Master’s in marketing vs specialised MBA: Which degree is right for you? | TopMBA.com

Master’s in marketing vs specialised MBA: Which degree is right for you?

By Laura L

Updated September 29, 2022 Updated September 29, 2022

If you’re looking to develop your career in marketing or want to gain the skills and knowledge to support business growth and expand audience reach, it can be difficult to work out what postgraduate degree is right for you.  

We look at two popular routes: a master’s in marketing and an MBA with specialisation in marketing to help you figure out which degree will help you land your dream job.   

Course curriculum 

An MBA programme will teach you the foundational aspects of running a business, like operations, strategy, finance, marketing and supply chain management. Students who choose an MBA with a specialisation in marketing (often called a track or route) will then choose further elective modules to customise the programme.  

At UCLA Anderson School of Management, which ranks third in the QS MBA by Career Specialisation Rankings 2023: Marketing, elective modules on the marketing track include digital marketing, tools and analysis for business strategy, consumer behaviour and advertising. NYU (Stern), ranked 22nd, offers three marketing specialisations including marketing, product management and luxury marketing.  

In comparison, a master’s in marketing can provide you with specialised knowledge and skills across the breadth of marketing like data insights, conversion frameworks, customer psychology, content marketing, research methods, social media and various learnings in marketing for B2B, B2C and specialised industries.  

Master’s in marketing programmes also vary depending on course content. If you’re interested in gaining more data and analytics expertise, an MSc in Marketing or Market Research could be ideal. Or, if you’re keen to develop creative marketing ideas based on strategic business goals, a Master’s in Marketing or an MA in Marketing could be a great alternative.  

Alongside the core marketing methods and theory, the Master’s in Marketing at WU Vienna University, ranked 10th in the QS Business Master’s Rankings 2023: Marketing, also offers elective modules in topics like critical thinking and social media, growth hacking and data-based storytelling.  

So, while an MBA can offer greater flexibility when it comes to understanding the foundations of marketing for business – while providing learning in leadership, consulting or enterprise – a master’s in marketing could be ideal if you’re looking to learn the subject in more depth.  

Entry requirements and cost 

There is a distinct difference between the eligibility criteria for an MBA with a marketing specialisation and a master’s in marketing. Most MBA programmes require around five years of work experience with a track-record of success. Schools are seeking ambitious professionals with illustrated potential as leaders of the future.  

Imperial College Business School, ranked 33rd in the QS MBA by Career Specialisation Rankings 2023: Marketing, requires a minimum of three years’ continuous relevant full-time work experience after graduation and looks closely at career progression, roles and responsibilities, experience of managing people and projects, and examples of personal development.  

As well as a good quality degree from a recognisable university, entry onto an MBA programme often requires a GMAT or GRE test to assess your preparedness for graduate-level business learning. However, some schools do offer a small number of test waivers for those who can explicitly demonstrate high academic ability and experience.  

ESADE Business School ranks ninth in the QS Business Masters Rankings 2023: Marketing for its Master in Marketing Management programme. While graduates from any discipline are encouraged to apply to the degree, those without an academic background in business or economics may be required to take a business integration path to gain grounding in management basics.  

Professional experience is not usually a requirement for a master’s in marketing, but some work experience can be advantageous when competing for a space on the top programmes.  

Tuition fees vary between schools, but the average cost for an MBA is £54,880 GBP (~US$59,200), whereas a master’s in marketing could cost you £27,540 GBP (~US$29,700), on average.  

Industry experience 

A core difference between the two types of programmes is the level of industry experience or insight you receive as part of the course.  

On top of the advanced business knowledge gained through an MBA, the alumni networks and industry contacts made during the course are often what attracts students to this type of programme.  

Networking, recruitment events, access to alumni databases and involvement in MBA clubs can be a source of contacts for internships, future work opportunities or even collaboration on new entrepreneurial ventures.  

With a master’s in marketing, there are networking opportunities but not usually to the extent of an MBA. However, some master’s programmes do provide opportunities for work experience, or time is given for students to find their own.  

Career outcomes 

Students who graduate with a master’s or an MBA experience varied career outcomes across different industries, levels and roles. Whichever programme you choose, you’ll want to know that the investment you make in your education will see a return.  

At Michigan Ross School of Business, ranked fourth in the QS MBA by Career Specialisation Rankings 2023: Marketing, graduates land managerial roles for some of the world’s biggest companies including Amazon, Microsoft, Google, YouTube and Pepsico. Though, only 14 percent of graduates from Michigan Ross end up in a marketing role, evidencing that the MBA route can provide more flexible career options.  

MBA degrees are known for the potential of a significant salary increase post-graduation. According to QS salary data on the graduating class of 2020, graduates can expect to earn an average yearly salary of £68,000 (~US$73,300).  

A master’s in marketing, on the other hand, could land you an average salary of £40,000 six months after graduating. A master’s might mean a lower salary outcome than an MBA, but it's relative to the lower investment in tuition fee.  

The MS in Marketing at McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, ranked 14th in the QS Business Master’s Rankings 2023: Marketing, is a 10-month programme that combines traditional marketing education with cutting-edge data analytics training.  

Like most top business schools, students on the MS programme at Michigan Ross receive comprehensive careers guidance to prepare for the rigorous recruitment season, from CV and cover letter support to one-on-one careers advice, mock interviews and networking events.  

So, a master’s or an MBA? 

Deciding which degree is best for you depends on your career goals and the depth of knowledge you want to gain in the subject. In summary: 

MBA 

  • Higher return on investment 

  • Related work experience required 

  • GMAT/GRE tests often required  

  • Covers other key aspects of business management 

Master’s 

  • No work experience required 

  • A strong undergraduate degree advantageous  

  • In-depth, specialised knowledge 

  • Lower cost on average 

This article was originally published in September 2022 .

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Written by

As Senior Content Editor for TopUniversities.com and TopMBA.com, Laura publishes articles for our student audience around the world, working with ambassadors and alumni to provide helpful content to those looking for study options. Laura has six years' experience in Higher Education marketing and writing for a student audience. 

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