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IMC Compared with Other Master’s Degrees

We are often asked, “What is a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications” and “how does it compare with an MBA, master’s in marketing, master’s in communications, or other similar degrees?” We understand why you might have that question—the Medill IMC master’s program is distinct and uniquely prepares you to excel in marketing communications in any industry. 

The master's program that is right for you depends on the skills you want to develop for your future career path. Here is what sets the Medill IMC program apart:

Medill Master’s in Integrated Marketing Communications

IMC blends the art and science of marketing communications. You will focus on the consumer and use data—both qualitative and quantitative--to learn about their behaviors, needs and pain points. Armed with that knowledge, you’ll use creativity to develop meaningful ways to engage with your consumers. Some master’s programs focus more heavily on the art OR the science, but Medill IMC blends the two to make you a savvy marketer.

It’s also important to understand the differences between Medill’s IMC program and IMC programs at other universities. The IMC master’s degree was founded at Medill in 1991 with a very intentional focus on data and creativity, as well as a strong focus on the consumer. Everything you learn at Medill will be centered on consumer understanding. You will study marketing communications in depth, rather than gaining a breadth of knowledge in a variety of subject matters.

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

Most MBA programs are focused on business education broadly. This means that only some of your classes will be focused on marketing. MBA programs are known for preparing students for a career in general management. Learn more from Medill alumnus Jose Costa (IMC04), who has both IMC and MBA degrees, and has held top leadership positions at Burger King, Maaco, Grand Vision and more.

Master’s in Marketing

Marketing is the “M” in “IMC”. Marketing is a broad term that encapsulates activities such as product research and development, competitive assessment, promotions, branding, marketing technology and more. IMC expands beyond marketing and integrates more tools to engage consumers, such as consumer insight, communications, public relations, advertising, digital analytics and strategy, media, shopper marketing, e-commerce and more. We believe all activities should be aligned and centered around the consumer.

Master’s in Communication

Learning effective communication strategies with multiple stakeholder groups is the foundation of many master’s in communication programs. Communications and public relations are one part of an integrated set of skills in the Medill IMC program. Master’s in communications degrees often include a lot of writing and are more qualitative and theoretical in nature, whereas Medill IMC will focus on the application of both qualitative (creativity, consumer insights) and quantitative skills (data analytics and IMC strategy). 

Master’s in Marketing Analytics

There are several types of degrees that now focus specifically on analytics and will take a very deep dive into statistical programs and software. The Medill IMC program has a core course, Marketing Research, and elective classes that teach these skills; however, you will also learn the creative side of marketing and how to find insights in data and turn them into campaigns and activities that engage consumers.

Choose the IMC Format That’s Right for You

Medill offers the IMC master’s degree in two formats:

IMC Full-Time

This program is for students straight from undergrad or with a few years of work experience who are looking to launch or accelerate their career. This program is 15 months long and offered just north of Chicago on the Northwestern University campus in Evanston, Illinois. For one quarter of the program, students work on a strategic IMC project for a top company to help them tackle a real marketing communications challenge and gain valuable work experience.

Learn more about IMC Full-Time

IMC Professional

This program is a part-time program designed for mid- to senior-level professionals and those looking to transition into a marketing career and have at least three years of full-time professional work experience. You can choose how you take courses entirely online, in the evening in downtown Chicago, or a combination. The program is 13 courses long, with 10 elective courses to focus on the areas of most interest to you. Students can explore a variety of courses such as Crisis Communication, Global Perspectives, Digital Leadership, Digital Analytics and more.

Learn more about IMC Professional

We also invite you to contact our admissions team to see how the IMC program matches with your career aspirations: 

Tatyana Rodriguez

IMC Full-Time
Tatyana Rodriguez
Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions and Financial Aid



IMC ProfessionalRyan Hays
Ryan Hays
Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions and Financial Aid