Marketing may still be an art, but with businesses’ growing reliance on Big Data and analytics, it also has become something of a science. The field is increasingly numbers-driven and results-oriented; as Tim Derdenger, an associate professor of marketing and strategy at Carnegie Mellon University‘s Tepper School of Business, put it: “People always have the misunderstanding that marketing is only about communicating something to consumers.”
In fact, it’s about much more. Marketing has a critical role to play not only in communication but also in product design, audience development, and sales. In other words, it’s thoroughly entwined with the entire lifecycle of a product.
Ambitious marketers considering higher education have two advanced degree options: the Master of Science in Marketing and the MBA in Marketing. There are good reasons to look into Master of Science in Marketing programs—especially if you want to stay in marketing strategy, brand management, or marketing analytics. On the other hand, if your dreams involve advancing into positions like director, vice president, or Chief Marketing Officer, then the MBA is the way to go. With a marketing MBA from a top school, you’ll be prepared to excel in the complex, ever-evolving, and increasingly analytical world of marketing.
In this article about the best marketing MBA programs, we cover:
While generalist MBAs are well-regarded and popular, specialized MBAs are becoming increasingly common. Marketing is an area of specialization within graduate business study. The most popular marketing options are the two-year MBA in Marketing, typically framed as a concentration or specialization; and the accelerated Marketing MBA, which usually takes one year to complete.
Both degrees are designed to provide a firm grounding in management as it relates to marketing and advanced marketing skills. Marketing professionals often choose these programs over other marketing master’s degrees because they want to transition into executive roles in which they’ll have not only oversight of marketing strategy but also responsibility for meeting business objectives and sales goals.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers predicted an average starting salary for 2019 MBA graduates of $84,580—provided those graduates found jobs in computer science, engineering, science, or business. (
Students considering an MBA or graduate business degree can choose from varied career paths, including those focused on financial management, data analytics, market research, healthcare management, and operations management. The analytical skills and problem-solving techniques gained from graduate level business degrees are in high demand across business sectors. ( )
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In a traditional two-year MBA, students take specific core courses pertaining to business and managerial concepts in year one. In year two, they take courses in their area of concentration. Programs approach this year two curriculum differently. Some colleges and universities allow students to choose from a menu of electives related to their specialization. Others have a fixed curriculum for the marketing concentration.
And then there are concentrated programs, which are often shorter than more traditional programs. These MBA programs are often hyperfocused on marketing concepts. They skip over a lot of the core business concepts that constitute the traditional MBA’s core curriculum.
The best marketing MBA programs tend to be traditional MBA-with-specializations programs that take the time to dive into business analytics, finance, management, consulting, and operations before moving onto topics like consumer behavior and brand management. That’s not to say that you can’t get an excellent education in marketing management in a shorter, more concentrated marketing MBA program. However, that education may look more like an MSM program than an MBA program.
Examples of topics covered in marketing courses in both types of programs include:
Some MBA programs at highly-ranked colleges and universities lack an official marketing specialization. However, their programs can be customized via electives and internships to create a de facto marketing concentration. Other schools offer dual degree options. At the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor‘s Stephen M. Ross School of Business, for instance, students can craft their own dual degree pathways in areas ranging from marketing to architecture to Southeast Asian studies.
The list of the best marketing MBA programs doesn’t look that much different from lists of the top schools for MBAs. Some of the best MBA in marketing programs can be found at:
Most of the above colleges and universities offer their marketing MBA programs on campus and generalist MBA programs online. There are, however, strong schools where students who want or need flexibility can earn a marketing MBA online, including:
If you like the idea of studying remotely, rest assured that earning an online MBA in Marketing will result in the same diploma you would receive after completing an MBA program with a marketing specialization on campus.
In addition to glowing reputations, notable faculty members, and advanced courses geared toward seasoned professionals with years of work experience, the top marketing MBA programs tend to have robust post-graduation student support services for full-time and part-time on-campus and online students.
The most important of these might just be relationships with high-profile companies that regularly recruit graduates for marketing management roles. Graduating from one of these programs can mean landing a job before you even graduate.
Top programs also typically boast a robust and active marketing alumni network. Being able to connect with working professionals in marketing through that network, as well as through career exploration programs and internships, can make it easier to find cool jobs and boost your lifetime earning potential.
And finally, the best marketing MBA programs and online MBA programs in marketing build hands-on learning opportunities into the curriculum. Look for programs that put students in a position to take on consulting projects or work with a company to market a product or service.
Graduating from a prestigious program isn’t a guaranteed road to riches, but US News & World Report‘s annual MBA salary surveys do suggest that attending a highly ranked program will up your odds of landing a high-paying position. The publication found that the typical MBA graduate earned about $107,000, including base salary and bonuses, while Harvard grads earned about $178,000, Columbia grads earned $176,000, and NYU grads earned $174,000. Conversely, the lowest-paid MBA graduates, who made only about $53,000, tended to graduate from the programs ranked in the bottom-fourth of the publication’s list—or from schools that didn’t rank at all. Clearly, school rankings matter.
That said, there are a lot of programs that fall into the middle ground between top-ranked colleges and universities and those that don’t make the ranks. The most important thing you can do when researching marketing MBA programs is to look into the career support services and alumni networks of each school that interests you, as well as the post-graduate employment rates and salary statistics.
Right now, you might be thinking about whether you should take the GMAT (you should) or whether you can get a high-quality marketing MBA at a state school (you can), but what you probably should be thinking about is what you’ll do after you have your MBA in hand. The decisions you make now may have a considerable impact on your lifetime earning potential, career trajectory, and how far you can climb up the corporate ladder. Choose your internships and your first post-graduation jobs carefully.
As Kimberly A. Whitler put it: “Working at a great company (I mean businesses that are successful, that have a pedigree for being leaders in their industry over time and that have a reputation for creating best-in-class businesspeople) is a brand stamp that will follow you for the next 40 years. It can open doors that otherwise would be shut.”
She should know. As an Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia‘s Darden School of Business and former CMO, who credits working with Procter & Gamble right out of business school with her lifetime of success, she has seen first-hand that school choice is sometimes less important for marketing MBA students than the decisions they make about internships and full-time job offers. By all means, enroll in a top-tier business school if you can, but if you can’t, your marketing MBA can still take you far.
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