Online Marketing Master’s Degrees Brand and Deliver: Getting Ahead

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The eminent and eminently quotable 20th century management guru Peter Drucker had a way of breaking down the business of doing business into deceptively straightforward sound bites. He posited that the purpose of business is to create customers, so the two basic functions of an enterprise are marketing and innovation. As he noted, "Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business."

Innovation is a somewhat self-explanatory, if complex process: it’s the thinking and tinkering that goes into the conception, engineering and ultimate creation of a company’s products and services. The marketing side of Drucker’s equation can be more difficult to pin down. In practice, marketing encompasses a wide and diverse range of challenges, from surveying and determining demand for a product or service, to developing packaging concepts and advertising campaigns, from strategic branding and targeted promotions, to the day-to-day imperatives of public relations. It is, indeed, a unique and multifaceted function of business.

There’s no license necessary to enter the field of marketing. But marketing does require a broad base of knowledge, including finely honed communications skills, a firm grasp of consumer psychology, a familiarity with data analysis methodologies and a gut-level instinct for what does and doesn’t work in the world of business. There are internships and entry-level jobs open to applicants with a bachelor’s degree in business and management, media studies and communications, the behavioral sciences and related fields, however, other marketing positions require a graduate degree.

Preparation for a master’s degree in marketing can begin as an undergraduate, when specific areas of study can start you on a path toward a career in marketing. It all depends on the particular area of marketing you intend to pursue. For example, coursework in journalism and new media communications, coupled with strong writing skills, can lay some groundwork for the advertising side of marketing, as can classes in art history, studio arts and photography. On the other hand, a background in economics, computer science, statistics and business law could be more suited for those aiming at management roles in marketing.

Whatever the course of study, experience is always a plus. Internships and entry-level work can be particularly helpful in determining an area of focus. And online master’s degree programs in marketing are generally designed to encourage and accommodate students who have already begun working in the field.

Top Online Master's in Marketing

As the world of marketing has gone increasingly virtual, so too have the options for earning a master’s in the field. Online programs are now available that allow the busy professional the chance to pursue their higher degree in a way that offers flexibility where it concerns time and coursework.

The process of discovering the right school to attend, even virtually, can be a dizzying process thanks to these many options. Below, we’ve put together a list of the schools who have ranked in the top for their master’s in marketing degree offerings. Using our own methodology, we looked at hundreds of schools and how they stack up against one another to bring the very best to potential master’s students and take the guesswork out of finding the right program.


At SNHU students choose from eight programs and further concentration areas within the online marketing degree offerings. The MA in communication with a concentration in new media & marketing is well-suited to students looking to work within media campaigns.

Three online MBA programs are offered in marketing, internet marketing and social media marketing. These degrees are also offered as online international MBA programs, placing greater emphasis on understanding how politics, international law and cultural beliefs affect marketing a multinational organization. The MS in marketing offers three concentration areas: marketing research & analytics, new media & communications and social media marketing. All degrees are focused on equipping students to deploy marketing principles complementing the ever-changing world of digital media pervading the industry.

  • MS in Marketing
  • MS in Marketing (Marketing Research and Analytics)
  • MS in Marketing (New Media and Communications)

The online MBA in marketing management at WU is a unique specialization, providing students a dual offering of courses to help them navigate global environments. In addition to undertaking standard business administration classes, students will also undertake work in market research, global enterprise development and new business ventures.

The online MSM in marketing is designed for students who want to gain marketing skills but also seek further knowledge on formulating business strategies. The 36 credit hour program includes courses on global marketing, integrated marketing communications, market research and consumer behavior among others. Both degrees are offered on flexible schedules to meet the needs of adult learners and working professionals.

  • MBA in Marketing Management
  • MS in Management (Marketing)

Dallas Baptist offers online marketing degrees as both an MBA and an MAPD, designed to give students the best fit for future aspirations. Focusing on both practical application and theoretical framework, the 36-credit MBA offers specific courses in a variety of marketing topics addressing strategy, consumer behavior, communications and digital application. Special emphasis is also placed on both domestic and multinational implementation.

