How to get a career in marketing?
November 7, 2009 8:55 AM   Subscribe

I'm a high school student interested in a career in marketing, how do I get there and what is the job like?

I'm currently a high school junior, so I'll be applying to colleges about a year from now. I've been spending a lot of time looking at different careers, and though I've changed my mind frequently, marketing seems like an interesting option that would allow be to be creative while also using my brain.

I'd like to know a little more how a career in marketing works, how an average day goes, what skill sets are necessary, where to find jobs, payscale etc.

I'd also like to know what sort of education I should get in order to get a career in marketing. Should I get a bachelors in marketing, or should I get one in economics with a certificate like this? Then should I get an mba focused on marketing? Or would something like this as a graduate degree serve me better?

If you guys think its relevant I can post my academic credentials.

Thanks everyone! Sorry if I sound completely clueless!
posted by kylej to Education (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I recent read in Advertising Age that a good number of employers in your career field prefer—like, actually prefer—a general liberal arts education over a specific marketing one.

I believe the guy writing it said that if he was faced with hiring an advertising/marketing major or a Russian history major, he would take the latter—and only because he was wary of "teaching" marketing.

And that sacrificing a true education to your career aspiration is a little soulless, I think.
posted by trotter at 9:16 AM on November 7, 2009

Having worked in advertising/marketing for the past 10 years, I can corroborate what trotter is saying regarding degrees: I can count on one hand the number of people I know who have marketing degrees.

Of course I have worked pretty much exclusively on the creative and development ends of things, but it is quite dominated by communication design, English, and oher liberal arts degrees. Me? Mine's in psych.

The best bet for a career is to intern and network. It's an incestuous industry - spend some time networking at even one agency/group and in five years, you'll know somebody at every agency in town.
posted by kaseijin at 9:25 AM on November 7, 2009

A poll in my office showed mostly arts degrees and a few communications degrees. And what kaseijin said about networking/interning/experience.
posted by furtive at 9:41 AM on November 7, 2009

Its good to think about these things early on, but trust me - over the course of the next 5 or six years, your plans will change drastically. Focus on doing well in school, but don't focus too hard on any one thing that you hedge your bets for success on. There are many paths... don't force one because you think it might be better - it might only be for some people.

With that said there are a few things you can do to improve your chances:
Strange advice #1: Control your image: Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and Myspace can make you look bad. You are growing up in a world of social-image permanence which no other generation has had. Bad behavior can be researched by your company. You can have fun, just make sure you and your friends put your best food forward on all these sites when possible. Also - you need to be on all these sites - professionally... just keep the image clean.

Strange advice #2: When you go to college, if you need a crappy job consider working for a screen printer. T-shirts have fast turnover, varying level of interest, provide you opportunities to market a high volume product, give you some level of creative outlet and testing, and can leave you with a negative profit margin if you overprint an unpopular T-Shirt. These are good experiences to have in college and are directly applicable to any marketing job in the real world.

Strange advice #3: Econ is not Marketing - its good to understand, but Econ and Finance are measurements. Marketing is enticing people to buy something. Econ and finance can effectively set budgets - but creating a successful campaign can make you priceless as a marketeer... Neither is more important. Neither is in charge... Neither ensures that you'll reach the food chain - its an interdependent relationship. Both are god paths if you are at the top of your game. Maybe - just maybe, you have a bit more flexibility with an economics or finance degree...

Strange advice #4: Stay computer savvy - particularly database savvy. Learn how SQL works, learn how Access works. Learn to leverage data. Learn statistics. Learn how to manipulate statistics. Learn how people are manipulating statistics you see.

Strange advice #5: Blog on a financial or product target. Start now. Review advertisements, advertisement campaigns... poll your school. Start doing your own research... start reading the WSJ and learn how stuff works...

Pick and choose from this. Some advice is good, some not so much...
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:59 AM on November 7, 2009

I've been working as a marketing manager for the past three years for an educational publishing company. Before that I was in sales, and before that I was a teacher. My undergraduate/graduate degrees are in education. None of the other five people on my team have marketing degrees.

I primarily work on the creative side--writing copy and designing advertising pieces and figuring out the best ways to present our products to potential customers--and figuring out just who our potential customers are and how to reach them. It's by far one of the most creatively satisfying jobs I've ever had! But, I have no formal training in the field. I feel it was my past background in education, as well as my experience in selling educational materials to schools that got me in the door for this particular marketing job.
posted by bookmammal at 10:03 AM on November 7, 2009

It is hard to say what a "career in marketing" is like because it is a pretty broad range of jobs. There's product marketing, brand marketing, marketing communications/advertising and much, much more. You can either work for a company marketing something, or for an agency helping marketing something. Fresh out of school, it will be long hours doing non-glamorous stuff for not-great pay.

But from a preparing for a gig in marketing, I tend to agree that kaseijin and furtive. A specialized degree isn't necessary. Although I've noticed many marketing departments, especially in the technology sector, will always have "MBA is a plus". Some managers (with MBAs) will want one of their own (to kaseijin's point about it being incestuous) right down to the same school. Marketing people pretty much have any major. I don't think I know anyone with a marketing degree. If they do, it doesn't really come up or matter. The concepts of marketing you can pick up in the intro to marketing class but it isn't rocket science. An ideal candidate for a job in marketing is someone that is bright and creative and that really isn't taught in school.

When I was a junior in high school I wanted to be a chemical engineer for some reason, then I got to UCSB and discovered I hate math and couldn't learn some of the concepts to save my life. I switched majors and attacked other specialized majors and ended up hating them. I ended up selecting Mass Communications because I was interested in advertising but wasn't an artist, and more importantly I wouldn't need to re-take calculus.

