Marketing, advertising, and promotions managers can work in virtually every industry. Graduates with a bachelor's degree in marketing or a related field can pursue a variety of entry-level marketing roles. Students can also pursue an advanced degree to prepare for leadership positions in diverse industries.
This guide outlines important information for anyone considering a marketing career, including types of degrees and potential careers and salaries for graduates.
Why Pursue a Career in Marketing?
Creative professionals with excellent communication skills thrive as marketers. Marketing managers and specialists remain in high demand across many industries. Most advertising, public relations, and sales positions require only a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions, but a candidate with an advanced degree, relevant work experience, and strong digital marketing skills can pursue leadership positions in the field.
Marketing Career Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers to increase by 8% between 2018-2028, which is faster than the national average for all occupations. Marketing managers tend to earn the highest wages among marketing professionals, making a median annual salary of $136,850.
Marketers can work in nearly every industry, but providers of professional, scientific, and technical services are the largest employers of marketers.
|Search Engine Optimization Specialist||$40,000||$45,000||$56,000||$61,000|
|Senior Marketing Manager||$88,000||$81,000||$95,000||$107,000|
Skills Gained with a Marketing Degree
Successful marketers must continuously improve their skills to advance their careers. Professional associations, such as the American Marketing Association (AMA), offer extensive online and in-person continuing education resources. Some companies provide employees with professional training, and many professional organizations offer local educational events. Most marketers, however, develop the basics of their professional skills in traditional academic programs.
- Interpersonal Organization
Although marketing addresses mass communication, marketers must also master one-on-one interaction to achieve success in the field. Marketing professionals communicate with staff, board members, investors, buyers, vendors, and the general public. Therefore, many marketing degrees include communication courses.
- Public Speaking
Marketers need excellent public speaking skills to confidently address large groups, create emotional loyalty to brands, and build brand awareness. Marketers who wish to lead professional seminars, speak at association meetings, or teach courses also need public speaking skills.
Marketing professionals must often write creative, compelling content. Strong writing skills benefit marketers as they prepare blogs, product descriptions, video scripts, white papers, and other creative components of a marketing campaign. Marketers use storytelling to relay information and achieve measurable results.
Much of modern marketing relies on problem-solving. Marketers must position their companies' services as the most effective and efficient solutions to their customers' problems. Therefore, marketers must create offers and content that clearly demonstrate their organization's problem-solving skills.
- Analytical Thinking
Marketing professionals face mountains of data with more information streaming in all of the time. Marketers must sift through that data, make sense of it, and forecast future scenarios. By generating data-informed insights and developing follow-up plans, marketers can position companies as leaders in their field.
Marketing Career Paths
Students can pursue marketing careers in many different industries, each requiring acute business, management, and communication skills. While many marketing programs emphasize general career skills with broad applications, the following represent some of the most common marketing specializations.
- Market Research
Market research combines topics in data analytics, statistics, market analysis, and marketing communications. Learners pursuing this career path study topics like data collection methods, qualitative research, applied multivariate methods, database marketing, and customer relationship management.
- Innovation and Product Management
Innovation starts with strategic thinking geared toward sustainability and organizational growth. Coursework for those pursuing this career path may examine topics like market research, marketing communications for consumer brands, and new product management.
- Marketing Promotions and Communications
Students pursuing a marketing promotions and communications career path often take classes covering brand management, digital and social media marketing, and advertising and sales promotions. Students also learn about strategic planning for marketing.
- Supply Chain Sales
Supply chain sales sits at the nexus of marketing and sales studies. Students preparing to work in supply chain sales learn about topics like personal selling, sales force management, and logistics.
- Consumer Marketing Management
This career path comprises managerial roles, such as chief marketing officer. Courses that prepare for this profession cover topics like consumer behavior, international marketing, services marketing, and retail marketing. Students build skills in areas such as internet marketing, mass communications, consumer relations, and marketing leadership.
How to Start Your Career in Marketing
Students can begin their marketing careers by earning an undergraduate degree in marketing. Associate degree-holders can pursue careers as administrators, office or store managers, or sales clerks. Individuals with bachelor's degrees can become marketing managers, potentially specializing in areas like digital marketing or search engine optimization (SEO). Candidates with graduate degrees can pursue leadership marketing roles, such as senior marketing manager or CEO.
