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, for those seeking to go beyond an undergraduate degree, a graduate degree can be an additional asset that may help you position yourself for possible career advancement in the marketing field.

There is a need for qualified marketing professionals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for advertising, promotion and marketing managers to increase by about 10% from 2021 to 2023, faster than average, accounting for an estimated increase of 33,700 jobs in the field.1

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 could 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?

A Master of Business Administration degree in any specialization area, including marketing, offers a 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 an 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 practical 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.

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 you may find the rewards to be worth your 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.

Individuals with an MBA with an Emphasis in Marketing may also be qualified to hold many of the same positions as those with a master’s in marketing. However, with the right experience, they may be able to pursue positions such as:

  • General and operations manager
  • Management analyst
  • Sales manager
  • Administrative services manager

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, fill out the form on this page.



1 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 and 2021 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is effective September 2022, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Advertising, Promotions and Marketing Managers, retrieved on June 28, 2023.

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.