Entry-level routes into marketing
Graduates looking to get into marketing will need more than a working knowledge of Steve Jobs’ biography and the gift of the gab. That said, in order to get a product promoted in the best way possible, excellent people and negotiation skills are a necessity, as well as a sharp mind for numbers and strategy.
The marketing industry covers every aspect of selling a product, from placement and distribution to pricing, advertising and other strategic decisions. Every consumer-facing company needs a marketing team and many of the larger businesses recruit from graduate programmes. Media companies, retailers and fast-moving consumer goods companies (FMCGs), such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever, all hire at different levels and intake rates. Before you start sending out applications, it’s best to work out in which industry, role and company you intend to work.
Relevant degrees: business, economics, advertising, marketing, public relations, various social science and research degrees
Entry-level route one: marketing account executive (business)
If you can pass the lengthy application process favoured by many of the larger graduate schemes, you will likely be taken on and trained up with a view to taking over accounts as a marketing account executive. Account executives are involved in the entire lifespan of a product from research, packaging and design to advertising, promotion and public relations. This may mean that you are trusted with a significant amount of responsibility quite early on in your career.
Common employers are FMCG companies that regularly need to alter existing product marketing or establish new products in the market. Most chains and franchises have a brand whether they develop new products or not – check major retailers, hospitality providers and manufacturers when applying for jobs. Graduate starting salaries seem to imitate those for public relations and advertising (around £20,000–£25,000), but with good promotion prospects, salaries can reach £35,000 or more once you make senior executive – and this is not the top of the ladder.
Entry-level route two: market research (agency)
Market research may require more academic grounding than the role of marketing account executive. Collating information, liaising with agencies and clients, and commissioning research according to the company’s needs will be a significant part of the job. A background in business, economics or the social sciences may be useful, as well a good level of commercial awareness.
There are several major market research companies out there that are willing to take on graduates. They range from small marketing agencies, pharmaceutical companies and FMCGs up to major players like market research agency Ipsos MORI, which conducts work for the government. As a general rule, the work is split between qualitative research (conducting face-to-face interviews etc) and quantitative research (number crunching). Starting salaries are also around the £20,000 mark, but progression through the ranks yields better rewards. Because of the technical nature of the work, some of the larger employers require at least a 2.1 degree in any field before taking an application.
Entry-level route three: brand manager (business)
Brand marketing is more suited to graduates who are less inclined toward management and economics. You may not be given full responsibility for a brand’s direction on the first day, but more responsibility will follow later in your career. A brand manager ensures that all designs and usage of a brand are consistent wherever they are displayed; eventually working to make sure that the brand develops and changes in line with the business and the market. Salaries and employers are normally the same as those for account executive.
As with many other career sectors it is more and more common for employers to look for candidates with industry-specific qualifications. In marketing, these can be obtained from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), The Institute of Sales and Marketing Management (ISMM) or the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing (IDM). If you’re lucky enough to make it on to one of the major graduate schemes, you may find that your employer will finance such qualifications as part of your training programme. See TARGETpostgrad for more details.