Associate Degree in Marketing
Students with an associate degree in marketing often work in office and store management positions rather than in advertising agencies or marketing departments of large companies. Many retailers and offices seek managers who can effectively communicate with staff, vendors, clients, and customers. In addition to opening the door to some entry-level marketing positions, an associate degree offers an excellent first step to earning a bachelor's degree.
What Can You Do With an Associate in Marketing?
- Office Manager
An office manager oversees employees, projects, and activities within an office. As a leader, an office manager must possess strong organizational, communication, and financial skills. Office managers serve as liaisons between management and staff in an office.
- Retail Store Manager
These managers maintain the operations and personnel of retail establishments. Hiring, training, and scheduling staff make up a significant part of a retail manager's responsibilities. They also reconcile income and oversee inventory. Some retail store managers promote their store to a target market.
- Salon Manager
A salon manager oversees daily operations, addresses customer needs, hires staff, and manages the facility and budget. Many of these positions require a license in cosmetology.
- Customer Service Representative
A customer service representative can work in nearly any industry, providing frontline support to a company's clients and purchasers. They typically spend their time on the phone with customers, listening and entering data into a computer system. Many customer service representatives work from home.
- Marketing Specialist
Marketing specialists' duties vary by company, but their primary goal is to advertise a company's products and services. They may take responsibility for a product line, brand, or campaign. Knowledge of demographics, content development, and budgeting helps marketing specialists succeed.
Bachelor's Degree in Marketing
Earning a bachelor's degree in marketing equips students with communication, digital marketing, product design, and marketing research skills. This four-year degree can lead to management positions, creative jobs, and client-facing opportunities.
Bachelor's in marketing programs often let students specialize in an area of marketing. A bachelor's degree in internet marketing, for example, allows students to specialize in digital marketing through courses on topics such as SEO, web analytics and reporting, and email marketing.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor's in Marketing?
- Marketing Manager
Marketing managers oversee one or more of a company's marketing campaigns. They usually develop a strategy for the campaign and enlist specialists to execute each component of the strategy. These professionals must be organized, quick on their feet, and skilled at market research. They also need to understand leadership in a marketing environment.
- Regional Sales Manager
Regional sales managers oversee sales professionals within a district. They act as coaches and mentors to local sales managers, helping them meet sales goals. These managers must be comfortable with data-based decision-making, understand the nature of marketing and sales, and possess business finance abilities.
- Digital Marketing Manager
Digital marketing managers develop and execute a company's online marketing strategies. They use digital media to increase sales, enhance emotional loyalty to the brand, and promote product visibility. Digital marketing managers need technical knowledge about SEO and social media.
- Liquid error: internal Search Engine Optimization Specialist
Tasked with developing and implementing SEO strategy for their companies, these specialists help improve their company's online visibility. They research keywords and distribute them throughout the company's website to promote online visibility.
- Account Manager
Account managers oversee a company's relationship with clients and customers. These managers need top-notch communication skills and a background in business, sales, and marketing. They also must remain updated on products and industry trends, develop sales and marketing strategies at the local level, and train junior staff.
Master's Degree in Marketing
A master's degree can advance a marketing professional's career by equipping them with new skills and knowledge, improving their value to employers, and enabling them to specialize in an area of marketing. An MBA in marketing, for instance, emphasizes the business and financial core of marketing, while a master's degree in digital marketing emphasizes topics such as social media marketing, digital marketing analytics, and SEO.
What Can You Do With a Master's in Marketing?
- Marketing Executive
A marketing executive's role differs by organization, but they typically attend marketing meetings, contribute to new projects, manage marketing technology, and travel to meet customers. Marketing executives often need an advanced degree and excellent social skills.
- Account Director
An account director manages customer accounts. They ensure that the company fulfills its contracts, maintains customer satisfaction, and updates invoices. They often take client-facing roles in marketing agencies.
- Product Marketing Manager
Product marketing managers need a deep knowledge of their company's goods and services. They must develop complex marketing strategies that generate revenue and build brand awareness. They typically hold a degree in marketing and many years of experience in the field.
- Senior Marketing Manager
Senior marketing managers work with multidisciplinary teams to analyze data, develop marketing plans, and evaluate a company's campaigns and strategies. They oversee teams of employees and report to the marketing director.
- Search Engine Optimization Director
These directors improve an organization's online presence through SEO tactics. The job combines information technology with marketing. SEO directors need leadership skills, technical expertise, and an understanding of internet user communication patterns.
