Between producers and consumers stand marketing professionals, directing the flow of goods and services. Marketing and advertising specialists communicate market demand to product developers and the product's value to consumers. Along the way, they draw on a range of business skills: market research, product planning, pricing, placement, promotion, and advertising.
A master's degree prepares you to take on the diverse responsibilities of a marketing and advertising professional. A year or two of advanced graduate training offers a forum for honing your skills and earning a credential recognized the world over. Most programs are designed for professionals; you can earn a master's degree online and advance your career while you work.
WorldWideLearn.com's guide to the master's degree in marketing and advertising helps you prepare for a professional graduate degree. From focusing your career goals to choosing a school and applying, this guide takes you through the planning process from start to finish.
Guide to Master's Degrees in Marketing and Advertising
Focusing your career goals from the outset helps you find the right school and also build a strong foundation for your success throughout the program.
About Marketing and Advertising
Marketing encompasses all the planning and communication functions that link producers and consumers. Arguably the most interdisciplinary business field, marketing draws on psychology, finance and statistics, media and communications, and business administration. Advertising, the communication of a product's value to customers, is just one of the many activities that fall under the marketing heading. Marketing also intersects with product development, sales, strategic planning, and customer relationship management.
Master's Programs in Marketing and Advertising
Demand for advanced education in marketing and advertising has given rise to a range of master's degree options.
Master of Science in Marketing or Advertising
The Master of Science (MS) in marketing or advertising is a specialized graduate program in the tradition of the social science master's degree. The curriculum is tailored to the academic study of marketing and advertising; students learn key concepts and then pursue an independent research project in a specific field of interest.
The MS degree is ideal for professionals looking to deepen their understanding in a specialized area of marketing or advertising. It can also serve as a teaching credential.
Master of Business Administration
The most popular marketing and advertising graduate degree is the Master of Business Administration (MBA). This professional degree features a broad, applied education in business administration, covering fundamentals from accounting to organizational behavior. The marketing and advertising specialization typically entails additional elective courses or a capstone project.
The MBA degree's broad, applied education makes it particularly useful for students aspiring to a marketing or advertising career within an organization or firm.
This high-level MBA is designed for mid-career marketing or advertising professionals. The curriculum accommodates a greater degree of specialization and conceptual depth, with an emphasis on cultivating executive leadership skills. Online programs make this degree even more convenient for working professionals.
Marketing and advertising master's degrees challenge you to deepen your knowledge in a specific field. Depending on the program, a specialization may entail elective courses, internship or clinic work, or a capstone research project.
Specializations may zero in on a particular function within marketing or advertising:
Advertising and communications specializations focus on promoting products and services through media communications. Popular topics in advertising include digital storytelling, building influence through social media, and brand management. Functions include:
- Advertising management
- Media and integrated marketing
Strategy and product planning specializations focus on the back-office intermediary functions of marketing, liaising with product developers and sales representatives to improve products and increase revenue. Functions include:
- Product design and development
- Product management
- Pricing strategies
- Marketing channel strategies
- Sales force management
Customer relationship specializations focus on analyzing the market and communicating with customers. Functions include:
- Market research and analytical marketing
- Consumer behavior
- Customer relationship management
- International marketing
Or, you may choose to focus on a specific industry. Examples include:
- Sports marketing
- Biomedical marketing
- Technology marketing
Each master's program offers a different selection of elective courses and specializations. Developing a sense of your interests can help you decide which graduate school is best for you.
Though some graduates go on to further education and an academic career, the vast majority put their master's degree to work in the business sector. Common management job titles for MBA and master's degree graduates include:
- Marketing or advertising director
- Senior marketing manager
- Product manager
- Brand manager
- Public relations manager
Advisory roles include:
- Market research analyst
- Management consultant
The U.S. Department of Labor forecasts keen competition for senior-level marketing and advertising jobs. A graduate degree increases your value to employers, giving you an edge in the job market and increasing your earning power. The MBA wields particular clout in salary negotiations. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC)'s annual survey, MBA graduates earn 30 to 40 percent more than non-graduates immediately upon completing the degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics and PayScale report a nationwide average salary in the $100,000-range for senior-level marketing professionals with an MBA degree.
Plan for a Master's Degree in Marketing and Advertising
When you've positioned yourself within the vast landscape of graduate marketing and advertising education, you're ready to tackle the logistics of applying for a master's degree program.
Step One: Find the Right Graduate Marketing and Advertising Program
There are literally hundreds of graduate programs to choose from--traditional and online master's degrees, nationally and regionally accredited programs, generalist and specialist degrees, etc. Finding the schools that match your requirements takes careful research.
1. Choose a Program Format
Graduate marketing and advertising programs come in diverse formats to accommodate a wide range of life circumstances, learning styles, and career goals. Options include:
- Online master's and MBA degrees. Advanced digital communications technology has made it possible to earn a master's degree online. This revolutionary new format makes the MBA and MS in marketing accessible to working professionals anywhere in the world. If you work full time, a self-paced, Internet-mediated program offers a convenient route to an advanced degree.
- Full-Time campus degrees. The traditional full-time campus format remains the preferred format at the nation's elite institutions. Campus programs also offer immediate access to faculty, local events, and school facilities.
- Part-Time degrees. Part-time programs feature flexible scheduling options to accommodate working professionals. Options include weekend and night campus courses, extended degrees, and self-paced asynchronous formats.
2. List Accredited Master's and MBA Programs
Next, survey your options in your chosen format by compiling a list of accredited institutions. Accreditation, a regular program review by an independent regional or national agency, serves as an important indication of the program's educational quality. The value of your degree and your eligibility for financial aid may depend on the program's accreditation status. Check the U.S. Department of Education Web site for a database of approved accrediting agencies.
