Answer: Both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in marketing prepare students to work in a variety of careers in both the private and public sectors. Depending on the program they select, students may be able to specialize at the undergraduate or graduate level in areas such as digital or online marketing, social media marketing, advertising, brand management, marketing communication, or another discipline in the field.
Marketing is a very broad and diverse field of study. Due to the fact that the vast majority of organizations—from large corporations to startups and non-profit organizations such as universities—need to build trustworthy brands and effectively market the value they bring to consumers. With the continued advancement of technology, almost all marketing roles require that professionals combine traditional marketing techniques and principles with innovative digital marketing technologies and tactics. Professionals in marketing must have a strong understanding of key marketing principles and skills, which include but are not limited to consumer and market research, online media analytics and search engine optimization, brand identity management, print and digital advertising, and multimedia content creation and distribution.
Examples of common roles in marketing may include the following career titles. Please note that these role titles are for informational purposes only. While the listings below are intended to give readers an illustration of the typical range of roles and responsibilities for careers in marketing, they are by no means comprehensive. In addition, depending on the company, team, and specific nature of a given role, responsibilities may differ for roles that have the same title.
- Marketing Specialists design marketing strategies and campaigns for their organization, using a combination of marketing research, integrated media programs, and search engine optimization and web analytics. They also design and implement marketing plans and programs to meet business objectives, which can involve contractor bid management and vendor management, event logistics, and collaborating with teammates to create compelling print and digital media campaigns.
- Marketing Assistants support their team by executing on different marketing strategies, content campaigns, and other initiatives. They provide input to marketing specialists and marketing managers in the development of marketing content, visual advertisements, and data reports analyzing the impact of marketing initiatives. In addition, they may provide support to fellow marketing staff in the planning and implementation of marketing and publicity events.
- Marketing Managers oversee the overall strategy of a company’s marketing team, and typically supervise marketing specialists and assistants. At large companies with many different products and/or services, marketing managers may have the formal title of Product Marketing Manager, and oversee the marketing strategy for one or more specific products for their company. Marketing managers dive into important data on consumer needs, interests, and behaviors, as well as information on the product sales and the performance of past marketing initiatives, in order to inform their strategies and recommendations to leadership.
- Digital Content Managers focus primarily on the digital media elements of an organization’s marketing strategy, supervising the production and dissemination of digital marketing and media content for their organization. This not only includes a company’s online and mobile presence but also any multimedia and interactive content. Depending on their organization’s size and products/services, digital content managers might oversee social media outreach, blog content, photo and video shoots, website re-designs, and digital audience engagement campaigns.
- Brand Marketing Managers are distinct from product marketing managers and digital content managers in that they focus on designing strategies that build, strengthen, and maintain an organization’s brand identity (which is different from, yet connected to an organization’s products and services). The campaigns that brand marketing managers develop convey their organization’s mission statement, history, and community impact in compelling ways in order to build consumer trust.
- Sales Specialists develop and implement sales strategies, which include building relationships with potential consumers, investors, and other stakeholders, and generating sales leads. Unlike digital media or brand marketing roles, sales specialist positions tend to focus more on making connections and having conversations with potential customers, whether they are individual consumers or other businesses. Strong interpersonal and oral communication skills are therefore highly important for these types of roles.
Academic Training for Marketing Careers
While a degree in marketing is not strictly required to qualify for many marketing positions, dedicated academic training in marketing can prove valuable in increasing a candidate’s competitiveness in the job market, and his or her ability to advance in the field. Degrees in marketing can provide students with a strong foundation of marketing principles and skills, as well as training in the latest marketing practices and technologies, all of which can help to give graduates of these programs an advantage.
Both bachelor’s degrees in marketing and master’s degrees in marketing prepare students for impactful careers in this dynamic and challenging field. Bachelor’s degrees tend to focus more on the fundamental principles, methods, and skills of the marketing profession, and in general students who graduate from a marketing bachelor’s degree program can expect to qualify for entry-level marketing positions. Master’s programs typically differ from bachelor’s degree programs in that they cover higher-level skills and strategies that can empower students to increase their marketing responsibilities and impact at their organization of employment.
In general, in order to advance in the field of marketing, individuals typically must obtain several years of experience and consistently take on more responsibilities at their job. However, some marketing professionals enroll in master’s degree programs in marketing (or in related degrees with a specialization in Marketing, such as Master of Business Administration (MBA) or Master’s in Communication programs) in order to receive more structure and support as they work on advancing their career. Master’s degrees in marketing and related fields can also offer individuals the opportunity to specialize in the specific area(s) of marketing that is of interest to them–in other words, students of such programs may be able to gain additional expertise in their current area of marketing, while also exploring other aspects of marketing that they wish to enter. For more information on marketing degrees at both the bachelor’s and the master’s level, please refer to the sections below.
Bachelor’s Degrees in Marketing
Bachelor’s degrees in marketing combine courses that cover the fundamentals of marketing principles, theories, and skills with general education requirements that are a requirement for baccalaureate degrees. In terms of course credits, undergraduate degrees in marketing typically require 120 semester credit hours which students complete over the course of four years (though there may be accelerated programs that take less time). Some programs allow or require undergraduate students to specialize further within their marketing major, in areas such as Digital Marketing, Social Media, or Sales.
Examples of Undergraduate Marketing Major Courses
- Consumer Psychology and Behavior: This course outlines the fundamentals of how consumers think and act, and what factors influence their purchasing decisions. Students explore consumers’ goals and values, as well as their social and cultural expectations and how these differ across diverse sectors of society.