Doctorate Degree in Marketing
A doctoral degree in marketing prepares experienced marketers to conduct research in the field. Doctoral students position themselves for careers in high-level roles, like marketing director and chief marketing officer. Doctoral graduates may also teach marketing at the college or university level. Doctoral programs usually emphasize quantitative and qualitative research, along with analytic measurements.
What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Marketing?
- Marketing Director
Marketing directors oversee all aspects of a company's marketing activities, including planning, budgeting, team development, and vendor management. They must understand customer psychology, technology, and data analysis. These professionals typically boast extensive formal education in marketing and many years of experience in the field.
- Senior Product Manager
Tasked with moving a product from conception to production, a senior product manager must forecast market demands, understand product development, and oversee marketing planning and implementation. Extensive knowledge of their industry and its consumers helps these professionals succeed.
- Postsecondary Professor
A professor of marketing may teach students at the community college, college, or university levels. Professors may also conduct research, publish their findings, and present information at marketing conferences. They can serve as consultants to marketing teams. Most postsecondary professors hold doctoral degrees.
- Senior Vice President of Sales
A senior vice president of sales leads the sales teams and initiatives of a company. To establish their company's products in the market, these professionals communicate with sales staff and perform market and sales analysis. An extensive background in sales and marketing prepares candidates for this role.
- Chief Executive Officer
As the highest-ranking person in an organization, the CEO typically oversees all major decisions for a company. CEOs need strong strategic planning, team leadership, and operational skills. Marketing executives typically need extensive experience in branding and finance to move into CEO roles.
How to Advance Your Career in Marketing
Aspiring marketers can distinguish themselves among competitors by earning professional certifications or licensure and completing continuing education. While not required, these credentials and experiences can help marketers advance their careers.
Certifications and/or Licensure
Professional Certified Marketer
AMA offers the PCM credential. Students may pursue the PCM program in digital marketing pro, marketing management, content marketing, or sales management tracks. Earning PCM certification requires a passing score on an AMA-administered exam in the student's respective track.
Interactive Advertising Bureau
IAB offers certifications in digital media sales, digital media buying and planning, and digital ad operations. Unique among credentialing programs in the marketing industry, IAB offers group training to marketing employees of large corporations and organizations.
Certifications for Specialized Skills
Google offers certification for candidates who demonstrate advanced proficiency in Google Analytics. Students must pass the Google Analytics IQ assessment to earn individual certification.
Twitter Flight School
Twitter offers Flight School training to help users master advertising on its platform. Students must complete multiple series of recommended coursework on topics like digital and social, creative, strategy and planning, and video and linear TV. Candidates who score at least 80% on the final assessment for each series earn the certification.
Among its career resources for business owners, Facebook Blueprint offers various certification exams for users to display their marketing proficiency. Students can pursue Facebook-specific certifications in areas such as digital marketing, marketing science, creative strategy, media planning, and advertising API development.
Marketers at all levels can differentiate themselves through continuing education. Nationally renowned programs at schools like the New York Institute of Finance and Boston University offer free open courseware online. Marketing continuing education courses may cover topics like social media marketing, customer-centric marketing, and marketing analytics.
Additionally, job seekers can stand out by pursuing specialized work experience, such as an internship or fellowship program, to advance their careers.
Careers in marketing require candidates to consistently sharpen their skills and expertise. Professionals can keep their skills and knowledge updated by joining professional organizations, completing open courseware, and seeking professional networking opportunities.
Many professional organizations, such as AMA and the Direct Marketing Association, offer tiered collegiate/student and senior-level membership terms and rates. Joining a professional organization can provide students with the networking opportunities they need to succeed in marketing. Additionally, membership in a professional organization offers perks like access to industry texts, annual conventions, and job openings.
How to Switch Your Career to Marketing
While most entry-level jobs in marketing require a bachelor's degree, associate degree-holders can pursue related roles, such as administrative or sales positions. Graduates of master's or doctoral programs qualify for senior-level marketing careers. Many students gain experience in advertising, sales, or public relations before transitioning to careers as marketing managers or specialists.
Some marketers begin their careers in general marketing positions, eventually transitioning to specialized fields, like digital or SEO marketing. Others may go back to school to pursue a graduate degree on the path toward an executive marketing career, such as CEO or VP, or a postsecondary teaching position.
Where Can You Work as a Marketing Professional?
