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What Is the Difference between a Master Services Agreement and a Professional Services Agreement

As a professional in the legal field or business industry, you may have come across two important documents – Master Services Agreement (MSA) and Professional Services Agreement (PSA). While both agreements deal with services and contracts, they have different roles and purposes. In this article, we`ll discuss what distinguishes a Master Services Agreement from a Professional Services Agreement.

Master Services Agreement (MSA)

A Master Services Agreement (MSA) is a contract between two parties that outlines the terms and conditions of future services that will be provided. An MSA is typically a long-term agreement that establishes the foundation of the business relationship between the parties. The MSA outlines the scope of work, pricing, payment terms, confidentiality, ownership of intellectual property, warranties, and governing law. Once the MSA is in place, the parties can enter into individual Statements of Work (SOW) or work orders as needed, without the need for additional negotiation of terms.

To illustrate, imagine a large company that regularly hires an advertising agency to create marketing campaigns. Instead of negotiating a contract every time a new campaign is created, the parties sign an MSA. The MSA establishes the overall terms, including pricing and other key details, and outlines the process for future SOWs. As new marketing campaigns are planned, the parties can enter into SOWs that reference the MSA’s terms, essentially „cutting and pasting” key terms from the MSA into a new SOW.

Professional Services Agreement (PSA)

A Professional Services Agreement (PSA) is a contract between a service provider and a client, often for a specific project or service. Unlike an MSA, PSA contracts are one-time agreements that govern the performance of a specific service or project and do not cover future engagements. A PSA outlines the scope of work, pricing, payment terms, timelines, and the responsibilities of both parties.

For example, a technology company may contract a consultant to provide IT support for a specific project. The PSA would outline the consultant`s responsibilities for the project, the scope of work to be performed, the fees and payment terms, and any deadlines.

Key Differences

The primary difference between an MSA and a PSA is the scope of the agreement. An MSA is a long-term contract that governs the overall business relationship between the parties, while a PSA is a one-time agreement that governs a specific project or service. An MSA is a framework for future agreements and outlines overarching terms, whereas a PSA is a specific agreement that outlines details for a single service engagement.

In general, an MSA is a more complex agreement than a PSA, as it is intended to cover multiple services and can be more comprehensive in its scope. Conversely, a PSA is typically a simpler agreement that covers a specific project or service, focusing on the details of that one engagement.


In summary, Master Services Agreements (MSAs) and Professional Services Agreements (PSAs) are both important legal documents that govern business relationships and service engagements. An MSA is a long-term agreement that outlines overarching terms and conditions, while a PSA is a one-time agreement that covers the details of a specific project or service. Understanding the differences between these two types of agreements is crucial for businesses and legal professionals to ensure that their contracts accurately reflect their business needs and protect their interests.