Master's in Marketing: A Guide

Written by Coursera • Updated on

By earning your master’s in marketing, you can deepen your subject knowledge, elevate your educational credentials, and prepare to take on management roles.

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Whether you’ve been working in marketing for several years and are interested in higher-level advancement, or you’ve been working in a related field and are interested in pivoting to marketing, there may come a point in your career when it makes sense to explore a master’s degree in marketing. 

Many marketing roles do not require a graduate degree, but it can be an advantageous step to build on your undergraduate education. By earning your master’s in marketing, you can deepen your subject knowledge, elevate your educational credentials, and prepare to take on management roles. Let’s go over what it takes to earn a master’s degree in marketing and whether it’s the best choice for you. 

Master’s degree in marketing: The basics 

A master’s marketing degree is a graduate-level degree typically designed to deepen your knowledge of marketing—or the strategy a company deploys to promote its products or services. While a bachelor’s degree in marketing often introduces students to several fundamental topics about market research, social media strategy, and effective messaging, a master’s degree typically focuses on more niche topics. These might include applying data analytics to market research, digital messaging strategies, and consumer behavior. 

Degree types 

When you’re interested in advancing your marketing knowledge, there are two degrees to explore: the Master of Science (MS) in Marketing or the Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in marketing, such as marketing management, brand marketing, or product marketing. 

While there’s no strict rule about which program you can attend, the difference between the two largely comes down to experience. The MS in Marketing is geared toward recent graduates who have some—but not much—work experience, while the MBA is generally intended for professionals who have spent at least four or five years in the workforce. Let’s break that down a little further. 

  • An MS in Marketing is usually for graduates with one or two years of professional experience. It’s likely better for students who didn’t earn their bachelor’s degree in marketing and are interested in—or have already started—a marketing career but desire advanced education.  

  • An MBA is usually for graduates with a minimum of four or five years of professional experience. It’s likely best for students who earned their bachelor’s degree in business or marketing and want to expand upon that education. 

As you think about the best degree program for you, take time to review the outcomes and coursework you’ll be expected to complete and the job placement support or professional development each one offers. Consider how those factors align with your larger reasons for earning a master’s degree. 

Learn more about the key distinctions between these two degree types

Interested in earning your MBA but want the flexibility of an online program? Explore the iMBA from the University of Illinois on Coursera. The program features multiple concentrations, including digital marketing, and you can try out a course first to see if it’s a good fit before applying. 

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Coursework and thesis

Master’s courses tend to be more advanced than bachelor’s degree courses because you learn about specialized topics. In your marketing master’s program, you may take classes on aspects of business, finance, sales, advertising, and communications, as well as targeted marketing classes such as: 

  • Market research

  • Market strategy

  • Consumer behavior 

  • Visual marketing

  • Digital marketing analytics

  • Strategic brand management 

  • Advertising management

Your master’s marketing program may also require that you complete a thesis or capstone project before graduating. Often, this is an opportunity to conduct original research and apply what you’ve learned to an area of marketing that most interests you. 

Learn more: Marketing Degree Requirements

Time and costs

No matter whether you choose to pursue your MS or MBA, you can expect to spend about two years in your graduate marketing program when you’re able to attend full-time. Many schools offer part-time options to accommodate professional students that can add to the amount of time you’ll spend earning your degree. Some options, such as accelerated MBA programs or dual degree programs, may speed up your timeline. 

Depending on whether you attend a public or private non-profit institution, a master’s degree in the United States typically costs between $30,000 and $120,000 [1]. MBAs tend to be more expensive on average, with costs nearing $200,000 for private institutions [2].

Learn more: Is a Marketing Degree Worth It? 

What can you do with a master’s in marketing? 

Marketing can be a lucrative—and long-lasting—career thanks to the number of products and services companies seek to sell. According to a LinkedIn report, there’s more demand than ever for marketers [3]. A master’s in marketing is an educational opportunity to deepen your interest in some facet of marketing while refining your transferable skills

Marketing isn’t limited to one type of work or one set path—there are numerous marketing areas you can explore, including research, strategy, events, and content. You may start in one aspect of marketing before eventually moving into another. For example, you may start as a social media marketer before becoming a marketing manager and applying your skill set to a wider array of marketing needs. 

While it’s possible to grow as a marketer with an undergraduate degree and experience, a master’s in marketing can be an attractive credential on your resume. Companies may prefer a master’s for certain roles, and the degree can show companies the extra time you dedicated to the subject.

Learn more: What Can You Do with a Marketing Degree? 11 Career Paths

Marketing salaries 

The median weekly earnings for a master’s degree holder is $1,574, compared to $1,334 for bachelor’s degree holders, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) [4]. With a master’s in marketing, you can explore a number of management roles, including higher positions such as creative director and chief marketing officer.

Job titleUS salary*
Events manager$77,897
Brand manager$93,271
Communications manager$100,835
Sales manager$126,640
Marketing manager$133,380
Creative director$145,156
Chief marketing officer$202,157

*Salary data from BLS and Glassdoor

Is a master’s in marketing right for you?

Whether a master’s in marketing is right for you largely depends on your experience and career goals. Those two factors can help you determine whether an MS or an MBA makes more sense. 

It can also be worthwhile to think about why you’re interested in earning a master’s degree in the first place because there are educational alternatives. If you want to increase your knowledge in some area of marketing, a professional certificate or an individual course may be a strong option. You can list the certificates from either track on your resume, signaling to a potential employer the work you’ve invested to stay up to date. You can also highlight what you learned in your cover letter and job interviews.

  • Professional certificates are shorter programs (typically less than a year) designed to help you develop or improve your career-ready skills. 

  • Individual courses boost your subject knowledge with focused education. 

Earn a professional certificate from industry leaders like Meta and Google in social media marketing, digital marketing, or marketing analytics on Coursera.   

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Explore further 

Earn your Master of Business Administration from the University of Illinois on Coursera, and enjoy the flexibility of taking classes remotely and at your own pace. Or, if you’re looking for a shorter, comparably career-focused program, explore Professional Certificates from Meta in high-demand marketing areas such as social media marketing or marketing analytics

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Article sources 

1. National Data Initiative. “Average Cost of a Master’s Degree, https://educationdata.org/average-cost-of-a-masters-degree.” Accessed May 12, 2022.

2. Poets & Quants. “How Much Does a Top MBA Now Cost, https://poetsandquants.com/business-school-news/cost-of-an-mba-program/2/.”  Accessed May 12, 2022. 

3. Linkedin. "The Changing Marketing Jobs Landscape, https://www.linkedin.com/business/marketing/blog/linkedin-ads/the-changing-marketing-jobs-landscape-key-hiring-trends-and-insights.”  Accessed May 12, 2022.

4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Education Pays, https://www.bls.gov/emp/chart-unemployment-earnings-education.htm.” Accessed May 12, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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