Careers in Marketing
Social media manager, content strategist, search engine optimization specialist — a quick search on any job listing website reveals the countless marketing roles available to college graduates with degrees in marketing. With so many options, it can be challenging to figure out what's right for you. Experts recommend researching the many possibilities available, then gaining as much first-hand experience as you can to find your ideal marketing career path.
What Jobs Can You Get With a Marketing Degree?
Marketing is a vast and complex field offering many different job responsibilities and roles in digital marketing, communications, brand management, and leadership. Some marketing professionals choose to develop skills in several areas and become generalists. Others become experts in just one aspect of marketing, making them specialists.
Before deciding on an area of focus, seasoned marketers often encourage marketing students to study the different options and look for ways to experience a variety of roles. For instance, Kat Dunphy, a digital marketing expert, says, "Take the internship, work on the crazy group community project, try your hand at a startup. By realizing what I didn't like or wouldn't want to work on again, I had the luxury of finding what I was actually passionate about."
Communications and Promotions Roles
At its core, marketing is about communicating with potential customers, but there are countless ways this can be achieved. Some marketers focus on disseminating information about an organization's products or services, while others build brand awareness and engage with customers.
The following are just some of the many promotions and communications roles available. Several job titles are associated with each of these roles, many of which can be entry-level positions for recent graduates with minimal experience.
Social Media Marketing Specialist
Social media has become one of the most valuable ways for organizations to engage with their customers. Large organizations often have extensive teams of social media specialists led by a director who develops social media marketing strategies and establishes social media protocols. Specialists must be able to create content for the various platforms that attracts attention and communicates the brand story and values, and they also need to be adept at interacting with consumers in real-time using the brand voice.
Email Marketing Coordinator
We all know that because of the way social media platforms work, only a small portion of consumers will ever see an organization's content. For many organizations, a far more effective marketing tool is email. Consumers opt in for this content and are more likely to engage with a message received directly in their inbox. Email marketing coordinators must be able to create exciting short- and long-form content that engages subscribers, and they also need technical expertise in email data analytics, such as open rates and A/B test results.
Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are essential to enhancing an organization's visibility online. SEO specialists have mastered a range of techniques for optimizing their websites to attract high numbers of potential consumers, but they must also be prepared to constantly modify these tactics and learn new techniques as search engine algorithms are routinely updated. Some SEO specialists focus exclusively on e-commerce, using the same techniques to maximize online sales.
Many organizations have moved away from traditional hard-sell marketing copy in favor of informative content related to the organization's products or services. For example, a plumbing service provider might attract homeowners to its website by producing a blog post on 10 ways to winterize your home's plumbing. Content marketers research and write this content, using an engaging yet authoritative tone.
Public Relations Coordinator
PR is another important facet of communicating a brand's message. Public relations coordinators need to have excellent written and oral communication skills to accurately convey an organization's message to the media through press releases and press conferences. PR professionals also need to excel at networking in order to establish relationships with key journalists, editors, and producers.
Some organizations connect with prospective customers at events, and event marketers coordinate these promotional activities. This can mean anything from placing advertising banners inside a professional sports team stadium to arranging swag bags for the people who attend charity events to setting up a booth at a trade show. Because event marketers do so many different things, they must excel at creating innovative promotional ideas, managing their time effectively, and collaborating with large teams of event planners and producers.
Brand managers are also usually focused on one particular product or product line, but their objective is to create brand awareness in the minds of consumers. They may use any number of different marketing strategies — social media campaigns, advertising, events, and so on — to communicate the brand's story, feel, and value to potential customers.
Market Research and Analytical Roles
Marketing research and analysis require specialized skills. Organizations rely on data to make decisions, and marketing analysts are essential in collecting and interpreting this data.
Market research may be used in the early stages of product development to establish consumers' preferences and expectations, but it can also be used in the later stages of a product roll-out to determine the efficacy of the organization's marketing efforts.
Marketing analysts must have a thorough knowledge of market research, including the ability to define the demographic characteristics of the organization's target market, develop appropriate qualitative research projects, and analyze the resulting data.
