How to Get a DBA or PhD in Marketing and Advertising

Marketing and advertising doctoral degrees are found at the point where economics, mathematics, and business administration intersect at their highest level. When supported by the right program, your research contributes to the field as you prepare for a career that focuses on teaching and research.

A PhD in Business with a specialization in Marketing or Advertising represents far more than a degree. Earning a doctoral degree proves your high level of knowledge and research in the field. Your dissertation ideally contributes a unique element to the industry, preparing you for a career of high-level research, consulting, or teaching.

Popular Specializations in Marketing & Advertising

Doctoral programs start with a comprehensive knowledge of known theories, offering students an in-depth education in a fascinating field. Here are just a few topics that might direct your focus as a doctoral candidate in business marketing or advertising:

  • Marketing/advertising innovation
  • Marketing management
  • New product design
  • Financial metrics
  • International marketing/advertising

Ready to learn more? As you begin your research into marketing and advertising degree programs, start thinking about how you want your career to progress. The type of degree you earn will have an impact on your academic and professional career paths.

Choosing Between a PhD and a DBA

Potential doctoral students should generally consider the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) as an academic degree. The goal of the PhD dissertation is to add a new theory to academic thought on marketing and advertising. The Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), on the other hand, is generally considered a professional degree. A DBA dissertation in marketing would be more likely to take an existing theory in the field and apply that to a new and original problem.

After completing a dissertation, PhD graduates in marketing and advertising often seek out a teaching position at a college or university, or a high-level research post. Many DBA graduates look to the private sector, finding research positions with private companies or working as high-level consultants, potentially at the executive level.

As a side note, a dedicated PhD in Advertising outside of a marketing concentration is rare. Such programs do exist, and they generally prepare graduates for academic research and teaching in the field.

Marketing Management Doctoral Degree

As the name suggests, a doctoral degree in marketing management focuses on the internal business side of the marketing world. As a high-level management degree, it can prepare students to consult or own a business at the management level, or to research and teach at the post-secondary level.

As with any degree, researching alumni activity in a marketing management degree program helps shed some light on the real-world application of the degree. Some schools may not offer a management-specific degree, but instead tie the coursework into a more general business marketing program.

Before You Apply: PhD Prerequisites

Prepare to apply for a PhD or DBA in Marketing and Advertising by gathering the required materials. Prerequisites for doctoral degrees in this field vary by school. In general, any application should include four parts:

  • Degree Experience: Some programs prefer or require a master’s degree in business, while others look more favorably upon a bachelor’s degree plus years of experience in the field
  • Examination: Most applicants must excel on the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), plus the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), if necessary
  • Academic Excellence: Exact GPA requirements vary by school, but could range between 3.5 and 3.9 for undergraduate and graduate course study. Coursework in economics, mathematics, and business administration will be particularly useful
  • Recommendation: Collect letters of recommendation from contacts in the academic and professional world

Each school has different application requirements and should be contacted individually for more information. Using’s doctoral portal, it’s simple to contact schools for more information on application prerequisites and other details.

Marketing Doctorate Degree Coursework

Your coursework experience will vary based on the individual program, degree, and your own interests in research. Students generally complete seminars in the field before beginning the research and dissertation writing process. Here are just a few sample seminars in a PhD in Marketing degree:

  • Research Methods in Marketing
  • Marketing Models
  • Managerial Research in Marketing
  • Behavior in Markets

A typical doctoral degree in marketing includes courses in statistics and research methods, and qualifying exams after one or two years. An academic minor may also be required, giving students a chance to further diversify their education at the doctoral level.

Doctoral Degree Resources

Whether you’re returning to school after years in the workforce or making the switch to online education after attending traditional colleges and universities, can help you get the facts on your doctoral degree. Here are just a few helpful sections you can find on the site:

  • For information on job statistics, career trends, and degree specializations within specific majors, see the Guide to College Majors page. Detail is available for a range of majors and degree levels, including doctoral degrees.
  • If you’re wondering how to finance your doctoral degree, look to the Financial Aid section for more information on public and private sources of financial aid, including scholarships, federal student loans, military aid, and aid information for international students
  • See the Education Resources section for tips and facts on test preparation at the graduate level and additional information about online learning. More information on accreditation can also be found on the page.

Use these free resources to help take the mystery out of researching for graduate degree programs and majors.

Other Marketing & Advertising Degree Resources

A number of sites on the Web include helpful, free resources for your doctoral degree program research. From respected ranking sites to government funding options, these resources can help you at various points on your search.

