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Grad School Outside the MBA Box

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Grad School Outside the MBA Box: Why You Should Consider IMC and Related Degrees

By Basil J. Valente, O.F.M., Professor of IMC at St. Bonaventure University


For communications pros, a graduate degree can be the boost that gets you into the senior executive suite, or prepares you to go solo, or allows you to shift your career focus. If you’re considering a master’s degree, you’re not alone. According to the Council of Graduate Schools, more than 1.8 million people applied for, and 441,000 students began for the first time, graduate studies in the fall of 2011 (the most recent data available).

The default educational decision for many business professionals is an MBA, but that’s not always the best fit depending on your career goals. An MBA provides a broad degree of business understanding, with the opportunity to focus on accounting, economics, finance and statistics. Some MBA programs offer a marketing concentration, but those programs generally include minimal attention to marketing concepts. If you’re interested in a quantitative career in business administration, an MBA degree may be a good fit.

But if you want to work in the marketing field and ensure executive level training, you might prefer graduate classes that do a deep dive into SEO, advertising design, interactive marketing, PR campaigns, media buying, financial tools for marketers, and strategic communications vs. the business logistics classes an MBA requires. Additionally, career opportunities for marketing communications professionals (which includes PR) abound—it’s a need that every company and organization has, regardless of size. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Employment of advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales managers is expected to increase by 12 percent through 2016.”

If you want to work in a hot field, and answer yes to any of the following five questions, you should think outside the MBA box and consider a master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) or related disciplines:

  1. Do you want a career as an executive in public relations, marketing/brand management, corporate communications, advertising, media planning, marketing research, interactive marketing and/or marketing communications?
  2. Would you prefer a creative professional learning environment?
  3. Do you want to work on innovative advertising campaigns more than accounting spreadsheets?
  4. Do you want to learn about any/all of the following: market research, mobile marketing, social media strategy, web metrics/SEO, branding and positioning?
  5. Have you seen the corporate trend of integrating the management of all communications and marketing tools to increase effectiveness in building relationships with target audiences?

Working in public relations is a perfect foundation for a master’s in IMC. It allows you to expand your strategic knowledge about the integration between marketing management and communications strategy, and see how PR works together with other elements of the marketing mix to meet business communications objectives. And the IMC degree gives you the whole picture of a marketing communications landscape, and positions you to work more strategically.

A master’s in IMC provides a competitive advantage for high-paying, important and highly visible jobs that allow for rapid advancement. IMC master’s degree programs ensure students graduate with an understanding of a customer-centric guide to optimizing the impact of persuasive communications. Students learn to align multiple, intersecting forms of media and technology on an international scale—with a focus on contemporary best practices taught by faculty with real-world experience.

When making the decision between an MBA and an IMC degree, there are two core considerations:

– What kind of career do you want? An MBA might lead to a job in finance, accounting, logistics/operations, human resources, etc. IMC prepares graduates to work as agency executives, corporate vice presidents, marketing consultants, in-house marketing/management strategists, corporate communication directors, speech writers, entrepreneurs, investor relations directors, digital media strategists, media planners and buyers, market researchers, brand managers and much more.


What do you want to learn? The core differences between an MBA and a master’s in IMC are best illustrated by their curricula. As an example, St. Bonaventure University offers both degrees, and we allow students to take electives in either program to support their educational and corporate initiatives. But here’s a comparison of the core requirements for these degrees:

Mathematics for Management   IMC Principles and Practices
  Accounting Foundations   Financial Tools for IMC and the International Economy
  Economic Analysis   Strategic Marketing Management for IMC
  Financial Foundations   Marketing Communications Research
  Management Information Systems   New Media: Digital Communications for IMC
  Statistics   IMC Creative Message Strategy
  Financial Management   The Practice of Public Relations
  Legal Environment of Business   IMC Field Work
  Marketing Management   IMC Cases and Campaigns
   Organizational Behavior   IMC Campaign Project
  Management Science
  Accounting Practices and Analysis
  Business Policy


In the end, the best IMC or related programs should offer compelling, comprehensive coursework in a combination of face-to-face, online, hybrid, and distance learning formats—and combined with global internship initiatives. If you’re looking for a program that will help you think critically, reason effectively, calculate strategically and ensure the most effective integrated campaigns at the highest levels of competition—then Integrated Marketing Communications and related disciplines could set you apart from MBA grads.

A master’s degree, regardless of the field, will be a competitive differentiator in your career. It’s an investment of your time, money and energy—and shouldn’t be taken lightly. The most successful graduate students are those who have found a program that fits their passions and ambitions.

So, if you think the IMC program at St. Bonaventure University is the right fit for you, why not contact us today?

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