The MAPD is suitable for students looking for an interdisciplinary approach. A 27-hour core curriculum comprised of studies in leadership, human actions and career development leads into a marketing track covering a variety of topics relevant to continued pursuit of a marketing related career.

  • MBA in Marketing
  • Master of Arts in Professional Development (Marketing)
  • BBS in Business Administration/MBA (Marketing)

At GGU, three online degrees in marketing are available for students seeking to grow their careers. The online MS in marketing equips graduates with an understanding of both the strategic and day-to-day marketing activities in a range of organizations; program alumni currently work in myriad sectors and industries.

The online MS in integrated marketing communications offers students a varied and holistic program combining traditional and digital media knowledge relating to marketing, advertising and public relations.

For students seeking a firm understanding of both core business principles and marketing strategies, the online MBA with a concentration in marketing highlights the trends and techniques within both fields. Though rigorous, each degree can be completed in as few as 16 months.

  • MS in Marketing
  • MS in Integrated Marketing Communications
  • MBA (Marketing)

Students choosing LC have two options for studying marketing. The online MS in management with a concentration in marketing is focused on graduating students who can implement marketing strategies on a managerial level through studies in integrated marketing strategies, buyer behavior, planning and communications and more. Special studies are available in global marketing, marketing to seniors and e-commerce.

The MS in communications with a concentration in integrated marketing communications incorporates public relations, promotions and interpersonal communications and prepares graduates who are well equipped to help any company build their brand. Special courses include graphic design for the marketplace and intercultural communication. Both degrees are 36 credit-hours.

  • MS in Management (Marketing)
  • MS in Communication (Public Relations)

The online MS in integrated marketing communications is known for its "learn it today, use it tomorrow" focus, allowing students to take what they've picked up in the classroom and apply it instantly in their professional work. Because faculty ranges from marketing leaders and academics to entrepreneurs, students gain real-world knowledge relevant in a quickly changing environment. The 33 credit-hour degree features five 9-week terms with a large variety of electives. These include cause marketing, mobile marketing, crisis communications, digital storytelling, web metrics and environmental marketing among many others. International students are able to apply for this program.

  • Integrated Marketing Communications M.S.

The online program at ETSU provides an MS in digital marketing. The innovative and ever-changing curriculum emphasizes a holistic digital approach covering topics in social media, search marketing, web analytics, metrics, strategy, online consumer behavior, B2B/B2C digital marketing and marketing research. Unlike MBA programs, the 36 credits are wholly devoted to marketing topics rather than additionally incorporating traditional business courses. Special attention is given to remaining relevant and current with the fast-paced online environment. Designed with working professionals in mind, the online program provides flexibility and ease for meeting the needs of demanding schedules.

  • Master of Science in Digital Marketing

At UNT, students are able to enroll in the online MBA featuring a concentration in marketing. After laying the foundation of traditional business administration principles, students learn both the theoretical and practical skills necessary to succeed in any organization. The program is designed both for students who are already established in marketing careers and are looking to move up and also for those looking to break into the business world who want to specialize within the marketing arena. The online nature of the course allows for students to learn at their own pace outside the confines of the traditional classroom.

  • MBA in Marketing

The online MBA with a concentration in marketing offered by BC is focused on equipping students with a nuanced understanding of marketing functions within a variety of companies. Designed for those currently working in marketing, advertising or public relations, the degree blends 33 hours of traditional business administration classes with 20 hours of specialized marketing topics. Students will learn about international marketing, marketing research and promotional and distribution management. Each online course is typically six weeks with clearly outlined goals. Graduates will have the skills needed to implement theory into practice, conduct and interpret research and contribute to corporate success.