  • The U.S. News & World Report ranks the top business schools with marketing specialties on their Best Business Schools page. New rankings are released every year, culled from a list of master’s degree programs.
  • Visit the U.S. News & World Report University Director for a listing of PhD in Marketing schools. The listing is drawn from the magazine’s larger list of best business schools.
  • Check out the government’s Federal Student Aid Web site and begin a free application for federal student aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA determines your federal loans and grants; the results may also be requested by your school as they determine your financial need.

You should never pay a fee for information like school rankings, scholarship and grant information, or individual school requirements. Knowing where to look can reduce your research drastically as you seek out on-campus and online PhD programs.

Essential Contacts: Individuals and Groups

Beyond Web sites and rankings publications, there are a few important individuals and groups that can contribute to your doctoral program research process. Here are a few important contacts:

  • Admissions counselors: These trained representatives can be found at each potential doctoral program. Use them to find out more about individual school information, including admissions requirements, alumni statistics, and financial aid.
  • Use this helpful site to contact a group of schools at one time instead of contacting programs individually. is best utilized as a first step, helping you make initial contact with a wide range of colleges.
  • Financial aid representatives: Find more information on financial aid from the source, either through individual colleges and universities, or through federal and local financial aid representatives.

Narrow Down Your PhD & DBA Program Choices

As you learn more about individual schools offering business doctoral degrees in marketing and advertising, you will likely narrow down your choices to a handful of schools and degree programs that appeal to your career goals. From there, consider the following elements and narrow down your choices even further.

  • Environment. Because such a large part of the doctoral process lies in completing original research, look for schools with unique research opportunities and resources. Whether the school is on-campus or online, it should have listings of databases that graduate students use to complete their research requirements.
  • Competition. A more competitive marketing program could offer everything from a better reputation to a higher amount of financial aid. The drawback of such programs is the competition itself, which keeps all but a few from enrollment. Ask individual schools for statistics on their applicants, and see where you measure up.
  • Faculty. If you intend to spend years interacting with faculty in a particular business school, it can help to research them beforehand. Look for a doctoral program with faculty members whose research and study somewhat match your own.
  • Financial aid. Beyond state and federal funding, colleges and universities typically offer some level of financial aid to entice potential students. Research the school to learn what percentage of doctoral students are fully funded within the specific marketing or advertising program of your choice.
  • Requirements. Before you attend a doctoral program, you will need to pass a qualifying exam such as the GMAT or GRE. Once you’re in a marketing or advertising doctoral program, degree requirements vary by school and likely include qualifying exams, transcripts, research assignments, seminar participation, and papers.
  • Placement. Colleges and universities keep records on the success of their alumni. Ask admissions counselors for statistics on placement within the advertising and marketing fields as well as academic statistics, such as the number of graduates who secure tenure-track positions.

By keeping the above categories in mind during your research, you can narrow your options down to a doctoral program that works with your background, budget, and goals. Focusing your search can save you costly fees and the time-consuming application process. Apply only to doctoral programs that suit your needs; you’ll appreciate the time you put into researching schools.

Joining a Worldwide Business Community

Anyone in business will attest to the importance of networking. Before you apply to marketing and advertising graduate degree programs, you should have some awareness of the journals, professional organizations, and popular conferences in the field. Check out some of the most popular ways to network with fellow doctoral candidates, educators, and other professionals:

  • Journals: Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Consumer Research, Marketing Science, Journal of Advertising Research, Journal of Interactive Advertising, Advertising & Society Review
  • Professional Organizations: American Marketing Association, Academy of Marketing Science, Association for Consumer Research, American Association of Advertising Agencies, Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
  • Conferences: American Marketing Association Educators’ Conference, Asia Pacific Marketing Conference, Retail Innovation Conference

Interest, attendance, or publication with one or more of the above groups could improve your application standings with competitive marketing and advertising doctoral programs. Admissions representatives appreciate proof of a potential student’s academic contribution; working within the established community is one way to provide that proof.

Benefits of Doctoral Marketing/Advertising Program Research

The hours you put into researching doctorate degree programs in marketing and advertising have a high potential payoff. Use the knowledge you find to help you determine your ideal degree program. Whether you aspire to research and teach or work confidently at the executive level, a doctoral degree program can offer you the education you need.


  • All Conferences, Advertising/Marketing
  • FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid
  • Indiana University, Kelley School of Business
  • University of Texas, McCombs School of Business
  • U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report University Directory
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