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How to Start a Career in Marketing

19 Apr
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The marketing industry is thriving, with no signs of slowing down. The demand for marketing professionals is expected to grow 10% by 2031, which is faster than average. With marketing positions that offer a median annual salary of $133,380, marketing can also be a lucrative career option.1

If you’re wondering how to start a career in marketing, there are some concrete steps you can take to make the transition smoother. Keep reading for a step-by-step guide to becoming a marketing professional.

Choose Your Specialty for a Focused Marketing Career

Marketing is a very broad field, so you’ll have more success launching your career if you choose a niche.2 Although there are an almost limitless number of marketing categories, all marketing is either digital or offline. For example, social media and email marketing are digital marketing niches while direct mail is an example of offline marketing. Some marketing niches are specific to either digital or offline, but many are applicable to both.


Both digital and offline marketing require a deep understanding of customer behaviors, desires, and motivations. Marketing researchers gather data about a target market to drive more effective marketing campaigns. They do this through various research methods, including:

  • Surveys to solicit feedback from customers, usually via email, phone or web forms
  • Focus groups, where you can ask a small group of potential customers for their opinions
  • Data analysis, which is the process of examining data for trends or patterns that can improve your marketing strategy
  • Testing ad campaigns by running different ads to see which performs better
  • Tracking consumer sentiment by following mentions of a product or brand on social media or other internet forums


A marketing strategist develops and implements marketing strategies to help businesses achieve their goals. They identify a target audience by determining what type of customer is most likely to purchase a product or service. Once they have a target audience, they study them and create specific tactics to reach them. Marketing strategists develop techniques and language that will resonate with their target audience, such as talking to new parents about the stress of sleepless nights.

Strategists also identify the most effective channels, such as social media, email or television ads, to reach their audience and create a marketing plan that outlines goals, tactics and budgets.


Designers are responsible for creating the visual elements of a marketing campaign. These elements can include graphics, layouts, fonts, color schemes and other aspects of a brand-based marketing campaign.

Designers collaborate with other members of the marketing team to communicate a brand’s message to their target audience. They need visual and design skills as well as an understanding of customer psychology.

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is a rapidly evolving field. While traditional marketing focuses primarily on magazines, television and radio ads, digital marketing takes place online. Although it incorporates elements of traditional marketing fields such as photography and video, digital marketing also contains unique elements that aren’t found in other areas of marketing, such as direct customer interaction. Due to the rapid adoption and abandonment of digital platforms, digital marketing professionals have to be committed to continuously learning new and evolving digital marketing techniques. Some types of digital marketing include:3

  • Social media marketing, such as Facebook ads
  • Email marketing, which includes sending emails directly to current customers and potential customers
  • Search engine optimization so content will rank higher in internet searches
  • Content marketing such as blog articles and videos
  • Influencer marketing, which is paying someone with a large following to promote your products
  • Affiliate marketing, where you pay a fee to people for referring business to you

Invest in Your Education

Once you know what aspect of marketing you’re most interested in, you can choose online courses to make building your marketing skills more convenient. No matter what area you choose, you’ll probably end up doing work in more than one area, so you should develop a good foundation in general marketing principles.

You may want to pursue an advanced degree, such as the Online Master of Science in Marketing degree from William & Mary. Or, you might want to focus on getting certified in specific marketing skills, such as Google Analytics or Facebook Ads.

Build Your Portfolio

Designers aren’t the only marketing professionals who need a portfolio. A portfolio can be an effective tool for demonstrating your talent, particularly if you’re changing careers. Your marketing portfolio is a website that showcases your work. You don’t have to have paid work to fill out your portfolio–you can include examples from your coursework or independent projects.

Your portfolio should include the following sections:4


This section should include information about you and what you have to offer in a marketing role, including your education and professional credentials. You can also add a few details about your hobbies and life outside of work.

Work Samples

This is the most important section. Include examples of work you’ve done and projects to which you’ve contributed. Use this section to walk prospective employers, hiring managers or clients through your work process and your results.

Contact Information

Include contact information, such as an email address or a contact form, so employers or clients can reach you easily.

Other Sections

Depending on your goals, you can include other sections in your portfolio, such as your resume or a services page. You should also consider including links to your professional social media accounts.

You don’t need to be a professional web designer to build a website portfolio. There are many website builders that allow you to build a professionally designed site, even if you have no coding experience.

Apply for Marketing Jobs

When you’re ready to start applying for jobs, you’ll need to update your resume and design it for the career path you want. Even if this is a new direction for you, if you’ve been working for a while, your previous work experience is relevant. You probably have a lot of crossover skills that will be applicable to your new career. Make sure to highlight them.

Organize your resume so that it flows well. You can use a functional or chronological format, but divide it into sections so that the information is easy to digest. Adding relevant educational experience can help bridge the gap between your previous work experience and your new career.5

Rebrand yourself by updating your professional social media profiles to indicate that you’re looking for a job in marketing. Network by reaching out to any contacts you have, and make new ones by attending events and getting to know people.

If your job search isn’t moving as quickly as you’d like, you can gain work experience through volunteering your skills for people or organizations you know, or freelancing. This will make your resume stronger and introduce you to new contacts.

Land Your Dream Marketing Job

Learn the most in-demand skills for today’s marketers in the William & Mary Online Master of Science in Marketing (MSM) program. In as few as 15 months, you’ll learn how to start a career in marketing or how to focus your current career in order to rise to the top. If you’re interested in advancing your career and moving into C-suite positions, the Online MSM will give you the credentials you need. It goes deeper into marketing principles than a standard MBA, so you’ll be equipped to be an innovative leader in any organization.

Schedule a call with an Admissions Advisor today to learn more.