Marketing Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a marketing degree program? Read about degree requirements, pros and cons of master's and PhD programs as well as potential careers.
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Studying Marketing: Degrees at a Glance

Graduates from master's degree programs in marketing may enter various careers in areas like brand management, international marketing and advertising. Average job growth is predicted for many positions, such as marketing, sales, advertising or promotions managers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Marketing careers often boast attractive salary averages, but a 2009 Bloomberg BusinessWeek report, using data from PayScale.com, pointed out a wide variance in salaries for graduating MBAs, with graduates from top programs earning almost twice the amount of a typical MBA program graduate.

A bachelor's degree is sufficient for most marketing management positions, and a master's degree doesn't guarantee that you'll rise above the competition but it can help you hone your skills or prepare you for PhD studies. Though PhD programs are designed primarily to prepare graduates for academic careers, PhD holders can also perform market research in consulting firms or other organizations.

Master's PhD
Who is this degree for?- People seeking business training
- People seeking management positions or to advance their careers
- Bachelor's or master's degree holders pursuing academic careers
- People seeking high-end market research positions
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Marketing manager ($126,000)*
- Sales manager ($117,000)*
- Advertising and promotions manager ($103,000)*
-Market research analyst ($67,000)*
- Postsecondary business teacher ($87,000)*
- Marketing researcher (salary unavailable)
Time to Completion 1-2 years (full-time)4-5 years (full-time)
Common Graduation Requirements
- Internship
- Capstone course
- Research or teaching assistantships
- PhD qualifying exams
- Dissertation
Prerequisites- Bachelor's degree
- Some schools prefer students to have full-time work experience before applying to MBA programs
Bachelor's or master's degree
Online AvailabilityYesYes, but very rare

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011 figures).

Master's Degree in Marketing

You can enroll in a master's degree program leading to a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in marketing or a Master of Science in Marketing. MBA programs emphasize the relationship between marketing and other business departments. Some provide more flexibility than others in allowing you to choose marketing electives that reflect your career goals. Because leadership and teamwork skills are often emphasized in MBA programs, you may be required to work closely with an assigned team to complete several projects.

M.S. in Marketing programs are less common than MBA programs; however, if you have an undergraduate degree in business and are seeking to develop specific skills and knowledge in the field, this may be an option to pursue. You're not required to take general business courses in this degree program and may focus your studies in areas like brand management or digital marketing. Some schools also offer M.S. programs in international marketing, integrated marketing and other targeted areas in the field.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Marketing managers may experience more job stability than others because companies need these professionals to strategize to sell their products*
  • Earnings for marketing positions generally higher than the national average for all occupations*
  • Many options for varied skill sets and personality types; extroverts could focus on sales, creative types could focus on advertising and analysts could work in market research

Cons:

  • Some marketing positions don't require more than a bachelor's degree*
  • Competition is expected to be high for positions in marketing, advertising and promotions management*
  • One of the top-employing industries in the field - newspaper publishers - has a projected 22% decline from 2010-2020*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Common Courses and Requirements

You will take courses in multiple business departments as an MBA student, including accounting, finance, economics, organizational management and human resources. In lieu of the general business courses, students pursuing an M.S. take more courses in niche areas of marketing, which may include market research, product management and advertising. As a grad student in either type of program, you may be required or strongly encouraged to do an internship. Because both programs are based more on applied research and practice, a thesis isn't typically required; some programs culminate with a capstone course.

Graduate marketing coursework provides instruction on how to develop messaging related to corporate goals and values. The curriculum also includes techniques on disseminating messages using vehicles such as advertising, technology, promotional items and sales tactics. A combination of lectures, case studies and computer simulations will prepare you for real-life business situations. You will learn to apply research, psychology and financial principles to make products, services and ideas appeal to a targeted audience. Common marketing courses in MBA and M.S. programs include:

  • Market research
  • Consumer behavior
  • Integrated marketing communication
  • Marketing strategy

Online Degree Options

Although you can find some online M.S. in Marketing programs, MBA programs with a concentration in marketing are much more widely available via distance learning. Many online programs are offered by schools that also offer traditional programs and are based on the same curricula; online courses, in fact, may be taught by the same faculty. Fully online and hybrid programs are available. Some of the nation's top schools offer online MBA programs, and many of these programs are designed for business professionals who want to keep their day jobs while pursuing their degrees.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

Obtaining the right skill sets while pursuing your degree can help you compete for jobs when you graduate. Here are some suggestions to make your resume stand out:

  • The role of social media marketing is on the rise, according to a 2010 report by the American Marketing Association and Aquent, so staying abreast of trends in this area may be advantageous.
  • You could join campus clubs or collegiate chapters of associations like Toastmasters International or the American Marketing Association to build networks and find mentors.
  • Studying abroad can allow you to gain a deeper understanding of the global economy. Some schools build overseas trips into their MBA programs; others offer opportunities for MBA students to pursue international studies.

