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Navigating Marketing Careers: Your Guide to Jobs, Skills, & Breaking In

If you consider yourself both creative and analytical and have a strong desire to learn, you may be an excellent fit for a career in marketing. The marketing field includes many different domains and areas of specialization, and both marketing and digital marketing jobs can expect continued growth

In this guide, explore the various types of marketing positions and core marketing skills and learn what it takes to build a lasting career in marketing.

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Table of Contents

Why Choose Marketing As A Career?

There’s no question that marketing, particularly digital marketing jobs, is in-demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), marketing managers are among the top ten highest paying jobs in 2021—and the demand has continued to grow despite pandemic effects.

Marketing-Career-Guide_Graph-1_1600x800

But marketing is not only a very lucrative career. It's also a highly cross-functional and dynamic occupation that combines creativity, strategy, and analytical ability.

layer "Marketing is a very rewarding career. It offers versatile and diverse career paths, which you can choose based on your preferences and interests."

“Marketing is a very rewarding career,'' said Lauren Johnston-Smith, online learning marketing project manager at the University of Edinburgh. “It offers versatile and diverse career paths, which you can choose based on your personal preferences and interests.”

Marketing Jobs: From General Marketing to Digital Marketing Specialties

From product marketing to brand marketing, marketing jobs fall into three main categories, although there is some overlap between them: digital, brand, and general marketing.

Did you know?

edX_Icon_LearningNeuroscience Marketing org charts are highly variable. For instance, social media marketing and content marketing can also fall under brand marketing, as both functions are key levers in engaging and communicating with customers and target audiences.

Digital Marketing Jobs

According to Indeed, there are around 120,000 open marketing positions in the United States. About 30% of those roles are digital marketing jobs. Digital marketing jobs primarily focus on running campaigns and optimizing advertising channels such as websites, email, and search engines. Leading digital marketing specializations include:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Paid marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Content marketing 
  • Growth marketing
Explore Digital Marketing Careers

layer Explore top digital marketing specialties, expert advice on how to navigate your digital marketing career, and learn the steps you can take to land your first digital marketing job.

Brand Marketing Jobs

A company’s brand has a significant influence on whether its marketing is successful. Think of branding as the feeling and associations that the public feels about a company. The stronger the brand’s awareness and affinity, the more likely the business will attract and retain customers. Functions within brand marketing typically include public relations and brand management.

Public Relations

The purpose of public relations (PR) is to strategically build and manage an organization’s brand, reputation, and relationship with the public and media. Public relations professionals work to get their clients’ or company’s brand and stories in front of target consumers, strengthen relationships with key stakeholders (journalists, industry influencers, government bodies, etc.), and manage a company’s image during crises.

How do you get into public relations?

Public relations specialists must have a good grasp of how traditional media and journalism work. In terms of skill set, writing, marketing foundations, organization, and networking are all necessary to be successful in the field.

To get into public relations, one avenue is to secure an internship at a PR agency. You’ll get a taste of what it is like to work for different clients and industries and have the opportunity to network with important journalists and colleagues.

Brand Management

Brand management focuses on growing the value of a brand. It’s an all-encompassing function of marketing which demands the role of brand managers. Brand managers are essentially like small business owners for their brand. They oversee the brand’s messaging, positioning, and marketing strategy. Like product marketing, brand managers need to have a deep understanding of who their customers are and where their brand fits in the marketplace.

How do you become a brand manager?

To become a brand manager, it’s important to have strong research and analysis skills, storytelling ability, and leadership skills. Since brand management is an all-encompassing role and not typically an entry-level position, it helps to have some background in marketing. One entry to brand management is product marketing, which has similar responsibilities as brand management in that they both need to have a deep understanding of marketplace trends, customer needs, and how to market their products.  

General Marketing Jobs

General marketers are responsible for creating strategies to drive customer demand for a company’s products or services. They create and measure marketing campaigns, track budget spend, conduct market research, and analyze consumer behavior. Sometimes these marketers are known as product marketing managers, who are in charge of the launch and growth of a specific product within an organization. Product marketing managers work closely with product managers to define a product’s messaging and positioning within the marketplace and build the product’s user base. 

How do you become a product marketing manager?

A major task for product marketing managers is understanding a company or product’s target audience. Experience in roles that involve listening and implementing customer feedback, such as sales or customer service, can be a helpful starting place. It also helps to have a good grasp of marketing foundations, data analysis, and competitive research. You may want to start at a small startup, where you’ll have more impact on the growth of the product.

Marketing Skills: Developing a T-Shaped Marketing Skill Set 

From data analysis to project management, marketers must develop a t-shaped skill set, or a broad range of foundational marketing skills in addition to their area of expertise. 