  • Master of Business Administration Marketing

The online MBA program with a concentration in marketing at OWU is excellent for candidates seeking to progress their careers within public relations and advertising. Whether learning about international marketing, advertising, public relations or strategic marketing management, graduates will be prepared to work in a variety of industries and sectors. Designed with the working professional in mind, the program offers a flexible format able to be undertaken while still focusing on other commitments. Additionally, OWU prides itself on delivering educations taught from within a Christian worldview; the course has a strong emphasis on values and ethics.

  • MBA in Marketing

Students undertaking an online MBA in marketing through CMU's Global Campus can expect a fast-paced program designed to prepare them to be marketing leaders in any role they hope to pursue. The degree is well suited to professionals looking to work within advertising, brand management, market research, new product development or public relations. Nine credit-hours of specialized courses include market and sales forecasting, understanding the voice of the customer and international marketing. Only requiring 36 credit-hours, graduates can finish the program quickly depending on how much time they are able to devote to their studies.

  • Master of Business Administration (MBA) Marketing

At OU, students can gain an online MBA with a concentration in marketing while building a strong understanding of marketing principles including advertising, e-commerce, public relations and Internet marketing. Whether a student's aspirations lie in working with start-ups or global organizations, the program can develop the marketing and business skills needed to thrive in any setting. Special topics include advertising and promotional strategies, e-commerce and Internet marketing, public relations and publicity, distribution and supply chain management and marketing research. The flexible nature of the program makes it a great option for working professionals with busy lives outside of school commitments.

  • Master of Business Administration Marketing

Averett University offers an online MBA with a concentration in marketing designed for working professionals of any background looking to upgrade their skills. The degree is focused on understanding marketing from a managerial perspective with emphasis placed on global context. While the program is accelerated in nature, students have the option to learn at a pace fitting their needs. In addition to taking the core advanced business administration courses of the standard MBA, specialized classes focus on market research, brand management, marketing for global audiences, consumer behavior and marketing influence. The program ends with a capstone research project.

  • Master of Business Administration Marketing

At BU, two online MBA programs focused on marketing are offered, both founded on core business administration classes. For students in the marketing concentration, classes will focus on digital strategies, marketing communications, consumer behavior and marketing in a global context.

The online MBA in internet marketing is designed to mirror the fast-paced world of digital marketing. In addition to partnerships with internet marketing experts, courses are crafted by industry leaders, best-selling authors and keynote speakers. The real-time curriculum focuses on search engine optimization, social media, conversation optimization and web analytics. The online courses for both are designed so students can work around their busy schedules.

  • MBA in Marketing

As one of the few schools in America offering an online MA in integrated marketing communications, SBU's educational objective is to produce graduates who can utilize varied forms of communication platforms and strategic marketing tools to create cohesive and comprehensive marketing voices for their companies. Once students have completed the program's 33 credit-hours, they will have the skills necessary to manage advertising, public relations, business communications, promotions, direct marketing, package design and e-commerce. The degree culminates with an original IMC Campaign project. This program can be completed in 1-2 years, dependent on each student's speed in completing coursework.

  • MA Integrated Marketing Communications

The integrated marketing communications degree is one of the view programs offered as an online MA in the nation. With a focus on outfitting graduates to create constant and consistent messaging within their organizations, the courses create a holistic program covering all facets of marketing. The program was developed by industry professionals, giving it the real-world structure needed for students to excel in a modern marketing world focused on interactive, multichannel and global strategies. The flexible nature of the program allows students to finish in 3-6 semesters, depending on how much time they are able to allow to coursework.

  • Master of Arts in Integrated Marketing Communication

Concordia offers an online MBA in marketing designed for students looking to combine traditional marketing tactics with cutting edge digital techniques. The university prides itself on providing a faith-based approach that pervades all learning objectives. Designed to have immediate application, students are encouraged to incorporate newly learned skills directly into existing roles and potential aspirations. The program consists of 36 hours divided into 8-week courses completed over two years. Twenty-four credits of core MBA coursework are followed by nine hours of specific coursework focused on social marketing strategies, advertising management and market research. The degree culminates with a capstone course.

