With marketing jobs predicted to grow 9% through 2026, undergraduate and graduate degrees in marketing are becoming one of the most popular specializations in higher education. At the bachelor’s level, you’ll find everything from tracks in marketing to more specific majors like communications and public relations. For students interested in pursuing advanced degrees in marketing, the most common offerings are either a master’s in marketing or an MBA with a concentration in marketing.
But what’s the difference? Let’s examine each to highlight distinguishing factors and help prospective students decide which graduate degree suits their needs.
A master’s degree in marketing provides a comprehensive review of both theory and practice, with an emphasis on marketing strategy, brand development, consumer behavior, research and analytics, digital media, and public relations, among other disciplines. To give students the ability to tailor the degree, masters in marketing also offer built-in customization features like electives and specializations, and most include a capstone, internship, or practicum requirement to incorporate experiential learning opportunities. While the traditional master’s in marketing is an MS, many universities offer variations, including the popular master’s in Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) and an MS in Marketing Management, each of which provide students with unique, advanced marketing training.
The Marketing Communication master’s concentration prompts you to analyze consumer behavior, conduct market research, and engage the power of brands and messages in order to develop powerful digital marketing strategies. Evaluate various tactics, measure their effectiveness, and explore the intricacies of working with or in complex, multi-functional teams to execute compelling marketing campaigns.
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Master’s in Marketing Objectives
Examine, analyze, and study potential solutions to a transforming business and marketing landscape
Develop soft-skills in critical-thinking, organizational leadership, and decision-making to apply in national and international business environments
Develop hard-skills in areas like SEO and SEM, Google AdWords and Analytics, CRM, CMS, mobile marketing, social media engagement, content, etc.
Common Core Courses for Master’s in Marketing
Who Should Enroll in an MS in Marketing: Master’s in marketing students tend to fall into a few categories. First, they have a specific area of marketing they want to pursue; for instance, analytics, digital media, mass communications, or data science and journalism. Note also that these specializations are generally research-intensive and less focused on managerial skills (though specializations do exist in areas like sales leadership and marketing management). In other words, students that pursue an MS in Marketing should have a clear idea of what niche they want to study and be prepared to contribute original academic research, with potential for multidisciplinary forays into fields like psychology and sociology. (If you’re afraid of pigeon-holeing yourself, an MBA might be a better option.) The master’s in marketing may also be preferable for recent undergraduates and professionals with limited work experience (e.g, less than 3-5 years).
In 2014, the MBA became the most popular graduate program in the country, surpassing the MEd with over 190,000 graduates. Obviously, that’s partly due to global business volatility and a workforce that wants to solidify business credentials. But it’s also because the MBA represents 21st century higher education par excellence: rigorous and adaptive, grounded in theory but driven by real-world demands, and highly customizable, with dozens of specializations and concentrations. The MBA in Marketing is a particularly popular choice, combining advanced business and managerial courses with cutting-edge marketing concepts and skill development.
MBA in Marketing Objectives
Gain business skills and acumen required for upper-level management
Learn to apply marketing concepts to real-life marketing and business situations
Develop a wide range of hard and soft skills to identify and measure consumer behavior, target demographics, and determine optimal price, promotion, and and distribution
Common Business Core Courses for an MBA in Marketing
Common Marketing Courses for an MBA in Marketing
Who Should Enroll in an MBA in Marketing: As stated above, an MBA in Marketing offers remarkable stability, recognition, and potential for career advancement. Per US News, the average salary for MBA graduates is more than $125k, and employment rates are over 95% for graduates of top-tier programs. In short, if you care more about job security than job specifics, you might prefer an MBA in Marketing vs. an MS in Marketing: where the latter offers academic freedom and specialization, the MBA offers a broad-based, wide-ranging curriculum that’s ideal for current professionals pursuing management positions, or anyone that prioritizes learning advanced business concepts over market research and analysis. On a related note, MBA students should have at least 3-5 years of work experience (and often have much more), so they’ve generally settled on a career track already.
Alternatives to a Master’s or MBA in Marketing
If neither an MS nor MBA in Marketing is the right fit, there are plenty of alternatives. Professional marketers may want a certificate in marketing, and if you’re new to marketing, unsure if want to commit to a master’s, or simply want to learn a few specific marketing concepts, excellent MOOCs and digital bootcamps are available for free or a fraction of the cost of a degree (though we’ve highlighted plenty of affordable masters in marketing, too).
Whatever you choose, be sure to make an informed and measured decision, considering degree flexibility, customization, and cost. Most important, find a program that aligns with your career goals and increases your ability to achieve them.