Shows like Mad Men have glamorized the world of advertising, but to succeed in this field, you’ll need to do more than develop witty banter and clever puns. Successful advertising is the product of complex strategies used to influence consumer behavior, and a multitude of factors – including customer data, creative conceptualization, and media buying – are all part of an effective formula. If you’re interested in taking the next step in your advertising career, then earning a master of advertising might be the right step.
What Is a Master’s Degree in Advertising?
Almost every business relies on some form of advertising to market its products or services to customers. Advertising professionals create, sell, and evaluate the effectiveness of advertising campaigns for their clients, and graduate advertising programs teach you the fundamental skills and knowledge you need to market products and services through both online and traditional methods.
Whether you already have a career in advertising and want to advance your credentials or would like to transition into this dynamic, ever-evolving field, a master’s in advertising will help develop skills in core areas, including:
- Creative campaign development, such as concept development, copywriting, visualization, storyboard creation, and editing
- Research and analytics, including how to measure audience data, create reports, and conduct competitive analysis
- Brand management, which involves positioning, building, and maintaining positive brand optics
- Consumer behavior and analysis, including consumer motivation and buying behavior
- Media buying, including budget creation and media selection and planning
Are you ready to take a look at some different degree program options? Explore the 15 best master’s in advertising programs that we’ve selected for our ranking below!
|1||University of Texas at Austin||Austin, Texas|
|2||University of Illinois||Urbana-Champaign, Illinois|
|3||Michigan State University||East Lansing, Michigan|
|4||Webster University||Webster Groves, Missouri|
|5||University of Alabama||Tuscaloosa, Alabama|
What Can I Do with a Master’s in Advertising?
Advertising and marketing are diverse fields with employment opportunities for different interests and skill sets. Earning a master’s degree in advertising may help you qualify for a wide range of positions.
Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers
Managers in these areas develop campaigns that generate interest in offered products and services. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the 2021 median annual pay for these professionals was $133,380 ($64.12 per hour). The BLS projects above-average growth for this area of employment through 2031, with an anticipated average of 35,300 job vacancies each year.
Advertising Sales Agents
These professionals sell advertising space to clients. According to the BLS, the 2021 median annual pay for advertising sales agents was $52,340 ($25.16 per hour). The BLS projects that there will be more than 10,000 vacancies for advertising sales agents each year through 2031.
Copy editors plan, review, and revise content. According to the BLS, the 2021 median annual pay for editors was $63,350 ($30.46 per hour). Although job growth for editors will not be as fast as for some other occupations, the BLS projects that there will be around 10,200 job openings each year until 2031.
These writers contribute content to different forms of media. The BLS indicates that copy editors had a median annual salary of $69,510 ($33.42 per hour) in 2021 and projects that, over the next several years, the growth rate for writers will be steady. This will translate to approximately 15,000 job vacancies each year.
Although their job responsibilities are similar to marketing managers, the scope of a marketing director’s work is generally wider. They typically oversee every line, brand, or campaign within a business and supervise all of the team members involved. According to 2022 data from Payscale, the median annual salary for a marketing director is around $92,900 ($48.41 per hour). Directors with several years of experience can make well over $100,000 yearly, and the BLS projects that 31,700 job opportunities will be available in marketing leadership each year through 2031.
Senior Art Director
A senior art director helps imagine and develop a business’s style and image. Data from the BLS shows that the median annual salary for an art director was $100,890 ($52.55 per hour) as of 2021. According to the BLS, the growth rate for art directors will be steady at 4%. This equates to an average of 13,400 job vacancies each year.
15 Best Advertising Master’s Programs
University of Texas at Austin
University of Texas at Austin offers a Master’s in Advertising degree program through its Stan Richards School of Advertising & Public Relations Moody College of Communication. This flexible degree program can be finished in 21 months or less, and many students customize their course of study through a diverse selection of electives and minors. The school also offers three programs to enhance the current program: Texas Insights and Analytics; Texas Immersive; and Texas Creative. Portfolio programs and dual-degree options are also available.
University of Illinois
University of Illinois offers a Master’s of Science in Advertising degree program through its College of Media. This program enables students to learn about advertising at a school with a long, rich history in advertising education, which began in 1946 when Charles H. Sandage founded the program on campus. Through small classes, students study advertising by developing the theoretical, strategic, and research skills needed to become leaders in the field. Students can customize their programs through electives or classes outside of the department to meet their specialized interest.