Marketing Management Roles
Marketers with a fair amount of experience may eventually move into managerial roles. In marketing, managers go by many job titles, including marketing manager, marketing director, digital marketing lead, or chief marketing officer.
In high-level roles, marketing professionals oversee an organization's marketing initiatives, campaigns, and strategies. Marketing managers need a broad understanding of the field, from consumer behavior and market research to digital marketing and mass communication. However, they must also be knowledgeable enough to map out detailed plans, ensuring that everyone on the marketing team is working toward the same goals and objectives. This marketing career path also requires professionals to have strong leadership skills. They must be adept at managing people, planning and organizing resources, and monitoring budgets.
How to Get a Job in Marketing
According to the BLS, most entry-level positions in the field require a bachelor's degree in marketing. However, a few jobs may require only an associate degree, while some high-level managerial roles may require an advanced degree. It may also be possible for you to build a marketing career with a bachelor's degree in communications.
Of course, earning a college degree in marketing is usually only the first step. The marketing field evolves continuously, and many professionals find it necessary to pursue additional education in order to stay current and in demand. This may mean returning to school for an advanced degree, but in many cases, it simply means attending workshops or online classes to learn specific technical skills, such as social media marketing or SEO techniques.
Marketing degrees are available at all levels of education, from associate degrees through doctorates for those who want to pursue a career as a college professor or high-level researcher. Before you enroll in any program, you may want to research the degree that's commonly required for the marketing role you have in mind.
Marketing degrees typically have the same requirements as degrees in other subjects. An associate degree in marketing requires about 60 credit hours, which most full-time students complete in two years.
A bachelor's degree in marketing often involves 120-126 credit hours, and most students finish their program in four to six years. Many marketing degree programs require students to complete at least one internship in the marketing field. You may also want to consider arranging several externships to help you decide which area of marketing is most interesting to you and best suited to your marketing skills.
If you're interested in managerial positions in marketing, or if you majored in some other subject and would like to switch to a marketing career, you may want to consider earning a master's in marketing or an MBA with a marketing concentration. A master's in marketing program typically emphasizes all aspects of marketing as well as data analysis. A marketing MBA program generally provides a broader overview of business management with extra emphasis on marketing. Master's programs often require an internship and possibly some type of capstone experience.
Certifications aren't typically required in the marketing field, but earning certification shows that you're committed to your professional development and may have specialized skills. These qualities may make you a more attractive job candidate, and they have the potential to increase your marketing salary.
The certification options listed below are fairly generalized, but there are also certifications that focus on specific subjects, such as SEO or social media. To earn most of these certifications, you may need to complete one or more courses, pass a test, or verify a minimum number of hours of marketing work experience. The cost of certification courses ranges from about $400-$4,200.
Digital Marketing Certification: Designed primarily for digital marketers in managerial roles, this certification is available at two levels — Pro and Expert. Both are endorsed by the Digital Marketing Institute and the American Marketing Association. The Pro course requires 30 hours of coursework and results in both the DMI's Professional Certificate in Digital Marketing and the AMA's Professional Certified Marketer. The higher-level Expert course may take up to two years to complete and leads to both the DMI's Certified Digital Marketing Expert and the AMA's PCM Advanced Digital Marketing Certification.
Online Marketing Certified Professional: The OMCP is both a professional organization for online marketers and a certification process. To earn OMCP certification, applicants must take a course, pass an exam, and demonstrate 1,000-5,000 hours of marketing experience, depending on their education. There is also an Online Marketing Certified Associate certification for those in managerial positions who prefer a broader overview of digital marketing.
SMEI Certified Professional Marketer: Sponsored by the Sales and Marketing Executives International, a professional organization founded in 1935, this certification covers the broad spectrum of marketing skills and is not limited to digital marketing. An SMEI Certified Marketing Executive certification is also available for executives, managers, and marketing and business consultants.