  • MBA in Marketing

The online MBA in marketing offered by BU emphasizes sustainability and innovation. The program prepares graduates to manage and lead companies through dynamic marketing initiatives learned within a global perspective while also instilling ethics and corporate social responsibility. In addition to undertaking core courses associated with an MBA, students also take 12 credit-hours of specialized topics, including marketing research, new product development, advertising and promotion and international marketing. With online courses offered six times a year as 8-week classes, students can easily fit the degree requirements into prior personal and professional responsibilities.

  • MBA
  • Business Administration
  • Marketing

At FIT, students enrolled in the online MBA in marketing can expect a collaborative and engaging program approached through engaging case methods. Designed to meet the demands of a global environment, the intensive program equips graduates with a range of skills throughout the 2-year duration. In addition to covering core business administration principals during the 36-credit program, students engage with a variety of marketing topics through case study analysis and both leadership and teamwork roles. Specialized marketing courses required include strategic marketing, multinational business policy, international business, consumer behavior strategies and advanced market research.

  • MBA in Marketing
  • MBA in Internet Marketing

Offered as an online MBA in marketing through the College of Business, the program at IT provides a fast-paced and engaging degree catering to students who also have life outside of school. Focused on providing strategies relevant to real-world marketing applications, graduates of this program will have a firm understanding of both the traditional marketing mix as well as cutting edge digital marketing skills. Recent alumni careers have included marketing directors, brand managers, marketing analysts and marketing communications managers. Courses span six weeks and work can be completed at times convenient to each student without sacrificing interaction with faculty or classmates.

  • MBA in Marketing

As one of the few dual-disciplined degrees in the country, the online MS in marketing and communication at FU provides a unique learning experience, equipping graduates to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. Learning is innovative with emphasis on hands-on assignments and case studies providing real-world scenarios. Graduates will possess skills in leadership, management, marketing strategy, brand management, market research, new media and creative production. Students choosing the accelerated option will finish the 40-credit program in as few as 16 months via a 6-week course format. The degree culminates in a capstone project.

  • M.S. - Marketing & Communication

Core Components of Online Marketing Master’s Degrees

Regardless of the type of online master’s degree in marketing chosen, there are some specific considerations to take into account when looking into various web-based academic programs:

Faculty with professional experience in business marketing

An advanced degree in the field does entail processing and mastering a fair amount of theoretical material about business models and market dynamics. But, marketing in the real world also requires the skill, confidence and instinct necessary for the practical application of the principles covered in academic settings. It can be a real advantage to have faculty with real-world experience. Many online marketing master’s degree programs also offer students the opportunity to interact with and learn from senior-level executives and professionals who are currently working in the field. Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business offers an online program designed for working professionals, with faculty who engage in academic marketing research and also have experience as marketing research consultants. Students can interact with marketing executives and participate in consulting projects with real-world clients.

Marketing degree concentrations and career counseling

Before enrolling in a master’s degree program, it can be advantageous to look into the various areas of specialization available. Marketing is a dynamic and creative enterprise with many facets in both larger businesses and smaller, entrepreneurial start-ups. And, like all disciplines that encompass communications, it evolves to keep pace with the rapid changes in digital technologies. Whether a student plans to go in the direction of market research, consulting or front-line public relations, it’s good to know where marketing as a profession is headed. Beyond a school's choices for specialization, it's helpful to have career counselors knowledgeable about business and marketing. Advice on career options can help students optimize their degrees in ways that play to their strengths and offer future possibilities.

Digital communications and social media marketing

The Internet has opened new avenues for business and marketing that continue to expand and evolve. Social media, web development, search engine optimization and convergent media are all concepts that have entered the lexicon as key concepts. Many online master’s degree programs in marketing have taken this trend into account, either by creating courses that specifically address the realities of digital marketing, or by weaving the essentials of digital marketing into existing coursework. For example, data mining, web research and analytics, and software research and analytics are examples of three potential classes. For individuals researching an advanced marketing degree, it's worth inquiring about how web-based education could develop digital collaboration skills.

