Online MBA Programs in Digital Marketing, Internet Marketing, and Social Media

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An online master’s of business administration (MBA) program with a concentration in digital marketing requires a significant time commitment and dedication. Nevertheless, the skills and knowledge gained from these programs can prepare graduates for leadership roles with higher salaries and greater opportunities.

So what is digital marketing? According to Wikipedia, “Digital marketing is the component of marketing that utilizes the internet and online-based digital technologies such as desktop computers, mobile phones, and other digital media and platforms to promote products and services.”

The principal objective is to promote brands, products, and services through various forms of digital media, including mobile phones, social media, display advertising, search engine marketing, or any other type of digital media.

Most experts agree that digital marketing requires a new approach to marketing and a new understanding of consumer behavior. Digital marketing requires companies to analyze the value corresponding to a new set of metrics, such as the number of app downloads on mobile devices, tweets on Twitter, and likes on Facebook.

It is easy to understand why one might consider an MBA in digital marketing. Demand for digital marketing skills is exploding, and employers are willing to pay a substantial salary premium for these skills. According to research from eMarketer, US digital ad spending will increase 25.5 percent this year (2021), the fastest growth rate since 2018, as the ad market and wider economy continue their recovery from the pandemic. It also estimates that the total media ad spending will rebound 18 percent this year after a flat 2020.

With such remarkable statistics, it is not surprising that business schools have devoted considerable resources to recruit experienced faculty and consultants, like those discussed below, to teach new courses in digital marketing. And neither is it surprising that these universities have evolved their curricula to incorporate topics in this new discipline.

MBA courses are typically divided into two sections. The first set of courses students will take are general “core” courses, which explore key business concepts and business management fundamentals while challenging students to think strategically. These classes focus on marketing, accounting, business ethics, finance, statistics, project management, and other business administration disciplines. Especially among the more reputable schools (see the Accreditation section below), only minor differences exist in these standardized core courses.

After satisfying core requirements, students take courses that specifically focus on their specialization of choice—some programs dub this set of classes as majors, fields of concentration, specializations, or simply electives. For the digital marketing track, students typically examine topics like marketing in a digital world, digital channels, digital analytics, and social media strategy. However, these courses can vary widely from one school to another.

Innovative MBA programs offering 100 percent online curricula, like those in the following profiles, offer tremendous flexibility advantages for students. This is because recent instructional technology advances now offer an online educational experience equivalent to, and in many ways better than, instruction on campus, yet unconstrained by distance or time.

As a result, these online MBA programs offer excellent opportunities for students who cannot leave jobs to attend classes on campus, or for those who wish to attend better out-of-state universities without the expense and hassle of relocation.

For example, the University of Illinois has about 2,000 students enrolled in its online iMBA program from more than 90 countries and 48 states across the nation. Plus, for students who wish to learn at their own pace, personalized online education provides an attractive alternative; motivated and gifted students, in particular, can thrive at the accelerated pace made possible by these online MBA programs.

Online programs also save students money. Even when tuition rates are identical, the online MBA programs can present more cost-effective alternatives to on-campus programs because of savings on costs like relocation, childcare, and transportation.

The following guide presents nine digital marketing MBA programs offered entirely online, and profiles three outstanding faculty members from universities offering these innovative programs.

Featured Online MBA Programs in Digital Marketing and Social Media

The Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina designed an online MBA program called MBA@UNC. Despite the lack of a specialized digital marketing concentration, prospective students should consider the marketing track.

The 62-credit specialized marketing curriculum prepares students for positions in advertising, market research, online marketing, brand management, public relations, and even sales. Students will take core courses, which include a course in marketing, as well as electives in digital marketing, global marketing, services marketing, and information for decision-making, incentives, and strategy.

This marketing focus provides students with a detailed understanding of their organizations, and how marketing interacts with other business functions. The program is ideal for students who are planning on pursuing leadership roles or managing teams. This concentration can also be useful for non-marketers who wish to understand marketing for becoming successful in their current roles.

To be eligible for this program, students must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college and have at least two years of professional experience. Application requirements include an online application, a current resume, transcripts from all colleges and universities attended, two professional recommendations, two essays, GMAT or GRE scores (for applicants with fewer than five years of professional experience), and TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE scores for international students.

Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Accreditation: AACSB International, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Format: Online
Expected Time to Completion: Between 18 and 36 months
Estimated Tuition: $125,589.06 for the program

Maryville University offers an online MBA program with two different marketing-focused concentrations: emerging and digital media, and marketing. Both include coursework in social media and search engine optimization, but beyond that, the two concentrations differ slightly in terms of focus.

The marketing concentration focuses more broadly on branding and consumer behavior, while the emerging and digital media concentration focuses more specifically on integrated digital marketing campaign creation, best practices, analysis, and refinement.

The Maryville MBA program features fully online instruction. For admittance to the program, the school requires an undergraduate degree and a GPA of 3.0 (those with lower GPAs may be admitted conditionally). The program has no GMAT requirement, and six start dates throughout the year. Full-time students may complete the program in a little over a year, and most part-time students complete the program in two years.

The program comprises 39 credits including core courses such as the legal environment of business, strategic marketing, global business, and business policies. The emerging and digital media concentration includes courses such as integrated marketing campaigns, digital marketing metrics & analytics, social network & search engine optimization, and best practices: models and systems. The marketing concentration involves courses in consumer behavior, branding, and integrated marketing communications.

Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
Format: Online
Expected Time to Completion: Graduate in as little as 12 months
Estimated Tuition: $714 per credit

Benedictine University offers an online master of business administration program with a concentration in social media marketing. Social media marketing uses social media platforms to engage your audience to build your brand. This concentration of Benedictine’s online MBA program can be completed entirely online offering students the flexibility to complete their coursework without disrupting their personal and work schedules.

The core courses for the program include managerial accounting for decision-makers, managerial economics, operations management, global strategic management, and project management, among others. The social media concentration includes additional coursework in brand and marketing management, advanced search and social marketing, and advanced content marketing, automation, and google analytics.

This Catholic university’s program requires students to complete 30 credits in core courses and nine credits in the social media concentration. Students with an educational background in business may be eligible to waive up to four foundation courses (16 credits).

Admission requirements include an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited university or college, a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.75, official transcripts from all universities and colleges previously attended, two letters of recommendation, a current resume, and a letter of intent.

Location: Lisle, Illinois
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
Format: Online
Expected Time to Completion: 22 months
Estimated Tuition: $625 per credit

Arkansas Tech University offers an online master of business administration program with a concentration in digital marketing. The program prepares students for successful business careers in leadership and management roles helping them develop data-driven decision-making skills and information-analytical abilities needed in today’s business world.

The major admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college verified by an official transcript, a cumulative GPA of 3.5, and GRE or GMAT test scores. International students will be required to demonstrate English language proficiency.

Consisting of a total of 33 credits the program includes courses such as applied predictive analytics, strategic social media marketing, consumer insights, special topics in marketing, business information analysis, managerial economics, corporate financial management, and digital marketing strategy, among others.

Location: Russellville, Arkansas
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
Format: Online
Expected Time to Completion: To be completed within 6 years
Estimated Tuition: In-State ($292 per credit); Out-of-State ($584 per credit)

Fort Hays offers a three-course digital marketing concentration within its online MBA program. Fort Hays State University’s MBA offers a flexible and competitive curriculum supporting the most crucial pillars and best practices of business. The program helps students transform into the business leader they aspire to become.

Digital marketing course topics include strategic electronic marketing, social media marketing, and social media marketing content and analytics, but the school also offers one related course in integrated marketing communications. This affordable MBA program is designed for self-motivated and independent working professionals and consists of 34 credit hours—with an additional 12 hours required of students without an undergraduate business degree or business experience.

Although the MBA program appears to have plans to apply for membership in the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), it is not currently carrying accreditation from any of the three business school accreditation boards. And in contrast to many schools in this guide, this MBA program requires GMAT or GRE scores, only granting waivers for applicants holding an undergraduate business degree with an overall GPA of at least 3.5, but not for professional work experience.

Location: Hays, Kansas
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
Format: Online or on-campus
Expected Time to Completion: 18 months
Estimated Tuition: 350 per credit

Lynn University offers an online master of business administration program in media management where students will take on the latest communication planning trends and technologies.

