Careers advice and planning

How do I get a graduate job in marketing?

25 Jan 2023, 13:38

All the information you need to get started on a graduate career in marketing, with application tips, salary information and details of job roles.

Come up with a marketing job-hunting strategy that works for you

How to get a graduate job in marketing and digital marketing: Degree subjects needed | Getting a job | Application process | Marketing salaries | Working life | Agency or department | Job roles | Professional qualifications

Marketing is all about promoting the goods or services of an organisation and takes place in all areas of industry and across the public, private and third sectors. You may work for an agency or in-house, either as part of a dedicated department or allied to the PR or communications department.

A few years ago there was a bit of a divide between what has become known as digital marketing (marketing activities pursued online and via social media) and traditional marketing (offline methods, such as mailshots and print media). However, the great growth in digital media means it is likely that graduates will be hired directly into a ‘digital marketing job’ or a ‘marketing job’ that encompasses both digital and offline channels.

In order to get a product promoted in the best way possible, excellent negotiation and people skills are a necessity, as well as a sharp mind for numbers and strategy. It’s important to have an understanding of consumers and build up good relationships with suppliers and clients.

What degree subject do you need to get a job in marketing or digital marketing?

A degree in marketing or communications often gives you an advantage. However, you do not need to specifically have a marketing degree or related qualification to work in marketing. There are a number of different degrees disciplines that would provide skills for a marketing career: for example in business, journalism or languages. If you want to work in data-driven marketing, a degree in a numerical or technical discipline may be preferred, as you need to be comfortable working with data.

Getting a graduate job in marketing or digital marketing

1. Apply for an advertised graduate programme or entry-level job

Every consumer-facing company needs a marketing team and many larger businesses run graduate programmes – these are either dedicated, standalone marketing schemes or they contain a marketing placement as part of a wider commercial or operations programme. Read for example, about L'Oréal's graduate marketing scheme .

Other employers, particularly smaller ones, fill individual entry-level vacancies on an as-needed basis. Look out for job titles such as marketing assistant , marketing executive , marketing coordinator , promotions executive or digital assistant , as these are more likely to be entry level roles. Alternatively, you might find the words assistant, graduate or trainee attached to a specialist job role, such as trainee insights analyst .

We recommend targetjobs is your first port of call for marketing graduate jobs across businesses of all sizes. However, you may also want to try specialist recruitment agencies as another useful way in, especially for smaller companies – they will often have short contract jobs available which can be useful for building up experience.

2. Apply speculatively and network your way into a marketing job

Speculative applications can be a good way in, particularly to smaller companies. Applying speculatively involves approaching a company that is not currently advertising a vacancy to see whether they could offer you a job or, if not, some work experience. You typically do this by emailing your CV and a tailored covering letter, summarising what you are looking for, what you could bring to the company and why you’d like to work there. Ensure you’ve researched the organisation well. Read more about making a speculative application and view an example speculative application for work experience at a book publishers.

Careers fairs and other networking events can be a good way of finding contacts and help you get into a role. These may be held virtually or in person. You can also get in touch with marketing professionals via social media, especially LinkedIn (see first how to create the perfect LinkedIn profile and then how to use LinkedIn to get a job ) – it is essential to build your personal brand via any social media you use.

3. Make a sideways move into marketing

Particularly when the jobs market is competitive, it is not unknown for graduates to start out in another job and move into marketing. One way is to work in sales , sales admin, customer service or similar first and then use that experience to bolster your application for a marketing job.

Another is to start out in one role for a company (for example, in an administrative role ) and then, once you have been there a while and impressed your colleagues, express an interest in moving into the marketing team. If an employer likes you and business needs allow, they will do what they can to accommodate you.

However, it’s worth noting that making a sideways move isn’t a guaranteed way of getting into marketing and so you are better trying options one and two first.

What is the application process for a job in marketing?

The recruitment process you will undergo for a marketing vacancy largely depends on whether you are applying for a formal graduate scheme or an individual entry-level vacancy. For a marketing graduate programme, you will probably need to:

  • fill in an online application form, which may involve uploading a CV and/or answering application questions
  • completing online tests and/or video simulations – these may be ability assessments such as numeracy tests or more scenario-based tests, known as situational judgement tests
  • undergoing a first interview, either video or over the phone
  • attending an assessment centre (ie a group interview with a series of set tasks, such as a group case study exercise).

When applying for an individual entry-level vacancy, you are more likely to send in your CV and covering letter (via email or LinkedIn) and then attend one or two individual interviews.

What are the salaries for marketing and digital marketing jobs?

The recruiting agency Michael Page puts the national average of a marketing assistant with little or no prior experience as £24,000, based on the vacancies it filled in 2022. But your actual salary will depend on factors such as location: for example, Michael Page puts the earnings for the marketing assistant at £29,280 in London but only £22,800 in north-east England.