International strategies

One of the more complex and potentially rewarding aspects of marketing in the wired world of the 21st century is its global reach. Marketing has always taken into account the unique challenges found in foreign countries, but it’s a subject that has taken on more weight as new markets have emerged and developed. Some online master’s degree programs offer electives targeted at a specific region, such as China, India or Latin America, while others construct their curriculum to reflect the realities of the global economy. The core areas of marketing studies remain management, research and analytics, and the implementation and oversight of coherent strategic plans for goods and services, complemented with coursework specific to globalization or particular world regions. For students choosing this focus, the same advances in technology that allow for online instruction can help them share ideas with faculty and peers from around the world.

Concentrations and Courses for an Online Master's in Marketing

Because marketing is an umbrella term under which a number of different job descriptions and fields of study fall, there isn’t one single path toward a master’s degree. The biggest decision is between a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in Marketing or a Master of Science (MS) in Marketing. MBA programs tend to be fairly uniform in nature, which can potentially make them suitable for online coursework. MS degrees in marketing may be more targeted in their curriculum, which could mean less flexibility for online coursework, but this varies by program.

An MBA essentially begins with the general path followed by all students, with core coursework in the principles, elements or essentials of business development, plus classes in managerial economics and accounting, financial management, and business law and ethics. Programs then move into more targeted areas of study specific to marketing, from consumer behavior strategies and market research, to strategic marketing and marketing management. An MBA in marketing is fundamentally an advanced business degree with a concentration in the principles and practices of marketing. This path is often chosen by those seeking careers as marketing research analysts, consultants or organizational leaders.

An MS degree in marketing is by nature less centered on the dynamics of business management and more directly focused on the various aspects of marketing as a discipline unto itself. Core courses in marketing management, strategy and research are complemented by classes that delve into consumer behavior, marketing metrics, service sector marketing and international branding strategies. Additional work in areas like integrated marketing communications, brand identity, Internet marketing, sustainability, and marketing and sales management offers candidates the opportunity to tailor degrees toward particular areas of emphasis, such as social media, entrepreneurship, sports or entertainment. An MS in marketing could lead to opportunities as a marketing manager, consultant or researcher in business and industry or in fields like advertising, promotions and public relations.

Whatever the type of marketing program, here are a few of the more popular concentrations found at the graduate level:

Marketing research

Research is central to all marketing activity in the business world. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that marketing in all its guises begins with data collection and analysis. This is the area of marketing most closely related to sociology, in that it deploys many of the same quantitative and qualitative research methods. The core concept is to study consumer behavior in a systemically detailed manner as a way of making numerous decisions, from the packaging and the pricing of products to the promotional strategies used to market those products. Coursework includes data collection and research methodologies, statistical modeling and techniques for qualitative analysis of consumer behavior. Marketing research is, in a sense, the pure science of marketing.

Market Research Analyst

Studies market conditions and consumer behavior to optimize sales of goods and services. Conducts studies and surveys using data analysis methods to determine optimal marketing strategies. Prepares reports that translate data analyses into more easily comprehensible tables, charts and text.

Advertising Manager

Oversees in-house and outsourced advertising, implementing ad campaigns and supervising various related activities with a broader marketing strategy in mind. Evaluates the effectiveness and performance of advertising business endeavors.

Brand management and marketing communications

Branding, managing the brand and growing the brand have become synonymous with marketing in the business world. In a sense, it’s just a way of bringing together three crucial aspects a successful marketing plan: advertising, promotions and public relations. A concentration in this area requires strong written and verbal communications skills, intellectual flexibility and a clear understanding of the unique dynamics specific to certain markets. Elective coursework can include classes in sports, entertainment and luxury marketing, or web development and Internet marketing. Studies in sustainability could cover everything from reducing a firm's carbon footprint to building strong partnerships. Classes also explore salesforce and customer relations management.