Comprising 37 credits, the program includes courses such as leadership and management of organizations, marketing management in a global economy, managerial accounting, communication & media technologies, media and culture, and professional media presentation.

To get accepted into the program, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, an undergraduate GPA of 2.5 or higher, official undergraduate transcripts, a current resume, one letter of recommendation, and TOEFL or IELTS scores for international students.

Graduates of this program will be ready to pursue managerial positions in marketing, sales, public relations, corporate communications, consulting, and advertising.

Location: Boca Raton, Florida
Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Format: Online
Expected Time to Completion: Must be completed in 4 years
Estimated Tuition: $750 per credit

Rutgers designed its online MBA program in digital marketing for business professionals aspiring to gain knowledge and skills in digital marketing and to advance into positions as digital marketing managers, social media managers, and mobile media analysts. Students learn to develop effective digital media strategies, analyze and visualize data, and evaluate social and mobile media marketing campaigns.

Similar to other programs, Rutgers’ concentration requires courses in digital marketing strategy and marketing analytics but differentiates itself by offering separate courses covering social media and marketing management. This four-course sequence prepares students to implement successful digital media marketing strategies and campaigns and to integrate them with other branding strategies.

Besides an undergraduate degree, the school prefers a 3.2 GPA but considers applicants with a 2.9 or above. They also require GMAT, GRE, or LSAT scores but may award waivers based on professional and managerial experience or advanced degrees. The school may also waive its four-course foundation sequence based on prior academic work.

Location: Camden, New Jersey
Accreditation: AACSB International, Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Format: Online
Expected Time to Completion: Less than two years
Estimated Tuition: Contact the university for details

Similar to Benedictine University, Saint Leo also offers an MBA in social media marketing which can be completed entirely online. Students in this concentration will be provided with an opportunity to improve their skills and knowledge in this rapidly emerging field. They will learn to utilize cutting-edge web analytics techniques as well as marketing research for understanding their markets and designing marketing strategies.

For admission to the program, students require a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university with a minimum grade point average of 3.0, a minimum of two years of professional work experience, official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions previously attended, a current resume, a personal statement, and proof of English language proficiency for international students.

Made up of 33 to 36 credits, the program includes courses such as management essentials, strategic management, marketing research, web analytics, social media marketing, gamification applications in marketing, and managerial economics, among others.

Graduates of the program will be able to correctly apply analytical techniques, assess the effectiveness of multichannel and social media campaigns, and learn to optimize success by leveraging experimentation.

Location: St. Leo, Florida
Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (ACBSP)
Format: Online
Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
Estimated Tuition: $740 per credit

The University of Illinois sets forth three learning objectives for their brand-new Coursera-powered “iMBA” online degree in digital marketing. In this specialization, students will understand the application of marketing strategies and tools in the digital environment, employ marketing analytics for visualizing and applying data, and understand how firms apply digital channels in marketing.

The specialization requires students to complete a capstone project and take courses in marketing, digital channels, and analytics. In the capstone project, students will use data visualization tools to analyze a situation from the vantage point of an actual global company and develop a digital marketing plan to promote a new product within a specific geography. The projects are peer-reviewed in a crowdsourced format with participation by one or more focal companies, to create value for potential employers while achieving students’ pedagogical and experiential objectives.

The major admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree with a grade point average of 3.0, a minimum of three years of full-time work experience, and TOEFL or IELTS scores for international students.

Admissions may be competitive, but tuition is only about 20 percent of the school’s on-campus program and about one-third the cost of online MBAs from comparable institutions, according to the school’s dean.

Location: Champaign-Urbana, Illinois
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
Format: Online
Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
Estimated Tuition: $302 per credit

Professors to Know from Schools with Online MBA Programs in Digital Marketing and Social Media

  • Kevin Hartman, MBA The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    Kevin Hartman is the head of analytics in the consumer, government, and entertainment sector at Google and a lecturer in business administration at the University of Illinois College of Business. At Google, Professor Hartman and his team partner with influential advertisers, creative agencies, and media companies to build brands through digital solutions. As a lecturer, he mixes science and art to deliver innovative, fact-based strategies for marketing and advertising programs. He has worked with General Mills, Kellogg's, MillerCoors, Anheuser-Busch, Motorola, Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Del Monte, Boeing, Qualcomm, Wagner USA, ABN Amro, and Bank of America, among other clients.