A digital (marketing) assistant with little or no prior experience typically earns £22,000 on average nationally, according to Michael Page but £26,840 in London and £21,560 in Wales. A social media manager with no or little prior experience typically earns £26,500 nationally, £32,330 in London and £25,175 in north-east England.

More senior marketing roles could have salaries upwards of £50,000: a digital marketing manager with an average level of experience earns that on average - £103,700 in London and £47,000 in north-east England – while a head of marketing with average experience earns £71,00 nationally (£86,620 in London and £67,450).

Is marketing a good career?

There are certainly a good number of vacancies available across a huge number of sectors. However, whether marketing is a good career for you will depend on whether the working life suits you. For example:

  • Working hours will often be the standard nine-to-five though you may find yourself working longer if attending events or close to the end of a project.
  • There are often opportunities for travel, both in the UK and abroad.
  • Networking is a big part of the industry and you may end up combining your working and social lives.
  • The results of your work are usually tangible, measurable and quantifiable, which can be satisfying.
  • Keeping everyone happy can be a challenge but can also be quite exciting. You’ll need to develop a pragmatic approach to deal with the conflicting needs of clients, colleagues and suppliers.
  • Continuous learning is essential to maintain a competitive advantage in your career and to do your best for your team and clients. You need to be aware of the latest trends and be able to predict upcoming ones; the best marketing campaigns are ‘out in front’ of events.
  • Such a fast-paced industry can be a challenge, but one that some people relish.

Should you work for a marketing agency or in a marketing department?

Agencies are typically a freer, if more high-pressured environment. The client cannot walk over to your desk every hour to check your progress, but there is more riding on success. There is more variety available, and a stronger sense of teamwork. You can gripe to each other about the client because you won’t be working for them forever.

Working in-house for a company’s will mean that you are quite focused and work tends to be consistent; responding to the needs of the business. However, you may find yourself performing the same tasks year after year. What’s more, there will be company politics to deal with. On the plus side, you will know the company more intimately, and be better positioned to answer its needs.

What are the different graduate marketing job roles?

Roles in marketing differ greatly depending on their nature. Entry level roles depend on the company you are applying for, but generally, graduates can apply to graduate or assistant roles or internships across businesses. Graduates can then choose to specialise into a more specific area of marketing, such as e-commerce, brand and product, merchandising, studio design, events and more.'

Account manager and brand manager: graduate marketing role

Account managers will be in close contact with clients and will pass on their requirements to the other members of the team working on the project.

Brand marketing is more suited to graduates who are less inclined to management and economics. 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.

Marketing assistant: graduate marketing role

Marketing assistants will help them with this.

Marketing creatives: graduate marketing roles

Marketing creatives will be involved in writing the copy for campaigns and advertising or producing artwork and graphics to the client requirements set out by the account manager.

Marketing account executive: graduate marketing role

A marketing executive position is the role which many of the larger graduate schemes will train you for. Account executives are involved in the entire lifespan of a product including:

  • research
  • packaging and design
  • advertising
  • promotion and public relations

You may be trusted with a significant amount of responsibility of early on in your careers, as you will also be concerned with developing client-led sales strategies, attracting new clients and evaluating the performance of campaigns.

Social media marketing: graduate marketing role

Social media marketing managers use social media platforms (such asTikTok and Twitter) to promote brands and products. This involves planning campaigns (including what platforms to use and who to target), creative material (such as imagery and videos) for the promotion, allocation of budgets for paid promotion and analysing the performance of the campaign using data and analytics.

Companies may hire a team of ‘in-house’ of social media marketers or you may find work at an agency that specialises in social media marketing. Entry level roles are typically called ‘social media executive’ or ‘social marketing assistant’.

Digital and data marketing: graduate marketing role

Data-driven marketing is marketing that uses the insights and data collected about people to better market products and services to them. There are many different types of data or digital marketing: engineers are needed to build systems to collect and use data, data scientists and analysts are needed to analyse collected data and formulate valuable insights and planners are needed to figure out ways for this data to be used. Find out more about digital and data-driven marketing here.

Market research (agency): graduate marketing role

Market research executives may require more academic grounding than the role of marketing account executive. A background in business, economics or the social sciences may be useful, as well a good level of commercial awareness. Responsibilities include:

  • collating information
  • liaising with agencies and clients
  • commissioning research according to the company's needs

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 a 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.

Because of the technical nature of the work, some of the larger employers require at least a 2.1 degree in any field before making an application.

Do I need professional qualifications to get a job in marketing?

As with many other career sectors it is more and more common for employers to look for candidates with industry-specific qualifications when making experienced hires; for graduate roles, these could be advantageous but not always required. Professional qualifications in marketing can be gained from:

  • the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM)
  • the Institute of Sales Management (ISM)
  • the Institute of Data and Marketing (IDM)

If you make it on to one of the major graduate schemes, you may find that your employer will finance professional or postgraduate qualifications as part of your training programme.

targetjobs editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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