The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) is the gold standard for graduate business program accreditation. Search the online database of graduate management programs by degree level, field of study, location, and on-campus or online format.
3. Explore Academic Programs
Focus your list by digging deeper into each program's emphasis and academic resources. Factors to consider include:
- Curriculum (courses and specialization options)
- Degree format and requirements (lectures, case studies, group presentations, capstone research project, etc.)
- Faculty (industry professionals or academics? Evaluate faculty expertise in your area of interest)
- Industry relationships (internships, clinics, corporate-sponsored competitions)
- Career support services (recruitment, placement counselors, resume and interviewing assistance, etc.)
- Student life (networking opportunities, student demographics, etc.)
WorldWideLearn.com features an automated system that matches you with schools that you're your program criteria. Fill out an online form indicating your preferences, and representatives from matching schools may contact you to answer your questions about the program.
School Web sites typically feature detailed information about degree requirements, faculty areas of expertise, industry-sponsored programs, and campus facilities.
Informational interviews with faculty, alumni, and current graduate students give you a sense of the academic experience and the long-range value of the degree. For campus degrees, include an in-person visit to explore the school facilities and local resources.
4. Evaluate Program Quality
Finally, narrow your candidates to a manageable list of five to ten schools. Balance program quality with your own competitiveness as an applicant, applying to at least one dream school and one safety. Your academic record and standardized test scores determine your admission prospects; check selectivity data to get a sense of a school's standards.
Criteria to consider include:
- Reputation and selectivity
- Job placement and salary statistics
- Student background, including years of industry experience
Rankings give you a rough sense of the program's reputation. The most influential rankings are:
- Financial Times. Online MBA rankings
- U.S. News & World Report. Business Schools Specialty Rankings in Marketing
- The Wall Street Journal. Executive MBA
- BusinessWeek. Full-time, part-time, and online MBA degrees
- The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Full-time international MBA programs
Admissions department data supplies selectivity information, job placement statistics, and student demographic information. Ask a school representative or admissions counselor for these valuable information sheets.
Step Two: Apply to MBA or Master's Programs in Marketing
Finding the right master's degree programs is only half the battle; the other half is convincing their admissions departments that you deserve a spot in the next entering class. Plan to complete the following application requirements.
1. Line Up Prerequisites
Most graduate marketing and advertising programs specify eligibility requirements. These prerequisites may include:
- A bachelor's degree in a related field such as business, economics, communications, or statistics
- Undergraduate prerequisite courses in business administration
- Work experience
- Standardized tests, including the GMAT (for MBA), GRE (for MS and sometimes MBA), and TOEFL (for international applicants)
2. Prepare Application Materials
Fill out an informational form and submit the following materials to support your application:
- Academic transcripts
- Test scores
- Letters of recommendation (academic or professional colleagues)
- Entrance essay
It's critical to begin the application process well ahead of the deadline. Between completing prerequisites and gathering the necessary documents, applying to business school can take the better part of a year.
Step Three: Finance Your Graduate Marketing and Advertising Degree
Your first finance lesson begins before you ever set foot in the classroom: learning how to fund your degree. Steps in planning your educational finances include the following.
1. Estimate your education costs and the ROI of the degree. Admissions counselors may walk you through the tuition costs. On the other side, you can estimate salary and advancement prospects by gathering information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Graduate Management Admission Council, and AACSB International.
2. Explore funding alternatives. Few students fund the entire cost of their education out of pocket. Financial aid exists in many forms, including:
- Grants and scholarships
- Corporate education credits or loan forgiveness programs
- Federal and private student loans
Apply for these programs when you submit your admissions application.
3. Plan an education budget. Finally, use all the information above to develop a financial plan for your education. Some features to take into account:
- The option of working while you pursue the degree
- Your estimated living expenses
- Tax deductions for continuing education
- The optimal mix of funding sources
The ability to earn a master's degree online offers a powerful means of balancing your educational budget. Three out of four MBA students work more than 35 hours a week while completing the degree. If your finances don't allow you to quit working, an online master's degree allows you to keep the job without giving up on your education.
The MBA or master's degree in marketing and advertising has the potential to recharge your business career. No matter where you are in your professional trajectory, you can upgrade your credentials and your skill set. Earn a master's degree online while you work, or work full-time toward a traditional campus MBA. Learn the basics of marketing and advertising, or hone executive-level leadership skills. With so many master's and MBA degrees to choose from, you're sure to find your own recipe for career success.
- "2009 Full-Time MBA Ranking," Economist Intelligence Unit. The Economist.
- AACSB Accredited Business Schools Database, AACSB International--The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
- Advertising and Public Relations Services, Career Guide to Industries, 2010-11 Edition. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Advertising, Marketing, Promotions, Public Relations, and Sales Managers. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Best Business Schools Specialty Ranking: Marketing, U.S. News & World Report (2009).
- "Business School Rankings and Profiles," BusinessWeek.
- Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs, U.S. Department of Education.
- Exploring Graduate Business Degrees, Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).
- "MBA Rankings and Executive Education Programs," The Wall Street Journal.
- Online MBA 2009, Business School Rankings. Financial Times.
- Overfelt, Maggie. "What's an Online MBA Worth?" BNet.
- Marketing Department, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.
- Master of Business Administration--Marketing Specialization, Capella University.
- Master of Science in Advertising, Boston University.
- MS in Marketing Curriculum. University of Cincinnati.
- Salary Survey for Degree: Master of Business Administration (MBA), Marketing. PayScale.