Marketing Manager

Researches and analyzes consumer trends in order to identify promising markets. Devises targeted marketing strategies, plans marketing campaigns and manages their implementation. Monitors and reports on the effectiveness of marketing strategies.

Strategic Marketing Consultant

Advises clients in branding, promotional strategies and market positioning. Creates strategic marketing plans for products and services. Researches industries and markets to identify opportunities for clients.

Global marketing

As barriers to trade across international borders have come down, global marketing has become an increasingly important part of the enterprise. A concentration in global marketing focuses on international business law, marketing in emerging areas and cross-cultural management. Some programs offer coursework aimed at tackling specific regions, for example, China. A global marketing program can also include the opportunity for travel abroad as part of an internship.

Strategic Marketing Consultant

Advises clients in branding, promotional strategies and market positioning. Creates strategic marketing plans for products and services. Researches industries and markets to identify opportunities for clients.

Advertising and public relations

Working on the creative side of marketing is not less rigorous than specializing in the analytics. A manager in advertising or public relations has to have strong communications skills and be adept at interpersonal relations. However, it takes more than that to deal with the challenges of managing public opinion, creating effective messaging and providing proper support for a brand. The rise of digital advertising platforms has certainly complicated the nature of doing business in the 21st century. But it’s done so interesting and promising ways that offer exciting opportunities for those well versed in Internet analytics, search engine optimization and other tools of the trade. Through targeted courses and work experience, advertising and public relations specialists can develop mastery of these emerging pieces of the marketing puzzle.

Public Relations Specialist

Creates marketing and promotional materials for a product line, service or a company. Oversees communications with the public and business clients. Can work on written materials, verbal communications, or a variety of multimedia and online promotional and marketing assets.

Advertising Manager

Oversees in-house and outsourced advertising, implementing ad campaigns and supervising various related activities with a broader marketing strategy in mind. Evaluates the effectiveness and performance of advertising business endeavors.

Internet and social media marketing

It’s no secret that the Internet, social media platforms and the wide world of apps have all become fertile ground for new marketing strategies and analytics. Studies centered on the Internet and social networking go beyond the basics of online advertising, with coursework that looks into web design and development, digital data analysis, information systems security, and integration of customer relations management with supplier relations management. The digital realm is far more than a new place to advertise – it’s also a source for data mining and forging new parameters for gauging consumer behavior.

Market Research Analyst

Studies market conditions and consumer behavior to optimize sales of goods and services. Conducts studies and surveys using data analysis methods to determine optimal marketing strategies. Prepares reports that translate data analyses into more easily comprehensible tables, charts and text.

Marketing Manager

Researches and analyzes consumer trends in order to identify promising markets. Devises targeted marketing strategies, plans marketing campaigns and manages their implementation. Monitors and reports on the effectiveness of marketing strategies.

Strategic Marketing Consultant

Advises clients in branding, promotional strategies and market positioning. Creates strategic marketing plans for products and services. Researches industries and markets to identify opportunities for clients.

Public Relations Specialist

Creates marketing and promotional materials for a product line, service or a company. Oversees communications with the public and business clients. Can work on written materials, verbal communications, or a variety of multimedia and online promotional and marketing assets.

Market Research Analyst

Studies market conditions and consumer behavior to optimize sales of goods and services. Conducts studies and surveys using data analysis methods to determine optimal marketing strategies. Prepares reports that translate data analyses into more easily comprehensible tables, charts and text.

Advertising Manager

Oversees in-house and outsourced advertising, implementing ad campaigns and supervising various related activities with a broader marketing strategy in mind. Evaluates the effectiveness and performance of advertising business endeavors.

Marketing Manager

Researches and analyzes consumer trends in order to identify promising markets. Devises targeted marketing strategies, plans marketing campaigns and manages their implementation. Monitors and reports on the effectiveness of marketing strategies.

Strategic Marketing Consultant

Advises clients in branding, promotional strategies and market positioning. Creates strategic marketing plans for products and services. Researches industries and markets to identify opportunities for clients.

