IMC versus MBA?

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A few weeks back I was asked the question “How does the IMC compare to an MBA program and which one do you think is better?” So I thought I would share my response to those out there that still may be evaluating which masters level program is right for them.

MBA programs

MBA programs will give you a broad understanding of all areas of business. They tend to have a heavy focus in accounting and finance with just a few high level overview courses in marketing. If you plan on going into a general business career and plan on being in the administration, accounting or finance areas – then an MBA is likely right for you. However, if you plan on focusing in marketing, an MBA will leave you short. As one person indicated “I have an MBA and while that gives me the ability to think through business processes and strategy, it didn’t make me a great marketer.

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC)

IMC is completely focused on marketing. You will have a well-rounded degree that covers every aspect of marketing, including all of the traditional marketing approaches (PR, direct marketing, promotions, media analysis, market research etc) as well as all emerging media (mobile marketing, social media marketing, web metrics/seo etc). You will also be able to get specific in the areas of marketing that you would like to specialize or create focus in (health care marketing, sports marketing, cause marketing, multicultural marketing). For those that are really interested in the creative side, you can even choose courses in creative concepts, storytelling, interactive media, and visual information design.

IMC versus MBAYou have the ability to really strengthen your competitiveness for your career goals. You will be competitive and stand out against MBAs that are applying for a marketing position. 

So why the IMC program at West Virginia University?

There are certainly not as many IMC programs to choose from as there are MBA programs. So here are a few things that I think make the IMC program at WVU strong:

  • The program is constantly progressing to include new courses as the field changes and grows. Political marketing, internal brand communications and entrepreneurship are just a few of the new courses being added at the time of this post.
  • The professors bring real-life experience. These professors are not stuck in the classroom teaching only textbook material. While we all understand the importance of basic concepts that are taught in textbooks, they can’t compare to the real life situations that occur only on the job. The grounded concepts provided by the textbooks coupled with the experience of years in the field (of some pretty stellar brand names) is something you won’t find everywhere.
  • The flexibility. Life is busy, we are all juggling multiple things between families, jobs and courses. The ability to take a masters program online and fit it into your own schedule is a huge advantage. This program also has a lot of dialogue with classmates and professors on a weekly basis giving you the same interactions that you would have in the classroom setting.
  • Credibility. Seeing that this program was offered from an accredited university and not just an online program was important to me. I wanted to know that my Masters Degree would always be viewed as an advantage and did not come from an online program that ceased to exist some day.

So there you have it – why I think the IMC is a far stronger program than an MBA for those looking to focus on a marketing career.

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9 Responses to “IMC versus MBA?”

  1. Jelise Says:

    Amy – great post! I agree with your thoughts and would even go so far as to say that I have more interaction with classmates from the IMC program that I did with many of my undergrad classes in the traditional setting. The structure of the class and emphasis on the discussion board provide an excellent means to engage in interactive and through-provoking discussions, while giving the flexibility to let the conversation extend for as long as the class desires. In a traditional classroom setting I found that discussions were often truncated based on available time, the professor needing to fit in the lecture, etc.

    • AClausen Says:

      Jelise – I agree. You can’t get nearly as in-depth in the classroom due to time. It’s been fantastic what I have learned not only from my professors but from fellow classmates. All the best.

  2. AClausen Says:

    Great point Jelise. I agree that you do get continued discussions on a topic all week long as opposed to the few minutes in a classroom. The discussions can also be far more thought provoking since you can research thoughts, which you certainly don’t have time to do in the traditional classroom.

  3. catherinelangford Says:

    We have an uphill battle when interviewing with MBA devotees. I talked to the marketing director at my medical device manufacturer and he indicated he wouldn’t hire me unless I was at least enrolled in an MBA program or had more extensive experience. If I wanted a job in the company it would more likely be as an event planner than as a marketer. There is a difference, in the medical world at least, between what he termed “upstream” and “downstream” marketing, which I interpreted as more B2B vs. consumer marketing. And he differentiated between marketing and marketing communications. Medical device marketing starts with research, including clinical trials, so the MBA may be preferred in this case because of the focus on accounting. I haven’t noticed a business accounting course in our IMC curriculum, but I think it would come in handy, as far as adding gravitas to the program. I have to learn to sell myself better too I think.

    • AClausen Says:

      Catherine – there again, it depends on what you are looking to do with your career. It sounds that the position your person is describing is more of a business development position where there would be more of a need for economics management, financial management, operations management or accounting management. In all honesty – I think that having a fast track short MBA program (maybe equivalent to the graduate certificate that is offered in IMC) to provide just a couple of the things that a company may be looking for would be helpful to combine onto the IMC. I work in the same industry as you – Device/Pharma – but I would still choose the IMC over the MBA for marketing. But I myself am going to take a course or two from the business side from a local program here that offers a quick/short version of the MBA. Best of luck!

  4. Cindy Stella Says:

    MBAs are more than accounting and finance. As someone who ran MBA programs for almost 10 years, they’re designed for strategic management – which means a well rounded business education that is incredibly quantitative in nature. MBA students take Accounting, Statistics, Economics, Finance, Management and Policy, Information Systems, Marketing, Leadership, International Business, and Operations Management. Many full-time MBA programs allow students to specialize in an area they prefer through elective choices. Marketing can be one of those elective areas, however most students do gravitate towards Economics or Finance because they seek roles in business that require that kind of strategic planning. MBA programs are very business case focused, utilizing Harvard Business cases to learn how to problem solve and strategize.

    I think the business world will soon start to realize though that IMC is critical to marketing departments and leadership, and that it too has strategic vision. And I think the success of alumni from this program are already blazing the trail. The concept of IMC over an MBA is new and it will eventually catch up to be preferred. As someone in the IMC program who chose it over an MBA (and I clearly know and have sold the benefits of an MBA to others) I found it to have the pulse of where marketing is now and where it is headed. Technology has turned Marketing upside down, and I think that IMC is leading the revolution of education required to work in this new world. And like MBA programs that have capstones, so does WVU IMC – which is what set it apart for me. Capstones make you tie it all together and prove the strategic planning capabilities earned through a Masters degree. 🙂

    • AClausen Says:

      Well said Cindy. Thanks for weighing in. Both programs certainly have strengths and utilities in the business world. It’s about choosing which one aligns with your career path.

  5. Josh Says:

    Is there a lot of hands on content in this program? I really want a program that can give me some tangible skills. Also do you think employers don’t like the fact that the program is online?

    • AClausen Says:

      Hi Josh – Yes there is a lot of hands on in this program. You will apply all the skills you are learning along the way. Many of the courses give you a client and you develop the relevant materials as if you were going to deliver it to the actual client. As far as it being online – that is the beauty of the IMC program at WVU. Your degree comes from West Virginia University – not an exclusive online degree program so it is irrelevant in my opinion.

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