Degree Alternatives

Although you can gain a position as a marketing research analyst through a master's degree program in marketing, if you're interested in focusing more on the more quantitative aspects of marketing, you might pursue a master's degree in marketing research specifically. The BLS predicted an increase in job opportunities of 41% for market research analysts from 2010-2020, which is much faster than average.

If communication is your strength, you might consider pursuing a degree program in public relations. Public relations professionals are responsible for managing the messaging that creates their organizations' images. The BLS predicted faster-than-average job growth of 21% for public relations managers and specialists from 2010-2020.

PhD in Marketing

You can earn a PhD in Marketing or a PhD in Business Administration with a concentration in marketing. Getting into a PhD program can be very competitive, with some programs admitting only 15-20 students annually (which could mean only 3-5 students in the area of marketing). The small cohort sizes allow for more faculty-student interaction, which is valuable for tailoring studies to your specific goals.

Though PhD coursework is interdisciplinary and research topics are varied, many candidates focus in one of two broad areas - quantitative modeling or consumer behavior. You may take electives in sociology, psychology or economics, among other areas defined by your research interests. Some examples of research topics include marketing decision support systems and consumer cognitive processes.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Participate in research that will help you understand how consumers make purchasing decisions and assist companies in developing better products and marketing strategies
  • With a PhD in Marketing, you can teach in colleges and universities in the United States or other countries
  • Undergraduate degree in business not necessary; students might enter the field with undergraduate studies in statistics, math and computer science

Cons:

  • The tenure track in academia is highly competitive, and colleges are moving away from tenure positions*
  • Employment at public colleges and universities hinges upon local and state government budgets; during times of deficit, layoffs are possible*
  • A PhD requires a full-time commitment, so if you have a career, you'll have to put it on hold to complete the program

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Common Courses and Requirements

You're likely to work on completing required coursework during the first two years of your PhD program, which may include courses in statistics, economics, related fields and electives, as well as marketing seminars. To be prepared for these courses, you may need to have a basic command of business disciplines, calculus, matrix algebra and computer programming. As you progress through the program, you can expect to engage in more directed reading and research and to complete research apprenticeships and teaching assistantships. You will likely take exams to advance to PhD candidacy and then devote your time to researching and writing your dissertation.

Examples of coursework at this level include:

  • Consumer behavior
  • Econometrics
  • Social psychology theories
  • Marketing models

Online Degree Options

PhD programs require you to conduct research that will likely need to be done in a controlled environment, such as a lab where participants take questionnaires and researchers analyze responses. Most programs have research or teaching assistant requirements. These characteristics don't easily lend themselves to a program that exists solely online. Online PhD programs in marketing exist, but be careful to investigate these programs carefully and verify their accreditations.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

The academic job market can be tough to crack. Building a broad network of professional contacts could be beneficial. Attending conferences for business educators will allow you to network with people who make hiring decisions in higher education. You could check to see if discounted student rates are available. Given the rise of new media use in marketing, you could also seek out conferences dedicated to discussions of technology in relation to market research.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Benedictine University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Accelerated MBA Internet Marketing
      • Accelerated MBA Marketing Management
      • MBA Internet Marketing
      • MBA Marketing Management
      • Accelerated Masters in Business Administration
      • DUAL MBA-MSN
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Winthrop University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Marketing
      • Master of Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Marketing
      • Master of Business Admin - General Business
      • Master of Business Admin - Accelerated General MBA
      • MBA - Management
      • Master of Business Administration - Strategic Management
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Widener University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration
      • Master of Business Administration - Business Process Innovation
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Saint John's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business
  • Online Programs Available
    6. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Admin: Marketing
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Admin: Marketing
      • Master of Business Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Management (Spanish)
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Mgmt & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: BS Mgmt. & HR
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Southern New Hampshire University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Marketing
      • MBA in Marketing
      • International MBA in Marketing
      • MS in Marketing - Digital Marketing
      • International MBA in Social Media Marketing
      • MBA in Social Media Marketing

Featured Schools

Benedictine University

  • Accelerated MBA Internet Marketing
  • Accelerated MBA Marketing Management
  • MBA Internet Marketing

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Winthrop University

  • Master of Business Administration - Marketing
  • Master of Business Administration

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Northcentral University

  • MBA - Marketing
  • Master of Business Admin - General Business
  • Master of Business Admin - Accelerated General MBA

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Widener University

  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Business Administration - Business Process Innovation

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Saint John's University

  • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business

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American InterContinental University

  • Master of Business Admin: Marketing

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Colorado Technical University

  • Master of Business Admin: Marketing
  • Master of Business Admin

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Keiser University

  • Master of Business Administration - Management (Spanish)

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