotiation strategies leading to win-win outcomes
  • Dietary and supplement guidelines, policies, and safety
  • Gastrointestinal physiology
  • Food and supplement industry policies and regulations
  • Dietary patterns for health promotion
  • Sustainability and corporate social responsibility
  • Conscious leadership

MBAs typically don’t cover these topics, nor do they delve into the specifics of the operational and managerial aspects of business. Moreover, adequate and meaningful coverage of these topics requires in-depth study beyond what is typically available in an MBA program.

With the evolving nature of master’s degrees, the importance of a graduate education specific to business and the natural products industry cannot be understated as this billion-dollar industry continues to grow.

MS in Nutrition Business Leadership Model

  • Designed for professionals who seek to become leaders in the natural products industry.
  • Focus on uniquely training graduates to help meet the triple bottom line: social, environmental, and profit.
Program Learning Outcomes:
  • Utilize knowledge of nutritional sciences to describe the relationship between nutrients, human health, and disease.
  • Apply functional business knowledge of the global natural product industry to support effective business outcomes and professional success.
  • Demonstrate effective leadership and communication skills to cultivate collaboration and effective outcomes in business.
  • Implement personal, environmental, and corporate sustainability strategies to prevent burn-out, cultivate a responsible and purpose-driven organization, and to improve organization performance.
  • Demonstrate ethics and professionalism in business management, leadership, decision-making, and in interactions with all clients and professionals.
  • Foster scholarship and lifelong learning to remain current in the natural food and products industry.

Thought Leadership and Advancing the Industry

The difference in master’s degrees reveals developing trends that provide insight into the relevance of business leadership in the nutrition sphere and the distinct need for a focused, industry-based graduate degree.

The MSNBL was developed with input from global industry experts and thought leaders to equip graduates with current, realistic, and evidence-based education, while providing the practical business know-how typically associated with an MBA.

Take the First Step Today

Apply Online

Complete and submit your application online—on your own time—with our Apply Online tool.

Apply Online

Get a Little Help

Contact an Admissions Officer to help you complete and submit your application.

Get Help

Still Have Questions?

We are here to help you every step of the way—connect with our admissions team.

Contact Us