How to Work in Marketing
Marketing is a broad field with many specializations and opportunities. There are tons of different job titles for marketers, and most pay far above average. For example, the mean annual income for a marketing manager in 2020 was $154,470.
But marketing manager is just one of the many careers you can find in marketing. We'll dive into the details of those careers and the educational paths it takes to become a marketer.
What Does a Marketer Do?
Marketers create advertising campaigns, analyze data, study demographics and buying behaviors, and anything else that can make their company and products known.
Steps to Becoming a Marketer
Most marketing careers require a bachelor's degree, and some require or recommend a graduate degree. No matter which degree you earn, it all starts with getting a high school diploma or GED.
If any clubs or organizations in your school promote business or communications, you should dip your toe into the marketing pool by becoming involved in them. Student leadership can also teach high school students about marketing and promotions.
A bachelor's degree in marketing is the standard for many marketing professions, but there is also usually the option for an associate degree, which usually takes two years.
A bachelor's degree in marketing usually takes four years to complete and is typically a staple major at most colleges and universities.
The option that takes the least amount of time would be a certification. Industry professionals project this type of marketing education to pace degrees in terms of value.
An internship is an important step toward finding postgraduate employment.
Not only does the internship give valuable real-world and hands-on experience — it also helps interns get their foot in the door of prospective employers and establish professional connections. That networking can come in handy later in their career. Internships can be during the summer of the bachelor's program but might also be postgraduate.
Your first entry-level job will provide experience an internship can't match. If a marketing professional has aspirations for a graduate degree or more advanced marketing positions with more responsibility, gaining experience will be crucial. Entry-level marketing jobs may include marketing analysts, marketing associates, marketing assistants, or marketing specialists.
People in these jobs may help collect and analyze marketing data and perform other administrative tasks as needed while gaining valuable marketing experience.
Depending on your career goals and overall ambition, you may need a graduate degree. This is especially true for those at upper-level management and leadership positions, such as chief marketing officers or vice president of sales.
While there are marketing graduate degrees, a graduate degree like a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is highly advisable to get to the very top of the ladder. Other graduate marketing degrees are more focused on a specific aspect of marketing, such as digital marketing and marketing management.
Career Paths in Marketing
Market research analysts and marketing specialists collect information about the target market of a brand or product and develop tools to analyze buyer behavior and forecast sales. They may be directly or indirectly involved in researching buyer preferences and behavior, conducting market research surveys or focus groups, and interpreting data for marketing teams and other departments.
- Education requirements: Bachelor's degree with a focus on advertising, marketing, or communications. MBA optional
- Salary expectations: The mean annual wage for market research analysts and marketing specialists was $73,970 in 2020.
Marketing managers plan budgets for marketing campaigns, execute marketing strategies, and oversee all marketing operations for their company. Marketing managers usually have a bachelor's degree in marketing and a few years of experience.
- Education Requirements: Bachelor's degree with a focus on digital advertising, marketing, communications, or similar fields. MBA optional.
- Salary Expectations: The mean annual wage for digital marketing managers was $154,470 in 2020.
Courses in Marketing Programs
Many prospective marketing students are eager to learn what to expect in marketing programs. Here are some standard courses and the skills students can gain in each.
- Application of marketing strategies to achieve business goals
- Familiarity with marketing research methods
- Understanding of consumer behavior
- Ability to take advantage of buyer patterns to improve sales
- How buyer characteristics affect purchases
- Familiarity with the relationship between buyer habits and profitability
- Ability to identify consumer needs and wants
- Knowledge of how consumers think
- Working in a therapeutic environment
- Familiarity with market-oriented strategic planning
- Proper use of Internet and social media marketing
- Design and implementation of sales promotions
Pro Tips on Working in Marketing
Editor's note: This Q&A has been edited for clarity and length.
In my experience, the types of people who are the best fit for marketing are what I would call creative problem-solvers. These individuals can lean on both right-brain creativity and left-brain logical reasoning to solve complex problems. Marketers relish the opportunity to solve these problems and communicate the answers in an effective manner.
The best parts of my career have been overcoming complex challenges presented by agency clients. There is nothing more rewarding than working your tail off, digging into the data, and relying on tacit knowledge to develop a solution to a problem that our clients have presented us with.
The worst parts of my career have been the hours. While there is no such thing as a true marketing emergency, being in the service industry at an agency leads one to be on-call when things go sideways for a client.
The biggest advice I would give someone interested in pursuing a career in marketing is to spend a good bit of time as a generalist before specializing. Marketing is an ever-evolving discipline, and pigeon holing yourself as one specialist early on can be detrimental. The second biggest piece of advice I can give is to ensure that you are technically literate. Whether that means learning some basic HTML or becoming proficient in SQL, being able to be a technical marketer is a huge differentiator.
Marketing Degrees & Career Resources
American Marketing Association
The AMA is a leading professional organization for marketing professionals. The AMA provides career, networking, and educational resources to its members.
ANA Business Marketing Association
The ANA aims to assist business-to-business marketers to more effectively succeed at their job. The ANA provides various marketing tools and resources for its members.
The Chief Marketing Officer Council is an international professional organization designed for marketing executives.
Internet Marketing Association
The IMA is a leading Internet marketing group composed of various marketing and business individuals. The IMA's mission is to facilitate the sharing of information of marketing professionals.
Society for Marketing Professional Services
The SMPS is a professional marketing organization devoted to facilitating business opportunities for the architect, engineer, and contractor industries.
If you're creative and driven, a career in a marketing-related field may be a good option for you. Many related fields have lucrative salaries with a positive outlook for job growth.
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