HubSpot Certifications: HubSpot, an online leader in digital marketing, provides training and certification through its HubSpot Academy. Marketers can develop skills and earn certification in content marketing, social media marketing, and inbound marketing optimization, among many other topics.
Google Marketing Platform Certifications: Google offers several different certifications for marketers in campaign management, search ads, analytics, and more. After taking an online course on the desired topic, applicants must pass an exam to become certified.
Many marketing professionals find it beneficial to join one or more of these professional organizations. Membership typically includes access to networking opportunities, continuing education options, and career support services.
These organizations often offer discounted memberships for students, which entitle you to attend their networking events and take advantage of their publications and courses. As Blaire Brown, founder and CEO of Visionary Advantages Brand Strategy Group, advises marketing students, "Network like crazy! Your network will help you grow as a professional, no matter what route you end up taking, whether it's entrepreneurial or corporate."
Skills Required for Marketing
To become a marketing professional, you may need to master several technical skills. For example, depending on the job you envision, you may need to learn to design and implement a marketing campaign, use industry-standard SEO tools, or conduct market research.
Some of the soft skills useful to marketing professionals include:
- Writing — Whatever your role, you are likely to be asked to write, whether it's informative articles for use in content marketing, sales copy for promotional materials, or proposals to land new business.
- Problem-solving — You will often need to make important decisions so you need to be able to identify all possible options, evaluate the merits of each alternative, and choose the best solution.
- Active listening — Understanding both your fellow team members as well as your organization's target audience is essential to success, and they both rely on active listening.
- Time management — Marketing projects typically run on multiple deadlines, and it's not unusual for a marketer to be involved in more than one project at a time, so effective time management is a must.
- Lifelong learning — Marketing, especially digital marketing, constantly changes, so professionals need to commit to routinely learning new skills, techniques, and tools. Kent Lewis, chief marketing officer at Anvil Media, Inc., adds, "A curiosity, commitment, or even passion for your profession is essential."
Marketing is just one of many business-related subjects you can study. Find out more about other types of business degrees and careers in business.
Where Do Marketers Work?
All organizations need to promote their product and service offerings to potential consumers, which is why marketers are needed in virtually every industry in every state. Some marketing professionals prefer to work in one particular industry throughout their careers, such as sports marketing or retail marketing. Others want to work in several different arenas, which is why they may enjoy working for marketing agencies or running their own marketing firms where they can provide marketing services for many types of clients.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides specific employment data for marketing managers. California employs the most marketing managers by far, nearly double the number of professionals of the second-highest state on the list, New York. Illinois, Texas, and Massachusetts are also popular states for marketing managers.
However, BLS data also indicates that East Coast marketing managers tend to earn the highest salaries, as shown in this table:
|State||Mean Annual Salaries|
Advice From Marketing Professionals
Fabiana Meléndez Ruiz, Director of PR and Communications at Civilitude GroupofCompanies
What Do You Do?
In this role, I oversee the Marketing & PR Department and create systems to ensure that we are creating quality strategies and executing tactics to the best of our ability. I also oversee and manage all communications and branding efforts for the organization, including internal communications (employee relations).
How Did You Reach This Point?
Marketing degrees are great because they go through the history, overview, and theory of the field, but these degree tracks seldom offer actual hands-on experience. My journey really began with internships, where I tried on every facet of marketing, including branding, advertising, social media management, etc. until I found my niche. From there, I decided I wanted to focus on a PR track, so I made sure that every internship I had after that focused on communications.
Another crucial step has been to really learn and absorb everything about marketing and business. The industry has evolved, and it now really touches every aspect of an organization, from the most obvious like sales to the least obvious like HR. Being a great marketer means understanding how your work will impact a business holistically.
What Do You Like Most About Your Job, and What Do You Find Most Challenging?
I love working in marketing and PR because it's a career path that truly has no limits. You can really forge your own path and work to specialize and become a VP of Comms or broaden out enough that you become a CEO.