Michigan State University
Michigan State University offers an MA in Advertising and Public Relations degree program through its College of Communication Arts and Sciences. Graduates leave this program with skills and knowledge in strategic and theoretic principles of advertising and public relations, as well as leadership, research training, content creation, strategy and more. The curriculum includes topics like: Digital analytics and media innovations; Using theory to drive strategy; and Multimedia content creation. The program is highly customizable, as well. Students can personalize the program to meet their goals, or choose one of our concentration areas, including: Advertising and Public Relations: Digital Strategy; Health, Science, and the Environment; Social Impact; or Research and Analytics. There are also to interdisciplinary specializations: Information and Media Studies, and Nonprofit Fundraising.
Webster University offers an MA in Advertising and Marketing Communications degree program through its School of Communications that’s available both online and at the St. Louis campus. This program welcomes both experiences professionals in the field who want to learn additional theory in advertising or inexperienced students who want to pursue successful careers in advertising or marketing. Classes include topics like Media Communications, Media and Culture, Advertising Decision-Making, Media Research, and Foundations of Marketing Strategic Thinking. Graduates leave the program knowing how to predict consumer trends, create effective advertising campaigns, and develop marketing communications plans that reach an organization’s goals.
University of Alabama
University of Alabama offers an MA in Advertising & Public Relations degree program through its Department of Advertising & Public Relations for students who want to advance to higher managerial and leadership positions within the advertising industry. The curriculum emphasizes theory and industry trends while helping students develop critical thinking skills and connections with respected, top faculty and advertising professionals. Students can create their own personalized path of study, or choose from two concentrations: the Advertising Creative concentration, intended for those who want to become copywriters or art directors, or Media Strategy, for those who want careers in analytics and data-driven media strategy.
DePaul University offers an MA in Public Relations and Advertising degree program through its College of Communications. This program focuses on advertising strategy and technique in the areas of digital, traditional, and social media so students can pursue successful careers in advertising, public relations, and integrated marketing communications fields. The school’s location, in the heart of Chicago, also puts students within a 10-block radius of over 100 advertising and public relations agencies. Students have opportunities for internships and work after graduation with top companies and firms like Golin, Leo Burnett, Weber Shandwick, and Edelman.
University of Georgia
University of Georgia offers an MA with Concentration in Advertising degree program through its Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. The M.A. degree is offered with a Concentration in Advertising and has three goals: to contribute to students’ intellectual growth, help them develop a fundamental understanding of mass communication, and prepare them for careers in advertising and related fields of work. If students want to continue on to a PhD program, they can choose to complete a thesis, or choose a non-thesis option which requires additional coursework and a comprehensive exam.
University of Southern California
University of Southern California offers a Master of Arts in Public Relations and Advertising degree program through its Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This comprehensive program prepares students to create effective campaigns across paid, shared, earned, and owned media types. The curriculum emphasizes using data intelligence to drive compelling, multi-platform storytelling that builds brands and engages consumers. The school’s leading Media Center and Digital Lounge enable students to learn through hands-on experience while building the multimedia and analytics skills they need to succeed in different advertising and public relations careers.
Boston University offers an MS in Advertising degree program through its College of Communication that prepares students to compete in the competitive, always-changing world of advertising. The curriculum focuses on creativity, self-discovery, strategic branding, and higher-level thinking so graduates will be ready not just for their first jobs after graduation, but jobs in the future, as well. Students benefit from the experience in Boston University’s AdLab, which is the world’s largest and oldest student-run ad agency, where they gain real-world advertising experience by working on account teams creating campaigns for actual clients. Students can try their hands at different advertising roles, including account executive, art director, digital designer, or copywriter.
University of Tennessee Knoxville
University of Tennessee Knoxville offers an MS with Concentration in Advertising degree program through their College of Communication and Information. This program is a three-semester experience where students work closely on-campus with experienced faculty members. The curriculum focuses on practice and theory within the field the advertising, and students can choose between writing a thesis or completing an applied project. Students who graduate from this program often enter advertising and PR careers in corporations, agencies, government roles, and non-profit organizations.
The school is also home to the Adam Brown Social Media Command Center (The ABSMCC), which has full access to Salesforce’s Social Studio and which students, faculty, and staff can use for teaching and research opportunities. It provides faculty, staff, and students access to the same leading technology that Fortune 100 companies worldwide use to publish, engage, and analyze their social media marketing activities.
Syracuse University offers a Master’s in Advertising degree program through its Newhouse School of Public Communications. This degree program emphasizes practical, hands-on experience, and students begin working on professional advertising campaigns and mastering sales presentation techniques as soon as their studies begin. Areas of focus include creative direction, advertising management, marketing communication, social media, digital advertising, graphic and multimedia production, and more. After graduation, students start careers in several different positions, including media planner, creative director, or entrepreneur.
Academy of Art University
Academy of Art University offers an MA in Advertising & Branded Media Technology degree program through its School of Advertising. One of several Advertising programs offered at the school, this program focuses on the more technical skills that students need to thrive in today’s competitive world of advertising. Courses include Digital Graphics, Perspectives in Advertising, Art Direction, Copywriting Techniques, Interactive Advertising, Motion Graphics and Video, and Visual Storytelling.