- Marketing Research: The process and principles of conducting market research, and the important role it plays in the marketing strategy and campaign development. Students learn qualitative and quantitative research methods and how to analyze their results to identify consumer needs and interests, as well as market trends.
- Marketing Ethics and Law: This course explores the ethical principles and laws that must inform marketing strategy and decision-making. Students study and discuss historical and contemporary issues in marketing law and ethics, such as regulatory compliance, risk management, and best practices.
- Digital Marketing and Media Design: Students learn how to use the major digital marketing platforms in the space, and receive an introduction to digital marketing’s ever-increasing role in organizations’ overall marketing and advertising strategy. During the course, students learn how to create a multi-platform digital marketing plan that is tailored to an organizational mission and identity.
- Online Marketing Optimization and Analytics: This course provides an overview of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), including its history and the latest developments in this field. Students learn the process of developing online content that ranks organically in search engines, and apply this knowledge to projects that also enable them to view and analyze online marketing data.
- Sales Strategy and Management: Students learn the principles of strategic sales in both business-to-consumer and business-to-business contexts. Topics covered include consultative selling techniques, strategic partnership-building, developing ongoing customer solutions, and strategies for competitive advantage in the sales space.
- Undergraduate Marketing Capstone Course: In this course, students apply all that they have learned in their previous courses to a comprehensive marketing plan for an organization.
Please note that the course list and sample curriculum plan outlined above are both meant for informational purposes only, and are not representative of all bachelor’s degrees in marketing. Due to the wide variety of baccalaureate degree programs in this field, prospective students should thoroughly research the options available to them in order to find the program that best meets their career needs and interests.
Master’s Degrees in Marketing
While bachelor’s degrees in marketing give students a toolkit of skills and foundational knowledge for success at entering the marketing field, master’s degrees in marketing are primarily intended to help individuals interested in propelling their career forward and taking on more strategic and leadership roles. Moreover, master’s degrees in marketing also enable individuals to specialize further in an area of marketing, such as Sales Management or Integrated Marketing Communications.
Master’s in marketing programs typically require fewer credits and also take less time to complete, relative to bachelor’s degree programs. In general, a marketing master’s degree requires the completion of between 30 and 60 course credits, which students complete over the course of one or two years, depending on the program and whether they are enrolled full-time or part-time.
In addition, students have several options for pursuing master’s level training in the field. While there are dedicated Master’s in Marketing and Master’s in Digital Marketing programs, there are also Master’s in Communication and Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs that offer specializations or concentrations in marketing or integrated marketing communications. For each of these types of programs, the core curriculum can differ depending on the school and the specializations available in a given program.
For example, the core curriculum in a master’s in communication program typically covers communication research methods and how messages are created and received, while MBA programs cover general business topics like accounting and finance, and may include marketing courses that have more of a data analytics focus rather than a content creation focus. Master’s in Marketing programs may cover communication strategies for marketing initiatives, and may focus more on marketing data analytics and overarching marketing strategies, vs. business development and finance or strictly marketing communications.
Students should therefore research the different degrees that are of interest to them to determine which type of degree (master’s in marketing, master’s in communication, and/or MBA) best fits their needs.
Examples of Master’s-Level Marketing Courses
- Advanced Consumer Research: Students of this course employ both qualitative and quantitative research methods, such as mining databases and conducting surveys, focus groups, and interviews, in order to develop key insights that inform their marketing campaigns. This course also covers how students can use their research insights to create targeted messaging for different segments of their consumer base.
- Brand Management: In this course, students discuss the definition of a brand and how it differs across different types of organizations and industries. The qualities of an enduring brand are explored, and students learn the process of building a compelling brand identity for a variety of organizations through a consumer-centric approach.
- Special Topics in Marketing and Consumer Ethics: Students explore pressing ethical and legal issues in marketing and how to resolve them. They also learn how to define their own professional code of ethics and apply it to their current and future careers.
- Marketing Management: How to oversee multiple marketing projects at once and ensure that all work on a team aligns with the overall marketing mission of an organization. Students learn how to develop and implement cross-channel marketing strategies that effectively leverage the skills on their team, as well as the latest digital marketing technologies and consumer research methods.
- Advertising and Social Media Strategy: Students explore the shifting landscape of advertising and social media marketing, and learn how to employ a customer-centric approach in developing effective campaigns that reach consumers across different channels. This course covers how marketing content should differ depending on the advertising or social media platform, and how to gather data on the impact of campaigns over time.
- Non-Profit Marketing: This course explores the marketing concepts, principles, and practices that are specific to the non-profit space. Fundraising, consumer research, public outreach, and government and community partnerships are all discussed within the context of helping a mission-driven non-profit organization succeed.
- Advanced Content Strategy: In this course, students learn how the principles of effective content development and dissemination translate across diverse media platforms, consumer segments, and industries. Students explore case studies and complete targeted campaigns for a variety of real and theoretical organizations.
- Integrated Marketing Communication: Students learn how to use their interdisciplinary skills and knowledge in marketing and advertising, partnership-building, business development, research, and digital media design to develop a strong ongoing integrated marketing strategy for organizations ranging from large corporations to non-profits and government agencies.
- Integrated Marketing Capstone Course: Students apply all of the advanced marketing and leadership concepts and skills they learned in their coursework to developing a campaign for a real organization of their choice. The focus of this course is on giving students the opportunity to create and implement a comprehensive marketing plan largely independently, but with faculty and partnership guidance and support.