What I dislike is that many people don't understand what I do, even those who hire me or work with me. Many businesses don't understand marketing and see it as nonessential, which becomes an issue when we have something like a pandemic or a recession because marketing is one of the first departments to have layoffs. It takes a lot of education and regurgitation of information to get people on board, which I do enjoy!
What Advice Do You Have for Marketing Majors?
Be observant about where the industry is headed and how you can evolve to stay ahead of the game. For example, public relations and social media were seen as separate entities for a long time. Then came the rise of the influencer and PR had to adapt to incorporate and understand social media to keep up with the changing landscape.
Eva Chung, digital marketing expert and web marketing lead at Advantis Global
What Do You Do?
I am the web marketing lead at Advantis Global, a staffing agency. I also work on Advantis Medical Staffing, a travel nursing agency branch of Advantis Global. I spearhead all SEO efforts, user analytics, PR, paid advertising, partnerships, and website UI/UX. On some days, I'll support content creation. Each day is different, and I love the dynamics of my job.
How Did You Reach This Point?
I was always driven by projects that involved building a brand in high school. In 2010 I started a lifestyle Youtube channel, and as I worked on the channel, I learned how large the scope of marketing was. After high school, I chose to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce with a Major in Marketing and a Minor in Professional Communications.
While in school, I managed my Youtube content creation business and went full-time for a few years after graduating. I then took a break and learned it's much more fulfilling to help other brands grow because there's more to learn from working in different industries. I then started freelancing and working in agencies, which led me to where I am today.
What Do You Like Most About Your Job, and What Do You Find the Most Challenging?
I love that there's always something to learn, and every day is slightly different. This also ties into how I organize my work, but on some days, I'll work on one project; on another day, I'll work on something completely different. Keeping things different helps me avoid being burnt out from doing the same things over and over.
Something I both like and dislike about my job is keeping up with all the algorithm changes in social media, search engines, and even software and tools. I enjoy that it keeps me on my toes and always learning, but dislike it when there are no notices or information about changes. However, once I overcome the changes, I feel rewarded and proud.
What Advice Do You Have For Marketing Majors?
You will always learn more from doing rather than studying. The marketing industry changes quickly, so it's hard for textbooks and reading material to keep up. There are also so many aspects to marketing that it's hard to condense it into a few sessions a year. Many times, you'll learn the information but miss out on the opportunity to learn how to apply it.
Always be looking for internships or marketing job opportunities. When you feel like you can do everything because you built your own side projects and brands, you're wrong. Different industries, workflows, teams, and budgets open more things to learn.
Never stop learning because algorithms never stop changing.
FAQs About Careers in Marketing
How Much Can You Make in Marketing?
Is Marketing a Stressful Career?
At times, a marketing career can be stressful. Organizations — even those with the best products and services — cannot succeed without effective marketing, which puts a significant amount of pressure on the marketing team. Some professionals also find the fast pace and constant march of deadlines to be challenging.
Do Marketers Work From Home?
Yes, digital technology allows some marketers to work remotely from home or perhaps in a hybrid model that requires them to work in an office some of the time. This trend has become increasingly popular in recent years and is expected to continue into the future. A report from Upwork, a freelance work website, indicates that remote work may increase by 65% by 2025.
Is Marketing a Good Career?
Marketing can be a great career for some people. In an ongoing survey conducted by Career Explorer, marketing managers, digital marketing specialists, and others in similar business roles rate their job satisfaction at 3.1 out of 5. Those who are satisfied with their marketing careers enjoy the fast pace, creative opportunities, and rewarding results, while those who are dissatisfied with this career often cite the pressures of high expectations and frequent deadlines.
Should You Pursue a Career in Marketing?
In general, marketing is an exciting, fast-paced growth field with favorable salaries. But, as is true of any career path, marketing is not for everyone.
People who enjoy connecting with others in a business environment, are proficient at critical thinking, and have the creativity to develop innovative solutions may be well suited for careers in marketing. Those who also like working with data may want to consider specializing in market research and analytics, and marketers who enjoy planning and supervising others could consider managerial roles.
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