Marketing Communications Master's and PhD Degrees at a Glance
Students in a marketing communications degree program study marketing theories to better understand consumer behavior. Graduates typically work at advertising or marketing agencies where they serve multiple clients, or within a company's or nonprofit's internal marketing department.
Most marketing managers hold a bachelor's degree and have several years of relevant work experience, while leadership positions in market research typically require a master's degree and mastery of statistics and/or economics. Careers in research and academia often require a doctoral degree.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of marketing managers could grow by 14% from 2010-2020. Meanwhile, employment of market research analysts was expected to grow 41% during the same period, much faster than the average for all occupations, due to increased needs across all industries to understand consumer behavior and the effectiveness of marketing strategies.
|Who is this degree for?||- Experienced professionals pursuing professional development or advancement opportunities|
- Students with bachelor degrees who want to enhance or specialize their skills
- People who are new to marketing communications or making a career change
|- Students who want to work in marketing communications policy or research|
- Master's or bachelor's degree holders, particularly those with a background in marketing, journalism, advertising or communications
- People who want to teach at the post-secondary level
|Common Career Paths (with approximate annual salary)||- Market research analysts ($67,000)*|
- Marketing specialists ($67,000)*
- Marketing manager ($126,000)*
|- Post-secondary communications teachers (67,500)*|
|Time to Completion||Typically 2 years (full-time)||Typically 5 years (full time)|
|Common Graduation Requirements||- Complete coursework (approximately 36 credits)|
- Maintain GPA standards
- Satisfy thesis requirements
- Satisfy internship requirements, if applicable
|- Complete coursework (approximately 72 credits)|
- Complete internship requirements
- Research, write and present dissertation
- Attend workshops/seminars, if applicable
- Pass qualifying exams
|Prerequisites||- Bachelor's degree in a related field|
- Meet GPA requirements
- Letter(s) of recommendation
- Personal statement
- Recent GRE scores
- 2 years of related work experience, if applicable
|- All of the master's requirements plus:|
- Copy of master's thesis, if applicable
- Possess understanding of statistics, business and/or economics, if applicable
|Online Availability||Yes||Courses available, degree programs are rare|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 mean figures).
Master's Degree in Marketing Communications
The objective of a marketing communications master's degree program is to teach students to develop and promote products, ideas, and services to consumers through various modes of communication. Students in a marketing communications master's degree program learn how the product, the message, and the timing all come together to bring the public and their business together. While a master's degree can help you land jobs where competition is fierce, an appropriate bachelor's degree is often sufficient for many positions.
Degree programs are typically structured as a Master of Arts/Science (MS) in Marketing Communications; however, some programs may be referred to as a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications (MSIMC). Students usually learn through participative discussions, group projects, internships and independent coursework.
Pros and Cons
- Because most entry-level positions in this industry require a bachelor's degree, you may stand out from the crowd with an advanced degree.
- Most programs require an internship component, which provides valuable on-the-job training and networking experiences.
- Lower-level management positions may require just a few years of work experience, so there is potential to rise quickly.
- You may be viewed as over-educated for some entry-level positions.
- Experience is an important qualification in marketing communications. If you attend a master's program immediately after undergraduate studies, you may be delaying valuable on-the-job experiences.
- Careers in this field can be competitive, even for entry-level positions.
Common Courses and Requirements
A typical master's degree in marketing communications consists of approximately 36 general education, elective and core credits. In these programs, you need to complete an original research proposal (known as a thesis), participate in an internship and demonstrate mastery in developing marketing communication strategies and campaigns. Marketing communications programs commonly require students to complete group projects in addition to their independent studies.
You can expect a variety of courses, including market research, branding, corporate communications, sales management, technology and ethics. Courses commonly feature real-world case studies for practical analysis.
Online Course Options
Online and distance learning courses are available. Some schools may offer a fully online option and a hybrid option (a combination of online and on-campus classes). Online programs generally feature curriculum and coursework requirements that are similar to traditional on-campus programs. Students should be advised that distance learning programs may also require internships and group work (which can often be satisfied online as well). Some online marketing communications programs target mid-career professionals, and expect students to have several years of work experience under their belts.
Getting Ahead with This Degree
Marketing communications master's degree candidates may want to consider taking courses in web technologies and social media to become more marketable and stay current in business trends. If you want to augment your studies, you may wish to pursue a minor in web and graphic design or multimedia programs.
In many cases, you can join on-campus or professional organizations, where members can benefit from guest speakers, professional development and networking opportunities. For example, the Marketing Research Association offers the Professional Researcher Certification (PRC) for market research analysts. Certification candidates must pass an exam and show proof of work experience.
PhD in Marketing Communications
Marketing communications PhD candidates study and critically evaluate various topics in the field, including consumer behavior, brand and customer management, international marketing, high-technology and new media marketing and innovation strategy. Typically, you would work independently and produce original contributions of research and analysis. PhD programs may fall under a school's marketing department; however, doctoral candidates are often able to pursue their own concentration or focus, including one in marketing communications.
Graduates of a marketing communications PhD program will have the skills to work in academia, research or public policy. Typically, a doctoral degree is not necessary for marketing communication careers outside of academia.
Pros and Cons
- Small class sizes emphasize student-professor interactions.
- You will have the opportunity to specialize in a topic of particular interest to you.
- The PhD is widely recognized as the best option for pursuing a post-secondary teaching career.
- Job security is typically only available through tenured positions, which are highly coveted and very competitive.
- You may be over-educated for careers outside of academia.
- You may not find higher salaries or more job opportunities with a doctoral degree.
Common Courses and Requirements
Students in a marketing communications doctoral program typically spend two years completing academic coursework, followed by a qualifying exam. The following two to three years are spent on dissertation research and writing. Students on a teaching track may also be required to complete a teaching assignment.
In addition to courses in theory, research and sociology, students in doctoral programs are typically allowed to choose their own course of study within certain parameters.
You can expect courses on the following topics:
- Behavioral applications in marketing
- Strategic marketing applications
- Field research methods
- Quantitative methods in behavioral sciences
- Applied statistics
Some individual courses in marketing and consumer behavior may be available online; however; they may focus purely on marketing, not marketing communications. These online courses are typically aimed at students and experienced professionals who already have an understanding of the field. Students who are interested in online marketing communications PhD programsdegrees should thoroughly research academic programs to ensure the degrees they offer are accredited by the U.S. Department of Education or one of its accrediting agencies.
Getting Ahead with This Degree
If you plan to work in academia, you can begin to pursue teaching assistant opportunities while you are enrolled in your PhD program. These opportunities may be paid or unpaid. While they provide a great opportunity to obtain teaching experience, assistantships may be limited and competitive.
Alternatively, if you choose to pursue a research track, consider the opportunities at your school's literary journals and publications. Published research can set you apart from other candidates in your field.