Is a Marketing Degree a Better Value than a General Business Degree?


Key Takeaways:

  • A marketing degree offers a focused curriculum, such as in-depth knowledge of marketing principles, consumer behavior, digital marketing, advertising, and brand management.
  • A marketing degree can lead to career opportunities as a marketing manager, brand manager, digital marketing specialist, market research analyst, or advertising executive.
  • A general business degree offers numerous opportunities for growth and development in many business environments.
  • Career paths for a general business degree include business or financial analysis, human resource management, operations management, and entrepreneurship.
  • Both a marketing degree and a general business degree have unique advantages and can offer valuable career opportunities.

A marketing degree’s value may be greater than the value of a business degree in certain scenarios. How a degree majoring in marketing will help you when it comes to your career depends entirely on the profession that you are pursuing and where you would like to take your career in the future. If you want to make the right choice before you start filling out college applications or before you spend years studying for the wrong degree, you must do your research. Read on, and find out how much weight a marketing degree will hold over a general business degree. Maybe afterword check out our article on what makes a marketing degree worth it.

What is the Difference Between a Marketing and General Business Degree?

When you are studying for a four-year degree, the program’s content that you must complete during the first two years will be similar regardless of whether you are majoring in marketing or general business. This is because the general education requirements will be the same across the board. After you complete the general prerequisites, the core courses you must take to earn your degree will differ.

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Some of the common course requirements for marketing majors include Introduction to Marketing, Product Management, Marketing Research, Marketing Management, Product Development, Strategy, Social Media, and Business Development. Coursework that you take to major in general business will not be focused strictly on Marketing. Instead of taking a specialized curriculum, you will learn the basics of business at many different levels. Common general business requirements include Accounting, Human Resources, Contract Management, Business Administration, Marketing, Sales, Finance, Public Relations, and Advertising.

What Can You Do With Your Degree in Marketing vs. General Business Degree?

You need to assess your options following your graduation to determine if a bachelor’s degree in marketing holds more value. With your four-year degree in marketing, you can hold a long list of titles in almost any industry. Some of the titles you will be qualified for with a bachelor’s degree include Account Management, Marketing Manager, Marketing Coordinator, Social Media Marketer, Marketing Associate, Online Marketing Specialist, Brand Developer, Public Relations Specialist, and more.

With your general business degree, you may be eligible for lower-level marketing positions but can hold several different roles in different business areas and may eventually become a manager. Some general degree holders include Accountant, Recruiter, Financial Analyst, PR Specialist, HR Specialist, and more. To really work your way up to leadership, you may need an advanced degree to get a more specialized education.

What is the Comparison Between Salaries?

You should really take a step back and find out how much you can potentially make as a graduate with the degree that you choose. According to CNN, the average beginning salary for marketing majors is $59,471. Compared to the $57,132 earned by average business majors, you can see that the marketing major might be more valuable right after your graduation.

One of the things that makes marketing degrees so valuable is that they are specialized. A general degree may make you a well-rounded professional, but there will always be someone out there who has a more specialized degree. If your goal is to work in marketing, a marketing degree is the way to go.

The choice between the two degrees is up to you and solely dependent on your vision for the future. 

Obviously, if you want to tell people how to spend their money, a marketing degree is the way to proceed. The specialization of your training will set you up for success. As long as you don’t neglect the soft skills of problem-solving and people management that may not be covered as in-depth in your program, it would help if you were as well prepared for your career as anyone. Knowing the ins and outs of your field does not really have a downside, and even if you find yourself, one day, out of the business world entirely, there are still ideas, schemes, and services that will need selling to coworkers, bosses, and even family members. Knowing how to set an idea, like a lovely jewel, to its best advantage, is a great advantage in getting people to go along with your plans.

 If entrepreneurship is in your future, a general business degree with its varied focus on the different facets involved in the world of commerce might serve you well. The general business degree will also cover management, economics, operations, and finance, for example. It depends on how you visualize your career path. If you see yourself working as a marketer, a marketing degree is an obvious choice. If you see yourself doing a little bit of everything (or needing to know a little bit of everything), the general business could be your path. 

Could you double major in general business and marketing? If your program allows it, you certainly could, but there is already a lot of overlap between the two programs, so it may not pan out to be totally worth it. Some schools will not allow double majors within the same college for this reason. 

