MBA vs. master’s in marketing: Key career differences
At a certain point in your career, you may ask yourself, “Should I get an MBA?” A Master of Business Administration has long been regarded as a path to leadership roles. The strength of an MBA is its versatility, as it offers an in-depth study of overall business concepts. Additionally, students in MBA programs come from a variety of educational backgrounds, not just business. For example, a software engineer with a computer science degree might get an MBA to learn organizational development, sales, marketing, and finance — all skills that would make this person a promising candidate for upper management and leadership positions.
Marketing professionals have another question to ask themselves: “Should I get an MBA or a Master of Science in Marketing?” When considering an MBA vs. a master’s in marketing, an important thing to keep in mind is what you want to focus on throughout your career.
In the following article, we will discuss the MBA, the marketing MBA, and the Master of Science in Marketing to help clarify which choice is the best for you.
MBA, Marketing MBA, and Master of Science in Marketing
Learning about the differences between an MBA, a marketing MBA, and master’s in marketing programs can help you identify which degree is right for you based on your goals and where you are in your career. Whether you are looking for general business knowledge or a deeper dive into marketing best practices, analysis, and cutting-edge technology, you’ll be able to find a program to best fit your needs.
Many MBA students are already established in their careers before starting a program; they may be software developers, financial analysts, accountants, operations managers, or marketing managers. The choice to pursue an MBA rather than an advanced degree specific to your field indicates your interest in a general leadership role within an organization. An MBA provides the leadership and business intelligence skills necessary to qualify for career advancement opportunities. This diversity of skills is an asset for a successful business leader.
MBA programs cover general business, finance and accounting, and operations, as well as marketing. Coursework generally includes financial management, strategic leadership, marketing strategy and analytics, and international business. MBA programs also offer the opportunity to select a concentration in one subject, which allows you to choose one to three electives in a specific area. For many marketing professionals, getting an MBA with a concentration in marketing suits their career goals.
Some MBA programs offer a marketing concentration that focuses on marketing strategy and research. These programs include extended coursework in marketing technology and data analytics along with general MBA topics. Coursework includes SEO and marketing analytics, consumer behavior, and promotion management. A marketing MBA gives you the skills to help manage a company’s marketing team and drive strategy.
Master of Science in Marketing
A master’s in marketing focuses on marketing strategy, research, digital marketing, marketing management, and marketing technology. The coursework in a master's in marketing program tends to be more data driven and analytical than that of the marketing classes in a general MBA program. It, too, will set you up for a career in marketing leadership and strategy. By providing a data analysis perspective, these programs work to produce leaders who understand how cutting-edge technology and data can drive marketing performance and success. Courses may include consumer behavior, digital marketing analysis, marketing communications, and business-to-business marketing.
Generally, you will start a master’s in marketing program immediately after completing an undergraduate degree, or shortly thereafter. Even with a master’s, you may begin your career in an entry-level role as a marketing analyst or a similar position.
Marketing careers post-degree
Although they are similar, a master's in marketing and a marketing MBA can lead to quite different careers. Which you choose depends on where you are in your career and what you want out of your degree. The key job differences for MBA vs. master’s in marketing graduates tend to fall along the lines of overall business strategy focused vs. data focused, especially in the early stages of your work experience.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for marketing managers was just under $142,000 in May 2020, with 10% projected growth for all advertising, marketing, and promotion jobs between 2020 and 2030.
If you enter your MBA program with several years of work experience, your compensation after graduation may reflect a higher salary. Master’s in marketing students often begin in entry-level roles simply because they earn their degrees earlier in their careers.
Marketing vs. business
When comparing marketing vs. business degrees , what are the key differences, and how do those differences impact a marketing professional’s career options? While the roles overlap, the main differences lie in the tasks and responsibilities that each requires. Business is the overall management within a company or organization. Marketing is the promotion, advertising, and selling of a company’s products or services by communicating with customers and potential customers.
Business tasks and responsibilities
A business comprises a variety of activities, such as manufacturing or the supply of services, sales, and accounting. As a manager or executive with an MBA, you might perform general business tasks such as:
● Budgeting: Overseeing costs and payments, which requires experience in accounting, finance, and projections
● Supply chain management: Monitoring materials to ensure that a business has what it needs to manufacture products or provide services
● Weekly, quarterly, and yearly goals: Ensuring that an organization meets goals, or determining why they were missed
● Operations management: Making sure that employees have the resources to succeed in their work
● Human resources: People management, including hiring and firing, mentoring, and training
● Business development: Developing relationships with people and customers to build a pipeline of growth opportunities for the future
● Cross-department collaboration: Coordinating efforts between the leadership team and department heads to develop and execute business strategy
Marketing tasks and responsibilities
Marketing is a business function just as sales and manufacturing are, and it is just as critical to an organization’s success. As a marketing professional, you’ll work with counterparts in other departments to make sure that marketing activities support the company’s goals and strategy. Marketing tasks include:
● Budgeting: Determining the budget for day-to-day marketing operations and campaigns and presenting it for executive approval
● Weekly, quarterly, and yearly goals: Ensuring that marketing initiatives meet their goals in reaching customers and supporting sales and product development
● Brand management: Defining, publicizing, and protecting the company’s brand and image
● Advertising and marketing campaigns: Creating and executing campaigns
● Research: Analyzing results and using data to improve performance
● Reporting: Compiling and analyzing data from campaigns, surveys, sales, and customer feedback to present the results of marketing operations to company leaders
● Cross-department collaboration: Working with counterparts across a business to develop and execute strategy
While the specifics can be quite different when it comes to marketing vs. business, the two overlap quite a bit. As a marketing professional, you’ll need to understand general business responsibilities, even within a marketing department. This means that an MBA can be an excellent way to boost your career opportunities.
