Online marketing degrees – Online advertising programs

Though new technologies and strategies emerge, marketers and advertisers will likely always be in demand since they play a critical role in assuring a company's success. They are responsible for spreading the word about a firm's products or services and tapping into new markets as old ones are saturated.

That's why getting the right education is so important for those hoping to break into this field. A good marketing or advertising degree program can not only teach the tried and true methods of promotion but also introduce students to social media marketing, content marketing and other innovative ways of getting a message to a target audience.

Fortunately, students don't have to spend years on campus to earn their marketing or advertising degree. Plenty of institutions now offer online marketing degrees and several also have online advertising degrees. Here's a look at the number and type of institutions with distance education options:


Public schools

Private nonprofit schools

Private for-profit public schools

Online Bachelor's Degree in Marketing




Online Graduate Degree in Marketing




Online Bachelor's Degree in Advertising




Online Graduate Degree in Advertising




Source: National Center for Education Statistics (2015)

Entry-level marketing and advertising programs

Those who have no experience in marketing or advertising can enter the field through a number of paths. These include undergraduate degrees, certificates or even master's degrees for those who already have a degree in another field. In all cases, entry-level programs will provide a broad overview of marketing and advertising strategies and theories.

  • Associate degree: Usually completed within two years, an associate degree in marketing or advertising provides a foundation of knowledge that can help students determine if the field is right for them. In addition, credits from an associate degree typically transfer to a bachelor's degree.
  • Bachelor's degree: Most entry-level jobs in the industry require at least a bachelor's degree. For the first two years of this program, students will focus on business fundamentals. Then, in the final two years, they may have the opportunity to concentrate their studies on electives that relate to their expected specialization. Many four-year degrees offer internships or require a capstone project prior to graduation.
  • Master's degree: A graduate degree is usually pursued for more advanced positions, but some individuals may use it to gain an entry-level position if their bachelor's degree is in an unrelated field.
  • Certificates: Marketing certificates may be found at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Like a master's degree, a graduate certificate in marketing or advertising can be one way a person with an unrelated degree can qualify for an entry-level position. Meanwhile, undergraduate certificates can serve the same function as an associate degree and offer people a taste of what the field is like.

Both online degrees in marketing and online degrees in advertising are available, and many of these programs allow students to complete their education from the comfort of their home without ever setting foot in a classroom.

Advanced-degree marketing and advertising programs

Advertising and marketing professionals who want to take their career to the next level may want to consider their advanced degree options. These include all the following:

  • Master's degree: For those with an undergraduate degree in a business field, a master's degree can be a stepping stone to a managerial or executive position. An MBA in marketing or advertising is considered by some to be premier education for those working in the field.
  • Doctoral degree: Beyond a master's degree, students can pursue a doctoral degree. As the highest level of education possible in the field, these programs typically attract those who want to have a career in academia or research.
  • Certificate: Some graduate certificates are geared specifically for industry professionals who want to master a certain area of marketing, advertising or public relations.
  • Certification: Outside of earning a degree, people can advance their career by earning an industry certification. These programs are administered by trade groups to recognize the expertise of their members. Examples include the Professional Certified Marketer designation from the American Marketing Association and the Certified Advertising Specialist credential from the Promotional Products Association International.

Online degrees can be especially valuable for working professionals who want to earn an advanced degree. In particular, many schools have worked to make online MBA programs available to those who need to juggle their education with their current job.

Q&A with the experts

  • Lorrie Thomas Ross is a professor of social media marketing and search engine marketing at the University of California-Berkley Extension and teaches marketing classes online at Lynda.com
  • William Cowen is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at Villanova University

What can students expect from a marketing or advertising degree program?

Cowen: Within these disciplines, students should actively seek programs that focus on a solid balance of theory and practice. Research, promotional concept development, as well as professional application including internships and career support should all be components of the students' expectation.

Thomas Ross: It's depends on the type of marketing program; it depends on the institution; and it depends on a student's area of focus. There's traditional marketing which is branding, public relations messaging and then with today's digital world, we have social media marketing, search engine marketing and website developing which can fall under marketing. Every school is going to have a different emphasis.

Who should consider getting a graduate degree in the field?

Cowen: Graduate degrees often are perceived as demonstration of a deeper and more comprehensive dedication to the industry. This credential can become particularly valuable to those competing in a corporate environment, such that they may have a distinct company structural advantage for advancement as compared to those without an advanced education.

Thomas Ross: If someone's looking to be an executive in marketing, it could be beneficial to have a graduate degree. [However], I'm a big believer that we can build a career by what we do and not just what we know. If you want to have a career in marketing, you can to walk up to an organization with a master's degree but if you have no relevant work experience, you're really behind in the career game.

Do you have tips for students to prepare prior to beginning their studies?

Cowen: Within any promotional field — such as marketing, advertising or PR — students should literally become modern day renaissance professionals. In other words, it's much to their advantage to be well versed in business, a variety of industries, how world systems work, and overall, become an endless intake of news and headlines to drive and enhance their knowledge.

Thomas Ross: I would say to someone who is interested in the subject, if you want to learn more and do it economically, there are a lot of ways to use online education to get a flavor for the field before jumping into a whole degree program.

Types of marketing and advertising careers

Degrees in marketing and advertising can lead to a variety of careers, many of which pay well and are expected to see significant growth in the years to come. The chart below looks at various marketing occupations along with average employment figures.


Employment (2014)

Average salary (2014)

Expected job growth (2012-2022)

Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists




Advertising and Promotion Managers




Marketing Managers




Public Relations and Fundraising Managers




Public Relations Specialists




Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014)

Common misconceptions about marketing and advertising degrees

Misconception: You can expect to spend your days in a conference room bouncing ideas off of colleagues at your first job out of college.

  • Fact: The reality of many entry-level jobs may be quite different than what some graduates anticipate. Entry-level jobs for marketing and advertising graduates may include a heavy dose of sales work. Only after a person has proven their business savvy can they move into more desirable positions.

Misconception: Students can shorten or perhaps even bypass typical entry-level duties by earning an MBA or other advanced degree.

  • Fact: Not always the case. Some of these programs are highly competitive and only top-tier candidates are accepted. To increase your likelihood of getting into the school of your choice and ultimately landing the job you want, you should be able to demonstrate a strong grasp of English, communications and content management software.

Look for a degree program that will provide ample opportunities for real-world experience, such as through internships or field work. These activities not only have the potential to connect students with existing marketing and advertising professionals but also demonstrate practical expertise beyond the classroom.

How can I enroll in an online marketing degree or an online advertising degree?

The application process is different for every school. Some institutions have a dedicated enrollment period while others accept applications throughout the year.

Start by looking through the schools listed below to find the ones that offer them marketing or advertising specialization you would like to pursue. Then fill out the form to request additional information on how their program is run and their application process.

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