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A bachelor’s degree in marketing is around 120 hours, with coursework focusing on the minutiae of, well, marketing. How people encounter your product, how to approach social media, what people are looking for, what motivates the move from potential customer to an actual customer, things like that. You will also have a sampling of general business courses like management, and ethics, so worry not that you will have no background outside of marketing. This degree is good for people who know they want to be involved with marketing from the get-go. Jim Gaffigan took his degree in marketing, supported himself for several years as he worked through the comedy ranks, and eventually broke through to stardom on the backs of bits built around the pitch meetings for everyday objects like Hot Pockets and bathrobes. 

A general business bachelor’s degree is generally a 120 semester hour program that prepares individuals to operate in any business area with an eye to how their portion of the business works within the organization as a whole. It has been said that general business majors make the best managers, so if you are looking into moving up the managerial chain, this may be the move for you. When your career has begun to take shape after a couple of years, you may realize you would benefit from further study, and you can shore up whatever you perceive to be the deficiencies in your training when you return to academia to get your MBA. 

Marketing degree holders can follow a similar path into the MBA arena. The vast majority of people spend 3-5 years working in the business world between undergrad studies and undertaking an MBA. Indeed, 2+ years of professional experience is a general requirement to most MBA programs. And in today’s market, you don’t even need to leave your professional life to pursue your studies. With the right boss and the right online program, you can have your (educational) cake and eat it (continue those precious mid-20s/early 30s 401k contributions) too. An MBA specializing in marketing is a ubiquitous offering of these programs and includes market forecasting, social media marketing, digital commerce, and consumer behavior. In fact, some MBAs break out areas like this for further specialization if you really want to dig down and extra-special specialize. 

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Are MBAs totally necessary to either career path? Absolutely not, but they are a typical early/mid-career consideration for the business professional. There are hundreds of on-campus programs, dozens of hybrid programs (MBAs were doing the virtual thing back in the time of VHS), and beaucoup online programs to choose from, all with specializations galore to expand your skill set even further. MBAs typically contain so many hours of coursework, an internship component (which can often be completed with your current employer if you go that route), and a capstone project where you synthesize what you have learned. Not all MBA applicants have business education experience, some come from liberal arts and social sciences, so whichever of the general business or marketing undergrad you go with, you will have some prerequisites in the tank as a start.

If you are civic or environmentally oriented but still know that your talents lie in marketing or business, you can get in at the ground level or plan on going on to a management degree in the ever-growing non-profit fields. You may have similar skills in the physical sciences; you may be able to get credit toward graduation in some degree programs. To some, it would be a surprise that there is such a thing now as a Green Product Marketer, yet it doesn’t have to be a contradiction in terms. You can take your talent and ethical perspective to where you can be most effective and properly paid. You can find likely current positions in sites such, which has a list of “green dream jobs” such as Marketing Communications Assistant and Major Gifts Manager, for instance. Whether general business or marketing degrees are expected or these types of positions, you will be expected to have some experience during which you gained not only skill but initiated personal references and contacts, the value of which can not be overestimated.

In light of the earlier positions expanded above, you can also consider getting into environmental public relations with a general business degree. Similarly, environmental social media positions tend to value the presence of any four-year degree and significant experience, so if you have the younger generation’s native savvy of the social media marketplace, you can get a job regardless of which degree you have. You, too, can monetize your social media activity, living the millennial dream. 

While we aim to strengthen the likelihood of meeting your career goals, we sadly cannot meet each other, so another strong recommendation is to balance mentors in different fields and different academic or career stages. Your relationship with these folks will be most beneficial if they can level with you regarding your strengths and weaknesses. Local faculty tend to be the most likely people who can explain how the fields have evolved and how your personal path may align with business or marketing. To balance the academic advice, you can get realistic advice from those in the business directly–the franker, the better. Of course, it helps if you have marketing managers in the family. Of course, you will also benefit from people who do not know you as well. Direct interviews with those in the field can prepare you for the fields themselves, as well as nab additional targeted career references. 

Can you be a marketer with a general business degree? Absolutely, this is within the realm of possibility. Just like you can get a specialized marketing degree and begin building your own business from the ground up. It is hard to prepare for where life will take you, but neither of these degrees will “box you in” to the extent that you cannot pursue your interests. This article is just here trying to save you time (and money!) so that you can get the degree that you want as quickly as possible and begin living your dream.

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In conclusion, you really can’t go wrong with either of these degrees. Both build strong skillsets, have good employment outlooks, and remuneration on the high end for employees starting out. The decision is up to you, so make a good one, and if you make the “wrong” one, you can always make up for the lost studies with your MBA. Whether you are a born marketer, a born business person, or solidly on the fence, we hope this article has clarified which degree brings which benefits and how they look applied in the workplace. Getting a college degree is a huge accomplishment that shows your prospective boss that you can do big things. What you get that degree in is important, but it’s not everything.