Marketers may work for agencies, companies, or themselves. Urban areas with high concentrations of cutting-edge industries typically offer higher salaries and more opportunities for marketers than rural settings or places with low population densities.
Marketing salaries vary by factors like education, experience, and industry. As shown below, marketers providing advertising, public relations, and related services earn an average salary of $69,820, while specialized marketers in the aerospace product and parts manufacturing industry earn $118,190, on average.
- Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services
This industry includes employers traditionally associated with advertising, public relations, and marketing, such as media buyers, advertising distributors, and direct-mail and outdoor advertising companies.
Average Salary: $69,820
- Management of Companies and Enterprises
These managers often oversee general organizational planning, budgeting, and marketing policies and objectives.
Average Salary: $80,680
- Software Publishers
The software publishing industry employs marketing managers to promote and distribute software, including operating systems, games, and applications.
Average Salary: $93,360
- Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services
This industry employs marketing professionals under the umbrella of management, scientific, and technical consulting services. These consultants may work in marketing, hospitality/advertising, and public relations.
Average Salary: $68,770
- Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing
This industry requires marketing professionals to oversee sales, promotion, and advertising initiatives specific to aerospace products and parts manufacturing.
Average Salary: $118,190
Marketing professionals can experience fluctuations in job growth based on their location. California employs the most marketing professionals (98,760), followed by New York (68,680) and Florida (40,480).
While these states employ the highest concentrations of marketing professionals in the nation, New Jersey pays marketers the highest average annual salary ($91,360), followed by Washington ($88,290), Delaware ($84,990), and Washington, D.C.($82,300).
Interview with a Professional in Marketing
Scott Beckman is the digital marketing director for Devetry, a custom software development company in Denver. He holds a master's degree in marketing from the University of Colorado at Denver and has experience with SEO, advertising, and marketing automation as an avid growth hacker and lead generation specialist.
- What attracted you to the marketing field?
I got my undergraduate degree in international studies with minors in political science and economics; so clearly, marketing was not on my radar. However, my first job out of college was doing sales and marketing for an international language education company, which is where I discovered that digital marketing was perfect for someone like me who was both analytical and creative.
Since delving directly into marketing, I have found that it remains interesting because there is always more to learn. I have worked in SEO, SEM, digital advertising, web design, landing page optimization, email marketing, marketing automation, social media, and content. And that is not even a full list of all the various digital marketing channels where you could find yourself.
- What certifications do you have? How important are these and which ones should marketing professionals be aware of?
I was certified in some various Google products, like Google Analytics and Google Ads, at some point, but those have probably lapsed. In my experience, certifications have not been particularly important when looking for a job in marketing; they tend to present themselves as opportunities to dig deeper into the technology you are already using once you are in a role.
- What informed your decision to further your education by pursuing your master's in marketing?
Because my undergrad was not in marketing, I thought a master's degree would provide me with a lot more theoretical understanding to go along with the practical applications I was learning on the job. I also thought that it would help my resume shine when applying to director or CMO-level roles.
The former is definitely true. My master's program provided a lot of foundational theories of marketing that are applicable across any channel or industry. The latter is also probably true, though it is hard to say just how much the master's degree on my resume weighed into the latest hiring decision that earned me my current director-level role.
- How do you stay updated on ever-changing marketing trends?
It can be tough because I spend so much of my time either in the weeds working on campaigns or strategizing for the future. I used to sign up for a bunch of industry newsletters but found that I was always deleting them without reading them.
I think I usually hear about new trends or tactics from colleagues -- once you have built up a network of like-minded professionals, those kinds of conversations come up often. "Have you tried XYZ? We did, and you will not believe the results."
- What final advice can you share with current and future marketing professionals?
It is hard to be original here because so many content marketers are putting out so much great content for other marketers that most things have already been said. I will just say that I think one thing that has helped me throughout my career is an ability to bounce back from failure.
A lot of your marketing campaigns will not produce the results you hope they will, but rather than let it affect you personally or spend all your time trying to squeeze blood from that stone, it is really important to be able to chalk it up as a learning experience and move on.
Resources for Marketing Majors
Becoming a member of a professional organization benefits marketing professionals at all levels of education and experience. Organizations like those listed below can provide networking opportunities and industry access to conferences, speaking engagements, and virtual events. Additionally, some organizations offer open courseware and industry publications.