St. John’s University
St. John’s University offers a 30-credit MS in Integrated Advertising Communication degree program through its Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies. This immersive program covers all-areas of media – including traditional, digital, and mobile – with a focus on consumer behavior and innovation. Students will create a multi-channel creative strategy and campaign, developing a full media plan, and implementing a digital marketing communication plan. Because of St. John’s New York City location, they have deep connections into the world’s leading media companies. Students learn from top faculty who work at renowned advertising and creative agencies.
Academy of Art University
Academy of Art University offers an MFA in Advertising degree program through its School of Advertising. This degree program focuses on the more creative roles in the advertising industry, including creative strategist, copywriter, or art director. Students learn advanced advertising concepts and principles while they develop the unique portfolio they can carry into their future careers. Classes include Copywriting Techniques, Brand Strategy, Art Direction, Digital Graphics, Anthropology: Experiencing Culture, Brand Strategy, and more.
Suffolk University offers an MA in Communication with Public Relations & Advertising Concentration degree program through their College of Arts & Sciences that takes advantage of its close location to the leading advertising and PR firms in Boston. The well-rounded curriculum combines technology and theory with courses in advertising, campaign management, gender communication, global branding, intercultural communication, strategic marketing, and public relations. Students can also take advantage of cutting-edge facilities such as “smart” classrooms, media production and post-production facilities, and a social media lab.
Is a Master’s in Advertising Worth It?
You may not need an advanced degree to qualify for an advertising career, particularly an entry-level position. However, a master’s degree in advertising could help you stand out from the crowd and equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to advance into more ambitious and lucrative managerial or leadership roles. If you want to accelerate your career in advertising and tackle new challenges, such as becoming a creative director or head of accounts, then a master’s degree in advertising, along with its advanced coursework and internships, may be worth the investment.
Ready to take the next step and think about the degree program that’s right for you? We’ve ranked the best master’s in advertising programs based on two factors: tuition cost per credit (least expensive is best) and graduate enrollment (highest number of students is best). Explore our list of top schools below.
Interested in taking a look at additional masters in marketing programs? Try our easy-to-use Degree Finder tool and we’ll help you find the school that’s right for you!
What is the Average Salary for an Advertising Master’s Degree?
The salary you can expect to earn as a graduate of a master’s in advertising program can differ significantly based on your previous experience, location, and industry. Payscale lists the average base salary for an MA in Advertising as $73,000 per year. This number includes the salaries for common positions for graduates of advertising master’s programs, including graphic designers, social media specialists, and communications managers.
What Is the Curriculum for a Master’s in Advertising Degree?
One of the key points to consider when selecting a master’s program is the curriculum. Although the course requirements for this degree will vary based on the school, some of the most common courses include:
- Advertising Strategy and Consumer Insights: Students taking this class learn how to analyze consumer behavior and improve advertising practices.
- Advertising Management: In this course, students learn the theories and practical applications of leadership skills in advertising, including budgeting, communicating with clients, and media strategies.
- Art Direction: Students in this class learn how to develop a brand’s image and implement advertising campaigns.
- Copywriting: This class focuses on advanced copywriting skills for various media channels, including digital, print, social media, and video.
- Media Strategies: Students explore the strategies employed by advertising agencies who are planning, buying, and selling media.
- Global Marketing Communication: In this class, students learn about the foundational concepts of global marketing communication and how to account for economic, political, and cultural influences.
Most graduate programs in advertising also require students to complete a capstone project or thesis to demonstrate the full breadth of their accomplishments and knowledge. This often includes a portfolio with samples of visual and written advertising material.
How Much Does a Master’s in Advertising Degree Cost?
Earning an advanced degree is a financial investment, but just how much can you expect to pay? According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of a master’s degree in 2021 was $66,340. However, the actual cost of your degree will depend on a number of factors, such as:
- Whether you attend a private or public program
- Your status as an in-state or out-of-state student
- How much support from financial aid, including scholarships, you are eligible to receive
- The length of the program
If you plan to apply for advertising master’s programs, it’s important to note the cost per credit hour to help determine which ones are within your budget.
Our Advertising Graduate Programs Rankings
Our ranking system is based on per-credit tuition rates (in-state, where applicable) and graduate enrollment rates for each school. After sorting first by the per-credit tuition rates and then by graduate enrollment rates, we assigned points to each school and added these points to get a final ranking score.
If you’ve noticed any information that might be in error, please contact us directly so we can make the necessary corrections.
Education Data Initiative, “Average Cost of a Master’s Degree”