As students begin to zero in on potential careers during a graduate degree program, coursework starts to reflect these areas of specialization. Different marketing programs have somewhat different curricula, especially when it comes to these domains of specialization. Some online degrees in marketing are more or less geared toward particular areas of concentration. For example, the University of Colorado - Denver has a degree subspecialty in global marketing, including a class on issues in the Chinese environment and another on emerging markets.

Here’s an overview of classes that are typical in many online master’s degree programs in marketing.

Marketing Strategies

Focuses on developing a complete marketing plan, from market research and demographic targeting, to designing pricing, promotional and distribution strategies.

Project Management

The principles and methodologies of management as applied to marketing, from organizational strategies and networking, to risk analysis and resource allocation.

Financial Concepts

Accounting practices and financial analytics are defined and explored, with an emphasis on cash-flow projections and analysis, capital investments and budgeting for a complete marketing strategy.


An in-depth look at various aspects of using online and social media in marketing, including web commerce procedures, methods of online payment and how to leverage digital assets in business.

Consumer Behavior

A multidisciplinary approach to understanding the complex dynamics of consumer behavior in the context of sociology, psychology, economics and anthropology.

Product and Service Development

An exploration of innovation in the field of marketing, from the creation of new products and services for the marketplace, through the process of refining products or services, to the ultimate implementation of a marketing launch plan.

International Business and Marketing

Examines the interplay of governments, monetary systems, labor practices and other challenges unique to the global economy, with an emphasis on the political, economic and cultural impact on marketing analyses and strategies.

Timeline for Online Marketing Master’s Degree

Online master’s degrees in marketing are designed to be flexible enough to accommodate both recent college graduates aiming to pursue a career in marketing and individuals who have already entered the workforce. Many students enter an online master’s in marketing degree program after having had some experience in the field, often through entry- and mid-level positions in public relations, marketing research, event planning or advertising. Programs often take into account the fact that students may be working full- or part-time while completing a degree. What follows is a timeline that navigates the various steps on the path to obtaining an MS in marketing.

Year 0

The initial application process for an online master’s degree in marketing is not much different from the process of applying for a program in most other disciplines. Some programs operate on rolling schedule for applications, which means you can apply at any point in the calendar year, and others have stricter deadlines for the submission of materials. In addition to a college transcript, GRE or GMAT test scores and letters of recommendations may be required. Take the time to research various programs, determine which ones may be appropriate and make careful note of the specific admissions requirements.

Contact the admissions office at the institutions that interest you, either online or by phone, and find out the specific requirements. Most online master’s degree programs in marketing include information about those requirements on their website.

Gather materials: have college transcripts, GRE or GMAT test scores, and any letters of recommendation ready to be forwarded to the schools you’ve targeted.

Get a handle on the costs and time commitment, including the full tuition, books and other materials, and explore any financial aid options. Figure out if you will be working while completing your degree, and how that would impact coursework.

Year 1

The first year of an online master’s degree in marketing is generally devoted to forging a solid foundation in the core concepts of the discipline. This includes courses in marketing research and management, consumer behavior and demographic data analysis, and marketing communications. This coursework applies broadly across all of the various areas of specialization. Students think about specializations and begin to make decisions regarding career paths suited to their needs. For those who haven’t worked in the field, this is a good time to look into internship opportunities through online programs. Most importantly, make sure you’re on track to completing the requirements for graduation so that you don’t find yourself in a position of having to play catch-up in the second year.

Year 2

This is when students delve into more advanced marketing and communications coursework and tailor their degrees with classes that fit their areas of interest and specialization. Depending on the program, students might explore e-commerce and social media marketing, international marketing or luxury marketing. Upper level classes in project management, decision making and marketing techniques are also often part of the curriculum. Programs may encourage students to complete a marketing business plan of their own as a capstone project for this second year of study. Some online master’s in marketing degree programs offer scheduling options, allowing students to complete graduation requirements in 12-19 months, or to work more slowly toward a degree in the two to three year range.

