MBA vs Master’s in Marketing: Which One Should You Choose?

Marketing team studying data

A bachelor’s degree in marketing is a wonderful tool that can help you get your foot in the door for a wide variety of careers. However, a graduate degree is often necessary if you want to advance your career beyond the positions open to applicants with an undergraduate degree.

There is an unquestionable demand for qualified business professionals and a graduate degree can significantly boost your qualifications and skills, enabling you to pursue higher-level positions in your chosen industry. In the marketing industry, more managerial positions are becoming available. The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for advertising, promotion and marketing managers to increase by about 6% from 2019 to 2029, faster than average, accounting for an estimated increase of 18,800 jobs in the field.*

If you are a marketing professional or you would like to transition to this field, you might consider earning either a master’s in marketing or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with an emphasis in marketing. Both of these degrees would make a valuable addition to your resume; however, there are some differences to consider before you choose an MBA or a master’s in marketing.

What Is an MBA in Marketing Degree?

A Master of Business Administration degree in any specialization area, including marketing, offers an impressive breadth of education. MBA programs usually emphasize leadership skills, business management and operational organization. Students may also study general topics in economics, finance and business statistics, and there is likely to be some discussion of business ethics and related legal issues. An MBA in marketing will also address marketing topics, although these won’t be the primary focus.

What Is a Master’s Degree in Marketing?

In contrast to an MBA program, a master’s degree in marketing will be much more focused on marketing itself. Rather than exploring business statistics and operational management, master’s degree students will investigate subjects such as consumer behavior, brand development, marketing strategies and cultural considerations in international marketing. The curriculum may include an overview of leadership skills and general business practices, but they will not be the primary focus.

MBA vs. Master’s in Marketing: Typical Coursework

Regardless of the degree program, graduate students can generally expect to do a significant amount of academic reading and writing and to participate in stimulating discussions with instructors and peers. However, there are some differences in the typical coursework of an MBA vs. a master’s degree.

Master’s degree students may study theories, concepts and strategies in marketing. In other words, there is a focus on theoretical knowledge. In contrast, an MBA student will explore theories but focus primarily on applying theoretical knowledge to real-world situations. The coursework for an MBA program relies heavily on case studies. Students will reflect on these case studies to consider how theories and strategies are used to solve challenges in the real world.

For example, MBA marketing classes include:

  • Leadership and Organizations
  • Accounting Practices
  • Economics
  • Marketing Management
  • Operations Management
  • International Marketing

As you can see, an MBA with an emphasis in marketing offers classes related to business as well as marketing. On the other hand, courses in a master’s in marketing program may not cover the same business concepts and will instead focus on marketing topics.

MBA vs. Master’s in Marketing: Your Work Experience

The focus and typical coursework of these two degrees is not the only consideration when choosing a program. You should also consider your work experience and qualifications for applying to a program for either degree. If you’ve recently earned your bachelor’s degree and you have little to no professional experience, then you might consider applying to a master’s degree program. The MBA program is ideal for working professionals who have at least a few years of experience in the workplace.

Note that even if you are a new graduate, the MBA may be better suited to your long-term career objectives. If you are attracted to the idea of a degree that offers more transferrable skills and a broader view of business with a marketing emphasis, it may be worthwhile to gain some experience in the field before returning to enroll in an MBA program.

MBA vs. Master’s in Marketing: Your Desired Career Path

Every degree program requires a significant commitment. Earning a graduate degree will require many hours of hard work as well as an investment of financial resources (although the rewards will be well worth the effort). Take your time when choosing your program, as you will want to make sure you’re making the right decision. Another important consideration is your desired career path.

The MBA in marketing and the master’s degree in marketing can both lead to careers in the marketing field. However, there are some differences in the likely career path of graduates from each program. With a marketing master’s degree, you might expect to pursue careers such as:

  • Sales manager
  • Brand development specialist
  • Public relations officer
  • Market research analyst
  • Copywriter
  • Digital marketing and SEO specialist

Individuals with an MBA with an Emphasis in Marketing may also be qualified to hold these positions. However, they are more apt to pursue higher-level positions, such as executive and C-suite roles. For example, an MBA graduate may interview for positions such as:

  • Vice president of marketing
  • Senior product manager
  • Director of marketing
  • Chief executive officer (CEO)

Grand Canyon University’s Colangelo College of Business is committed to graduating students who are leaders in their communities and fields. The Master of Business Administration with an Emphasis in Marketing, which is available online, explores topics such as international marketing, services marketing and operations management. If you would like to learn more about our graduate program admissions process or tuition, click on Request Info at the top of the screen.


*COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared with prior years. The pandemic may affect the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, the data shown are based on 2019 statistics, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Advertising, Promotion and Marketing Managers.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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