    Professor Hartman specializes in program, project, and campaign management, account development and solution selling, customer segmentation and targeting, and customer value management. As a devoted and artistic practitioner of data, he believes data must express insights in ways as creative as the ideas they activate. Professor Hartman received his bachelor's from the University of Notre Dame and his MBA and a master’s of public policy from the University of Chicago.

  • Mark McNeilly, MBA University of North Carolina

    Mark McNeilly is a professor of the practice of marketing at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan Flagler Business School teaching in the areas of organizational behavior and marketing in the full-time MBA and online MBA programs. He has served as the global marketing executive with years of experience with both Lenovo and IBM in the IT industry.

    Professor McNeilly received his BS in finance from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse and an MBA with honors from the University of Minnesota. His business background includes strategy, branding, marketing, management, market intelligence, manufacturing, and personnel.

  • Jing Suk, MBA Rutgers University

    Jing Suk is a seasoned executive MBA lecturer at Rutgers. She serves as the senior lead on MarTech and AdTech at Hearts & Science, a global marketing agency focused on data driving marketing. She previously was director of analytics and business intelligence at Thomson Reuters, where she led analytics for Reuters.com.

    Professor Suk has more than 20 years of experience in digital analytics, marketing, advertising, and technical consulting. She holds both a bachelor's degree in computer science and an MBA from Rutgers University. She has expertise across key platforms utilized for marketing such as Google Marketing Cloud, Adobe Marketing Cloud, and Data Management Platforms.

Admission Requirements for Online MBA Programs in Digital Marketing

There are several standard application requirements and recommendations to earn admission to one of these online digital marketing MBA programs:

Education

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • A competitive GPA from undergraduate programs
  • Key prerequisite courses for candidates without undergraduate business degrees or business experience

Tests

  • GMAT or GRE scores—often waived for students with several years of relevant work experience
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for international students

Experience

  • One or two years of professional experience in a healthcare, business, finance, or technology organization

Application

  • A personal statement of objectives
  • Letters of recommendation

Accreditation of Online Business Schools

Educational accreditation means that a university offers a curriculum that adheres to quality assurance standards in academic disciplines. In the United States, external private, non-profit organizations evaluate educational institutions and certify that the schools comply with applicable standards by awarding accreditation status. Several organizations grant accreditation for business schools.

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International), formerly known as the American Association of Collegiate Schools of Business, has provided quality assurance services to accredited business schools since 1916.

In general, AACSB-accredited schools have the highest-quality faculties, deliver relevant and challenging curricula, and provide educational and career opportunities not found at other schools. The organization emphasizes faculty research in providing students solid knowledge foundations.

The AACSB has awarded accreditations to about 780 schools in 90 countries, mainly those affiliated with major research universities, and awarded specialized accounting program accreditations to an additional 185. Only about five percent of the 16,000 schools worldwide granting business degrees have met the AACSB’s rigorous accreditation standards. Accredited schools include the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, and the Harvard Business School.

The newer Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) was founded in 1989 to accredit schools, including two-year institutions like community colleges, with an emphasis on teaching instead of the research emphasis common to the AACSB-accredited institutions. The ACBSP focuses on tangible learning outcomes and quality improvement, especially as the workforce demands change. About 2,983 ACBSP-accredited programs exist worldwide.

A third agency, the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE), believes the academic quality and excellence in business education should be measured regarding the educational outcomes of a university business unit relative to its mission, rather than by prescriptive standards relating to academic resources.

Douglas Mark
Douglas Mark
Writer

While a partner in a San Francisco marketing and design firm, for over 20 years Douglas Mark wrote online and print content for the world’s biggest brands, including United Airlines, Union Bank, Ziff Davis, Sebastiani, and AT&T. Since his first magazine article appeared in MacUser in 1995, he’s also written on finance and graduate business education in addition to mobile online devices, apps, and technology. Doug graduated in the top 1 percent of his class with a business administration degree from the University of Illinois and studied computer science at Stanford University.