“I am a big believer in the fundamentals of marketing, so a real grasp of what is positioning, branding strategy, and the 4P’s (place, price, product promotion) is vital,” said Jeffrey Frohwein, instructor for Marketing Foundations and other courses in DoaneX’s Marketing Essentials MicroBachelors® Program.

For example, a social media manager should be competent in reporting, copywriting, design, and customer service, but they may have in-depth or specialized knowledge in data analysis. 

One of the most important marketing skills, according to a survey of 734 marketers by SparkToro, is data measurement and analysis. 

layer "If you want to have a successful career in marketing you need to be able to use data."

“Nowadays marketers have access to a wide range of data, which when analyzed can inform marketing decision making,” said Ewelina Lacka, lecturer in digital marketing & analytics at the University of Edinburgh Business School and instructor for the Digital Marketing Fundamentals Professional Certificate program on edX. “Data-driven insights can be also used to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing actions. If you want to have a successful career in marketing you need to be able to use data.”

The t-shaped skill set framework applies to just about every marketing specialty. Whether you are a product marketer or a communications executive, you need a strong foundation in core transferable business and marketing skills such as: 

  • Data measurement and analytics skills
  • Storytelling skills
  • Communication skills
  • Copywriting skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Understanding of marketing domains
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Project management skills
  • Strategic skills
  • User experience skills
Build Your Marketing T-Shaped Skill Set

edX_Icon_LearningNeuroscienceBy developing a T-shaped marketing skill set, you can maximize your value to potential employers while also taking the time to go deeper into the skills that interest you most. 

Navigating Non-Linear Marketing Career Paths

There’s no one pathway to career advancement in marketing. Similar to supply chain management careers, it’s not uncommon for marketing professionals to switch into different specializations as they move up the ladder. 

“It may be possible to climb the ladder within the organization where you land your first job, progressing from a junior position to a management role, but it’s equally common to move between different companies or sectors due to the transferable skills you’ll have acquired,” said Johnston-Smith. 

Marketing-Career-Guide_Graph-2_1600x800

However, to progress towards a c-suite position, often mid-level marketers must develop and hone their area of expertise within their marketing department. 

layer "As your career progresses, you may wish to focus on one particular aspect of marketing or one particular sector."

“As your career progresses, you may wish to focus on one particular aspect of marketing or one particular sector,” said Johnston-Smith. “You might take professional development courses while you work to position yourself as a specialist in an area such as social media, data analytics, or communications.” 

fast-track your career

layer A master's degree in business administration (MBA) can help advance your marketing career. Learn more about Boston University's Online MBA program, which integrates marketing management and performance tracking in its curriculum.

How to Start a Career in Marketing: 3 Tips To Land Your First Entry-Level Job

There are many pathways to starting a career in marketing. You might begin with an entry-level role or internship, work as a freelancer, or leverage transferable skills from experience in other business functions such as sales, business development, customer service, or product development. 

But whatever your background, you’ll need a willingness to learn new marketing skills and a problem solving mindset. 

1. Take Marketing Courses and Earn Certifications

You don’t necessarily need a bachelor’s degree in marketing to get into the field or secure an entry-level position. An understanding of basic marketing foundations is important, and can be learned outside of traditional academic degree paths. For example, there are many online marketing courses and certifications available (Google, Hubspot, and Facebook offer marketing certifications for free). Equally critical, however, is your skill set and attitude. 

layer "Technical skills are teachable, attitude is another matter."

“Someone with all the certifications in the world is going to be a net loss if they have a poor attitude and are not willing to work with others and really see their role as a problem solver,” said Frohwein. “Technical skills are teachable, attitude is another matter.” 

2. Develop Expertise

Once you’ve mastered the basics of marketing, work on developing a specialization. Figure out which area of marketing you like best--do you like writing and creating content? If so, you may be suited for content marketing. Do you enjoy tracking and creating ad campaigns? You may be better suited for a career in digital marketing. Marketers who have deep expertise in one domain tend to get more visibility from senior management, who rely on specialists to guide strategy and decision making. 

3. Create a Portfolio

One of the best ways to demonstrate marketing experience is by creating a portfolio. If you don’t have full-time work experience, show your work by freelancing or starting a few side projects. For example, if you want to become a content marketer, try freelance content writing work. Once you’ve gathered enough experience and can showcase your work and results, you can pitch yourself to an employer. 

Start Building Your Marketing Career

There’s never been a better time to become a marketer. With more organizations seeking to employ skilled, experienced marketing professionals, a career in marketing is sure to be high in demand over the long term. If you’re interested in learning marketing fundamentals, advancing your career, or earning a marketing degree, explore industry-aligned courses and marketing programs on edX.

Explore Marketing Courses