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Master’s in Marketing vs. MBA: Choosing a Graduate Program

05 Jul
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It can be a mixed blessing to have multiple interests and talents: You face the opportunity—and responsibility—of making complex, interesting choices. In looking for a graduate program that best fits your unique combination of skill, curiosity and achievement, you owe it to yourself to get a clear picture of what each program offers and how it can shape your future.

If you have a love for problem-solving, a knack for leadership and a passion for learning what makes people tick, you’re not alone. You share those traits with other accomplished professionals, all looking to sort out the key traits of master’s in marketing vs. MBA programs. Whether you already work as a marketing professional or are deep into a business-related role, a master's degree can take your career to new heights. Read on to consider the curriculum focus, time to completion and student experience involved in each.

‘Master’s in Marketing’ as an Umbrella Term

As you research graduate programs, it’s important to recognize that the phrase “master’s in marketing” can encompass a variety of specialized degrees. A quick Google search yields results for master’s in marketing programs, an MBA in digital marketing, another marketing MBA, an MS in marketing analytics, a master’s in global marketing, MS in marketing programs and so on. Keep your eye out for details. The more specific you are in your search, the more equipped you’ll be to find the graduate program that matches your academic interests and professional aspirations.

Traditional master’s in marketing programs, compared to MBA programs, involve one- or two-year curricula that focus on marketing and general management training. Students in on-site and online programs gain strategy and leadership skills and learn to understand analytics, data and business models. The curriculum for marketing graduate students typically starts with core courses and goes on to offer specialization through electives.1

Core courses are likely to include these, among others:

  • Design thinking
  • Product development
  • Strategic marketing management
  • Brand management
  • Data analytics for marketing
  • Data manipulation and visualization
  • Digital marketing
  • Pricing strategy
  • Sustainability-driven marketing

Electives will vary from program to program and may include business concepts and special topics such as luxury management, business development for startups or AI-led marketing.1

Master of Science in Marketing Programs

Master of Science (MS) in marketing programs provide essential concepts and tools for people looking to begin or advance their careers in marketing. While many programs require that each applicant has an undergraduate degree and some professional experience, successful candidates may come from any field of study and employment.

On campus and online, MS in marketing programs aim to develop in-depth knowledge of relevant, innovative marketing skills and techniques, as well as the experience and versatility that enable graduates to become leaders in public- and private-sector marketing. To ensure their competitive edge in the job market, students become fluent in the quantitative and qualitative marketing methods through which they can gain consumer insights.

The Online MS in Marketing program offered by the Raymond A. Mason School of Business can be completed in as few as 15 months. Individually and collectively, courses center around the Marketing Challenge: a thought-provoking, complex issue that each student selects as the program begins and works to resolve in multiple ways as coursework progresses. Each class—in analytics and insight, marketing innovation, integrated marketing and the culminating capstone—provides the opportunity to view the Marketing Challenge through a new lens and approach it with new insight and expertise. To the so-called “four Ps” of marketing—product, price, place and promotion—William & Mary adds a fifth: participation, which acknowledges the essential role of the consumer in any marketing dialogue. This highly personalized Online MS in Marketing prepares you to lead in the 21st-century world of marketing—one that is more collaborative, dynamic and faster-moving than ever before, requiring a unique blend of analytical rigor and innovative thinking.

Master of Business Administration

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree is suited for people who are driven to acquire business skills and build challenging, lucrative careers in a diverse range of areas. Full-time MBA programs typically require two years, but the timing may vary, particularly if you’re studying online and balancing education with employment.

In addition to academic rigor academic rigor, MBA programs offer the challenge and opportunity of developing strong relationships with peers, faculty and mentors—all of whom may be supportive amid your future career decisions.

When you consider master’s in marketing vs. MBA programs, expect to encounter demanding coursework that’s delivered at high volume at a fast pace. Business school faculty members interviewed by U.S. News & World Report2 noted that an MBA program should instill the skills students will need to excel as business executives, including the ability to:

  • Analyze large amounts of information quickly and accurately
  • Develop smart solutions to business problems
  • Inspire and motivate people
  • Command respect
  • Move up the corporate ladder as a leader
  • Run their own business

An MBA program should be transformative. According to The Princeton Review, “Business schools craft students into astute decision-makers and professionals who can readily navigate uncertainty, risk and change.” Consider a typical timeline:3

The First Year
The core curriculum provides a broad overview of the major areas of business: management and accounting, finance, organizational behavior, decision sciences and economics. A core marketing course, for example, might cover pricing, segmentation, communications, product-line planning and implementation. Elective courses provide more specific focus, and some business schools integrate core courses into unified learning experiences, which may include topics such as globalization, ethics and managing diversity.

There’s more to take on in the first year, because recruiters for summer jobs start contacting students almost at the start of the fall term. The search for summer positions can be highly competitive, as that employment may translate into offers for permanent jobs.

The Second Year
Academics lighten up somewhat at this point, as networking and the job hunt take higher priority. The workload isn’t as intense and courses in electives help you become highly proficient in your specialty.

In year two, get to know people in your business school’s alumni network. These graduates of your program can provide rich insight borne of their own professional experience. You’re embarking on a journey they’ve already taken, and they can help smooth your path in the business world when you've become an MBA graduate.

Choose the MS in Marketing Program That Prepares You to Be a Leading Marketing Professional

Developed and taught by the finest expert faculty, the Online Master of Science in Marketing program at William & Mary creates courageous, innovative leaders with far-reaching expertise in the digital marketing tools, technologies and strategies of modern marketing. If you’re interested in advancing your career and moving into leadership positions in the C-suite, William & Mary’s Online MS in Marketing will give you the credentials you need. As highlighted throughout this post, this program goes deeper into marketing principles than a standard MBA, so you’ll be equipped to be an innovative leader in any organization.

To learn more about the master’s in marketing curriculum and online experience, reach out to an Admissions Outreach Advisor today.