If I had to do it all over again, I'd start out taking the general studies courses and take electives in things like marketing or mass comm to get a taste for it. You may really dig it and declare it as your major, or you might like history and declare that. Regardless of major, join the marketing club and advertising club. Intern or get even a grunt job in the industry to get experience and meet people.
posted by birdherder at 10:16 AM on November 7, 2009

Does your school have a DECA chapter? Join it. If not, are you interested in starting one?
posted by honeybee413 at 11:00 AM on November 7, 2009

I'm going to piggyback on this question a little... I really would much rather have a degree in Psychology, but I want to do market research as a career I think. Doubling up with Psych and Marketing would be tons of extra work, about twenty extra credits, and would mean I would have to exclusively take Psych and business classes for the rest of my college career. So you're all saying that I can just major in Psychology and be even more attractive to my future employers versus busting my ass and double majoring? Or worse, just majoring in Marketing and taking all those business classes I really don't care about? Just to clarify, I'm interested in doing research on people and applying it to marketing, not any of the creative stuff.
posted by tweedle at 12:15 PM on November 7, 2009

I'm not in marketing, but some advice for internships in general. You might want to look at going to school in a city rather than somewhere more isolated. The more businesses there are, the more marketing-type internships you will be able to find. This way you can do part-time internships for credit during the school year and not just during the summer when everyone else is competing for the positions. It'll also give you more opportunities to network outside of school. If you get experience early and often, you can get your degree in anything you want, plus you'll be able to draw connections between the real-world work you're doing and what you're learning in classes, whether they're marketing classes or psychology classes or whatever.
posted by wsquared at 2:08 PM on November 7, 2009

Best answer: I work in professional services marketing (4 yrs now) - the job involves some the following:
*Business development - i.e. tender/bid writing, design and management, key account management, lots of kicking key people up the butt to get them to action stuff...
*PR/advertising/communications - copy writing, editing, advertising design, website updates etc (external & internal)
*Design - for any of the above tasks I use CS3/CS4 to get the job done.
*There is so much more but when you do stuff all the time you sort of forget what you do when someone asks... this is bad, especially in performance reviews when they ask "what do you do day to day?"

ANYWAY - Entry level jobs will be a lot of basic, everyday tasks, answering phones, printing stuff, writing up invoices or the like. Having basic administrative knowledge and good interpersonal skills will get you far!

I have a degree in business communication and I 'majored' in advertising/pr, only because the subjects interested me and I knew one of them the major project was designing and pitching an advertising campaign! It was pretty cool. Major in whatever interests you, you may be more interested in the statistical/market research or, like me, have more talent and interest in the creative side of things. Question is, what do you like and what are you good at?

A few things: join the local student marketing association and get comfortable with networking, find a job or intern position or similar that gets in you into the marketing sphere, figure out what your strengths are: design? go do a course and get some skills. market research? try and get a casual job as a transcriber for focus groups or similar. Also you may change your mind a hundred times by the end of your degree - and that's ok! Best of luck.
posted by latch24 at 2:25 PM on November 7, 2009

To tweedle & the OP:

Psychology is great preparation for marketing, both in terms of understanding consumer motivation, and in terms of developing research & analytical skills.

I majored in psych and used to work in marketing, but I'm switching careers, away from marketing - so sorry if my view is really negative! I wouldn't discourage anyone from going into marketing, though. It's a skillset that's always necessary, well paid, and highly transferable. Feel free to send me mefi mail if you have any questions.

So far, nobody's really mentioned marketing analysis, which is an important part of any marketing job, even the more creative positions. You have to have some objective measure for how effective your marketing is, after all. Plus, anywhere you work will be obsessed with keeping marketing expenditures down. Often, the most valued marketers are the ones who have a good grasp of analytical methods, the ones that are best able to demonstrate that money was brought into the company as a direct result of marketing efforts.

In my experience, people outside marketing sometimes see marketing expenses as "wasted." Everyone tends to worship sales, because they can actually hold up a check or a credit card number (even though they're often benefiting from marketing establishing the groundwork in the marketplace). And the people who create the product tend to overlook marketing because they are so invested in their work that they think the product is obviously selling itself. On the other hand, marketing is often blamed first when products don't do well because instead of flaws with the product or the sales pitch, the argument is made that marketing didn't reach enough people, or didn't reach the right people.

As far as majoring in marketing, I've never met anyone who learned more about marketing as a marketing major than people generally learn over the course of a year of part-time interning or 6 months of employment.

Also, are you sure you want to work in marketing, as opposed to advertising? I find a lot of people are confused about the differences, and kind of blur them together. Advertising is more of a wide-broadcast message, and tends not to be directly trackable (though it is often indirectly trackable). Marketing tends to encompass activities that are more sales pitch-y, directly trackable and analyzable, but it also includes advertising activities or oversight as part of a larger strategy. It can also include PR, market research, sometimes input on sales strategy and even customer service. Although recently, that line between marketing & advertising is much fuzzier, in part because of the internet and other new media technologies.

Generally speaking, there also tends to be stark cultural differences between ad agency & marketing work environments - if you're not sure, try to intern at one of each to see which your prefer.

posted by lesli212 at 5:24 PM on November 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

if you want to get into the communication side of things, i would strongly recommend not studying marketing or communications, but rather liberal arts or a soft science like sociology or psychology. the broader range of ideas and interests you are exposed to, the better prepared you are to communicate them. you can learn a lot of the core marketing skills in a summer class or internship--don't waste four years of your life on that. also, if you are in the U.S., being proficient in Spanish would be a big boost. (other widely spoken languages would also be good)

bonus: studying something other than marketing gives you more options if you decide you don't like it and want to do something else.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:54 AM on November 8, 2009

« Older y = mx + b. Etc.   |   Can my Garlic be saved? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.