- Professional Organizations
American Marketing Association: As the premier professional organization in the marketing industry, AMA hosts over 30,000 members. Members enjoy access to the association's continuing education events, an annual conference, job leads, and a resource library.
Sales and Marketing Executives International: By bringing together two branches of industry that depend heavily on one another, this organization allows sales and marketing professionals to share ideas and best practices. Members can take advantage of numerous networking opportunities, along with educational lectures and webinars.
Direct Marketing Association: Another powerhouse organization in the industry, the DMA supports marketers who operate direct, data-driven campaign efforts. Members receive support on gathering specific customer metrics and properly synthesizing data into actionable campaigns.
Business Marketing Association: Business-to-business (B2B) marketing requires a slightly different focus than marketing directly to consumers. BMA offers B2B specialists resources for networking, best practices, awards competitions, and education. Members can also access a job board and industry survey data.
- Open Courseware
Fundamentals of Market Structure - NYIF: NYIF offers this course, led by Chris White, CEO of ViableMkts, to introduce students to the fundamental structure of markets. Topics include market structure science and market mechanics.
Strategic Social Media Marketing - BUx: Boston University features this course as part of its Digital Product Management MicroMasters program. Taught by Barbara Bickhart, senior associate dean and associate professor of marketing at Boston University, the course imparts a strategic and practical approach to social media marketing.
Marketing Innovative Products and Services - UMD: Offered through the broader University System of Maryland, this course leads to a professional certificate (for an additional cost) in innovation and entrepreneurship. Topics include growth strategies, customer discovery, and product development and design.
Marketing Analytics - ColumbiaX: Columbia University offers this course, with co-instruction by Kamel Jadidi, John Howard Professor of Business and chair of the marketing division, and Asim Ansari, William T. Dillard Professor of Marketing. As part of the MicroMasters program, students can receive a professional certificate (for an additional cost) in business analytics.
Customer-Centric Marketing to Entrepreneurs - Babson: This course explores some of the most common methods of identifying and targeting customers through various marketing channels. For an additional fee, students can earn a certificate in customer-centric marketing.
Adweek: First published in 1979, Adweek now engages more than 6 million advertising professionals across the United States. This publication features industry content across traditional and digital platforms, including podcasts, newsletters, and mobile apps. Users enjoy access to webinars, mentorship opportunities, and job postings.
Digiday: Digiday provides daily content to marketing industry professionals with an emphasis on technology and global markets. The company operates a Digiday Events sector and the Digiday Awards program, which recognizes excellence among digital media marketing professionals. Digiday also manages Custom, its own creative content agency.
The Next Web: Founded as a tech startup in 2006, TNW now leads the industry in multifaceted content creation and distribution. Tech-centric marketing and media professionals can access TNW News, peruse its signature market intelligence platform, attend the TNW conference, and live chat with industry mentors.
Direct Marketing News: DMN caters to senior sales and marketing representatives working on digital and data-driven marketing fields. Along with hosting multiple live events, including its 40 Under 40 Marketing Awards, the DMN Marketing Hall of Femme awards, and the DMN Awards, DMN delivers content through newsletters, webcasts, podcasts, and e-books.
AdAge: Established in 1930, AdAge emphasizes high-quality, award-winning journalism across all channels. The company also hosts the AdAge Next Conference and the A-List and Creativity Awards, along with conducting research through its signature AdAge DataCenter and the Leading National Advertisers Report.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is Marketing a Good Career?
Marketing professionals can work in a variety of industries, often receiving high salaries and enjoying strong projected job growth. For example, BLS data indicates an 8% projected job growth rate for marketing managers from 2018-2028, along with a median annual salary of more than $136,000.
- What Does a Career in Marketing Look Like?
Marketing careers differ slightly by industry, but most roles in marketing entail developing marketing, promotional, and advertising campaigns; conducting market research; and meeting with clients and/or colleagues to discuss marketing strategies.
- What Degree Is Best for Marketing?
Most entry-level marketing jobs require a bachelor's degree. Students aspiring to managerial or senior positions benefit from earning an advanced degree in the field.
- Is There a Demand for Marketing Professionals?
BLS projects employment for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers to increase by 8% from 2018-2028. Within this professional category, marketing managers are more sought-after than their colleagues who specialize in advertising and promotions.
- Do Marketing Professionals Get Paid Well?
Marketing managers earn a median annual wage of $136,850, with the lowest 10% earning slightly less than $71,000 and the highest 10% earning around $200,000 per year.