The Inside Edge: A Marketing Grad Talks About Master's Degrees

Roberta Sales is a freelance writer with a master’s degree in Internet marketing, which she earned online. Sales chose to earn her master’s degree online because she needed the flexibility of an online program due to a full-time job and very little free time. She has three tips for marketing students earning a master’s degree:

Be prepared for a challenging workload.

You won’t love every class, but if marketing is something you’re truly interested in, you’ll enjoy earning your degree.

See if your employer offers tuition assistance.

Talk to your employer about your education aspirations if you’re already working in the marketing field. They may have a program to help with tuition.

Consider your career path.

It’s important to think about career goals before applying to graduate school. Knowing your ultimate goal can help you decide what direction to take with your degree.

Financial Planning for Marketing Graduate Studies

Cost is always a big concern when it comes to higher education, so the key is to come up with a carefully considered plan that takes into account tuition, living expenses and potential income. As for calculating the eventual return on investment, a master’s in marketing is one way to launch a career in what the Bureau of Labor Statistics describes as growing fields that demand advanced and up-to-date skills.

Tuition and Financial Aid

The tuition and fees at a private institution like Boston University, which offers an online Master of Science in International Management, can add up to around $40,000 upon completion. A 12-course, 36-credit Master of Science in Marketing degree from another university could cost less than $15,000, depending upon a number of variables. It’s important to ask each school about credit requirements, tuition costs and financial assistance for qualified applicants.

Projecting Career Growth

Marketing is a field that puts a high value on quantification, and the available data indicates that a master’s in marketing can lead to big dividends. It’s what a marketing professional might call a low-risk, high-reward proposition. The Bureau of Labor Statistics ( projects the following rates of employment growth for related careers over the 2012-2022 period:

Occupation Growth (2012-2022)
Advertising, promotions and marketing managers 12%
Market research analysts 32%
Public relations specialists 12%

Here’s how the BLS broke down the average annual salaries for these fields as of May 2013:

Occupation Annual Salary (2013)
Advertising and promotions managers $112,870
Market research analysts and marketing specialists $67,780
Public relations specialists $63,020

Not all positions in marketing require a master’s degree, but as in many fields, jobs with the higher salaries are generally reserved for those with graduate training. Education has become an even more important component of employability as e-commerce, social media marketing and global marketing opportunities have introduced greater complexity into the field. In domains such as public relations, marketing management or marketing analysis, having the most up-to-date training can make a big difference.

Finding the Road Less Traveled: Alternative Marketing Careers

One of the distinct advantages of pursuing a career in marketing is that it’s a creative field where innovation is prized and new modes of practice and analysis are always in play. For example, in recent decades the business of marketing has gone through a radical evolution as the power of technology has been embraced.

Marketing is also fundamentally a discipline that can be applied to any area where brand recognition, promotional muscle and consumer analytics are important, which essentially encompasses all areas of commercial activity. There are few sectors of the economy that don’t employ the tools of marketing, from the fashion industry to the tech sector. A master’s degree in marketing might lead to one of these roles outside marketing or advertising agencies:

  • Promotion

    Promoters are employed by diverse organizations, including sports franchises, entertainment companies, airlines and hotel chains. Promotional specialists need an in-depth understanding of a particular industry or vertical market.

  • Social networking strategy

    Marketing experts devise global strategies for optimizing various online entities and social media platforms. The number-crunching skills of marketers come in handy when analyzing web traffic and user patterns and preferences.

  • Overseeing a branding campaign

    Branding of a product, program or service plays a role in healthcare, education, finance and other industries. Lobbying firms, political action committees and politicians also employ marketing specialists, and there are even personal branding consultants.

  • Self-employment

    A master’s degree in marketing may also put you a position to start a marketing business, working as a consultant, project manager or analyst in any number of capacities. Ultimately, the boundaries between branding, public relations and marketing are fluid, as long as you know the tools of the trade.