Types of careers in business vs. types of careers in marketing
The goal of all employees in a company is to drive business growth and profitability. Marketing professionals collaborate with coworkers across all departments to meet that goal, and understanding the different roles of other professionals in your organization is crucial to being an effective leader. As a marketing professional, you’ll potentially work with colleagues in the following roles:
Whether you choose an MBA or a master’s in marketing, you’ll have a variety of career fields to consider, including:
● Digital marketing
● Business development
● Public relations
What you choose to focus on depends on your interests and skills.
Types of careers in marketing with an MBA
The role of marketing in any business, large or small, is to promote a company’s products and services and drive sales. However, the days when marketing was just about branding and advertising are long gone. As a modern marketing leader, you must understand how a marketing plan supports company strategy and business development, and apply marketing tools such as data and customer analytics.
You must be able to create and execute marketing campaigns that boost sales, increase brand awareness, support product launches, develop and deploy customer messaging, and much more. As a marketing leader, you will report to the senior leadership team and communicate to them what worked, what didn’t, and what needs to change.
MBA careers include:
A brand manager implements brand strategies across all platforms (digital, print, video) with a goal of boosting brand awareness, consistency, and messaging. In this role, you will need to make data-driven decisions and monitor trends.
A marketing manager develops and implements a business’s marketing strategy. You will also follow up on results, identify trends, and change strategies based on data and business goals. A marketing manager works with teams from across a firm to ensure that the marketing strategy supports overall company goals and needs.
Public relations and communications director
Part creative, part analytical, a public relations and communications director helps an organization’s internal and external communication strategy, including web, print, video and other media, press conferences, and more.
Product marketing manager
A product marketing manager works with the product development team to make sure that a product meets customer needs. In this role, you'll communicate with customers and work with the user experience and data analytics team to analyze user feedback. You’ll also work with the marketing and communications team to develop customer communications.
Sales and marketing director
A sales and marketing director oversees the sales and marketing departments and manages marketing and advertising efforts to support sales goals. This position requires an understanding of data analysis as well as of core marketing and advertising technology and operations.
Types of careers in marketing with a master’s in marketing
Although an MBA and a Master of Science in Marketing are similar, a master’s in marketing focuses more on marketing analytics and technology. Master's in marketing careers include:
Digital marketing manager
A digital marketing manager uses a company’s online assets (website, online ads, social media, blogs, video content) along with search engine optimization (SEO) and data analysis tools to build a digital marketing footprint that drives customers.
Email marketing director
An email marketing director builds and deploys direct-to-customer messaging, including newsletters, emails, and texts. In this role, you’ll work with content developers to create engaging messaging and analyze campaign data (open rates, click-throughs, etc.) to quantify results.
Marketing business intelligence analyst
A marketing business intelligence analyst uses data science to monitor market trends and gather and test marketing data, creating reports and helping to develop business strategies and forecasting models.
Market research manager
A market research manager leads a team of market analysts to gather data on customers, sales, and products using a variety of methodologies. A market research manager reports to the marketing, sales, and product teams to help drive marketing strategy.
SEO marketing manager
SEO is a branch of digital marketing that identifies the best-performing keywords according to search engine algorithms, ideally boosting a company to the top spot in search results. An SEO marketing manager plans SEO strategy and analyzes data to tweak search performance.
How long does it take to get an MBA or master’s in marketing?
Earning an MBA or master’s in marketing can take as few as 12 months, but 24 months is more common. Executive MBAs and online MBAs provide options if you can’t take time away from work. Since MBA programs encourage networking, you will be in a cohort and expected to work closely with your classmates on coursework and projects. In addition to coursework and a capstone project, you are also expected to do an internship.
MBA vs. master's in marketing: How to choose?
Should you get a general MBA or a marketing MBA? Or should you get a master’s in marketing? All three degrees can lead to a successful career in marketing and business for professionals who are passionate about the field. Choosing which route to take depends on where you are in your career and where you want to be.
Ask yourself, Am I the analytical type who loves data and understanding the numbers behind results? Do I like cutting-edge technology that can help drive business decisions and develop strategy? Or, do I like to look at an organization as a whole and work with all departments, from customer service to product development to the leadership team, to develop and execute on strategy and build a best-in-class company?
Is a marketing MBA right for me?
If you already have a bachelor’s degree and several years of work experience, you may be interested in a marketing MBA. With an MBA, you’ll get a broad view of a range of business careers and gain an in-depth understanding of how marketing fits into a company’s overall strategy. You’ll get an overview of modern marketing technology and theory to use in leading marketing teams and developing marketing strategy.
Is a master's in marketing a better fit?
Many students with a bachelor’s degree decide to get an advanced degree right after finishing their undergraduate program. For these students, the master's in marketing may fit their needs best. You’ll get the benefit of a graduate program that is deep rather than broad, and it will position you for a high-level marketing career focused on technology and data. You’ll build marketing campaigns based on a deep understanding of data analysis and make recommendations to executives drawn from your expertise and experience.
One way of evaluating an MBA vs. a master’s in marketing is by considering this contrast between broad and in-depth knowledge. Advanced data technology drives much of marketing in today’s business climate. While an MBA will include marketing analytics coursework, a Master of Science in Marketing focuses more specifically on these methods.
MBA vs. master’s in marketing: Start your journey here
Looking for the right program? Want to learn more about which degree is right for you? Visit the degrees, certificates, and courses resource page for an in-depth look at several advanced degree options with concentrations in digital marketing, communications, media, and more. Whether you want a full-time or part-time program, Pathways has the information you need to help you make a decision. Take the first step to a new career today.