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The Online MBA in Marketing Explained

Marketing TeamMarketing folks wear many hats. Marketing divisions oversee advertising, market research, media planning, public relations, product pricing, distribution, customer support, sales strategy, and community involvement. Over the last 10 years, the industry has witnessed radical changes, including the influx of social media and a new wave of ways to connect with potential and current consumers.

"Companies make the mistake of thinking that marketing is just 'one' thing, but marketing is everything that the consumer encounters when it comes to your business, from advertising, to what they hear, to the customer service that they receive, to the follow-up care that you provide," writes Laura Lake on the Marketing site she maintains for "It's all marketing and creating the decision within the consumer whether or not to choose you initially or for repeat business."

Successful marketers keep track of those interactions with clients, stay one step ahead of trends, and anticipate their client's needs. Some, particularly those looking to advance in their careers, turn to online programs offering the chance to pursue an MBA with a specialization in marketing.

What is an online MBA in marketing?

Those who pursue a marketing MBA -- online or at a brick-and-mortar institution -- often take a core group of business courses that are integrated, so students can make connections between various functions. These courses are typically complimented by electives that are marketing specific. For example, new product design and development and sales and customer relations are among the courses available to students concentrating in marketing at Capella University's online MBA program, says Cheryl Bann, chair of MBA Programs for the school.

Even though the program is online, its curriculum is pretty traditional, she adds. "We focus on how our students can think strategically as marketers," says Bann. "We want them to leave here capable of being true leaders."

Online programs of this nature are typically delivered via education platforms such as Blackboard. You might view lectures on video, chat with classmates in forums, and participate in simulations, group projects, or even live streaming events. Most online programs make the live events optional, so that busy students with full-time jobs or families have the convenience of making their own schedules.

Capella students have mobile access to their coursework. They also take a two-course capstone in which they participate in a simulation designed to bring together the skills they have picked up in the program, and a separate project that gives them the chance to apply what they have learned. For the project, students sometimes work with businesses to solve problems, take on an issue challenging their own employer (although that happens less frequently because of the fear of leaking confidential and protected information), or write a comprehensive case study, says Bann.

Who is the right fit for this program?

Marketing Strategy

Mid-level executives in marketing who are trying to move up the corporate ladder, finesse their basic skills, or learn some new tricks, such as how to use social media to attract potential consumers, tend to be a good match. "They are changing their orientation from seeking a job to seeking a career," says Bann. They choose the online route because they do not want to put their career on hold and would rather continue to work. They might also have families and moving to a brick-and-mortar program is impossible. They already have had some experience in managing marketing teams, and they are looking to gain skills that could potentially propel them into senior management.

What is the application process?

Applications to online marketing MBA programs vary from institution to institution. One item that is pretty much universal is the requirement of an undergraduate degree. Applicants typically must provide a transcript and GPA. Some programs want to know about demonstrations of leadership in the marketing field or ask for recommendations from supervisors. For instance, have you worked on a team responsible for determining the price of your company's latest product? Or are you managing focus groups? These are the kinds of things about which schools want to hear. There is usually an application fee. The good news is that many programs don't ask for standardized test scores, such as the GMAT or GRE.

What are the best business schools for marketing MBAs?

To determine specialty rankings such as those for marketing programs, U.S. News & World Report sent surveys to the deans and directors of the accredited master's programs that were evaluated for the top business school rankings. These academics and administrators were asked to name programs that excelled in various specialty areas, and the rankings for the best marketing programs are based on these nominations.

Top Marketing MBA Programs (U.S. News & World Report, 2013)

  1. Northwestern University (Kellogg), Evanston, IL
  2. University of Pennsylvania (Wharton), Philadelphia, PA
  3. Stanford University, Stanford, CA
  4. Duke University (Fuqua), Durham, NC
  5. Harvard University, Boston, MA
  6. University of Chicago (Booth), Chicago, IL
  7. Columbia University, New York, NY
  8. University of Michigan (Ross), Ann Arbor, MI
  9. University of California, Berkeley (Haas), Berkeley, CA
  10. New York University (Stern), New York, NY
  11. University of Texas at Austin (McCombs), Austin, TX

Data used to calculate business school rankings can vary from year to year. Marketing courses offered in the schools' campus-based, hybrid and online MBA programs are subject to change, as well.

Learn why some top business schools keep showing up on lists such as this one by digging deep into the information available on MBAPrograms. You can also speak with admissions representatives from the schools you are interested in to discover more about MBA programs in marketing.

Best Business Schools, U.S. News & World Report, 2013,
Marketing, U.S. News & World Report, Best Business Schools, 2013,
"Methodology: Best Business Schools Rankings," U.S. News & World Report, Sam Flanigan and Robert Morse, March 11, 2013,

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