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What is a Marketing Manager?

A marketing manager works to create and implement strategies that help companies meet sales goals and increase awareness about a brand. They research market trends, evaluate demand, and identify a target audience and the best way to connect with that audience.

Marketing managers may take on different roles depending on where they work. For example, some might specialize in social media marketing and focus the bulk of their efforts on growing a following on Instagram or Facebook. Others may be more involved with branding and design or copywriting. They also may be involved in email campaigns, paid search, print ads, content creation, and more. Marketing spans such a wide range of activities that the manager may be in charge of coordinating these efforts rather than doing the work directly; directing a team of writers and researchers, while keeping track of the metrics used to determine success.

If you ask someone how to become a marketing manager, they will likely recommend getting a bachelor’s degree, working in the field, and earning certifications. They’re not wrong, but it’s worth pointing out that successful marketing managers are also those who can keep pace with changing trends and the latest technology, while at the same time, having a strong grasp on both oral and written communications.

Marketing managers are in demand and are likely to stay that way for the long-haul, so long as they keep learning throughout their career. Marketing is a lucrative career path that, while relatively common, isn’t exactly hard to break into.

While most managers work in an office setting, there are also plenty of remote, flexible jobs for marketers, across all kinds of industries. Additionally, the skills you’ll pick up as a marketing manager will transfer to a range of professions if you wish to switch gears later in your career.

That said, before you switch your major to marketing, there are a few things you should know about this career. For one, you should be prepared to do a lot of different things every day, and be able to communicate effectively, and keep multiple projects organized at one time.

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Steps to Becoming a Marketing Manager

The path toward becoming a marketing manager isn’t necessarily a clear cut one, where you earn your degree and work your way up. Because marketing is an ever-changing field (social media and cloud-computing have changed the game in recent years), practical knowledge wins out against the bachelor’s, work experience, and maybe a master’s to level up your pay. That said, marketing managers will see more job opportunities if they earn a bachelor’s degree before entering the workforce. Most marketing roles exist in an office setting where a bachelor’s degree is the barrier to entry.

Below, we’ll present the most straightforward path, from bachelor’s degree to the workplace and beyond.

  • Step 1: Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree

  • Step 2: Gain Work Experience

  • Step 3: Consider Certification

  • Step 4: Join a Trade Association

  • Step 5: Earn a Master’s Degree


Step 1: Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that most employers prefer to hire a marketing manager, or marketing staff in general, who have a bachelor’s degree. Ideally, you’ll complete the 120 credit hour curriculum to earn a bachelor's degree in marketing, communications, advertising, or business administration. These days, the most in-demand marketing managers focus primarily on the digital/online space. So, regardless of what you study, you should be well-versed in all manner of digital communications from social media to writing for the web and website analytics.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Honestly, in the realm of marketing experience is the best way to advance your career. Learning the ins and outs of social media, web analytics, content marketing, and SEO can be done in the classroom, though you’ll continue learning through your whole career. Practice makes perfect. Start out in an entry-level role, a marketing associate or assistant perhaps, and work your way up. In marketing, your ability to produce results will help you move up faster, so be sure to read plenty of industry articles, blog posts, and try all the tools you can.

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Step 3: Consider Certification

Within the marketing sphere, getting certified can actually mean a whole range of things. There are professional associations which do offer certifications. However, the most common certifications, and often the most useful, come from various online channels. HubSpot, a CRM company with a reputable marketing and sales blog, offers multiple marketing certifications, as does Google and the social media management company, HootSuite.
Many of these certifications, taken after completing a series of online classes, are free or relatively low cost and serve as a way for marketers to keep pace with industry trends. Another option is getting a marketing certification from a traditional college or university, which might be a good plan if you’d like a more in-depth refresh. Still, it’s smart to look into the web-based options. Employers value these certifications, they keep employees up-to-date on the latest best practices. They also provide hands-on experience with relevant marketing tools.

Step 4: Join a Trade Association

A trade association is recommended for those marketing professionals who wish to advance in the community. You don’t see these too much anymore, with many high-level professionals opting to attend conventions like Content Marketing Institute’s annual conference instead. But the American Marketing Association or the Digital Marketing Association may be helpful resources for connecting with others in the industry.

Step 5: Earn a Master’s Degree

We’ll say this, a master’s degree in marketing is only worth it if you plan on starting a company or moving into an executive role. Most marketers who pursue a master’s program enroll in an MBA with a marketing concentration. This degree may be useful for those who want to work in a high-level leadership role, such as CMO, but in general employers don’t require marketing managers to have an MBA.

What Does a Marketing Manager Do?

What a marketing manager does depends on the size, the organizational structure, and the goals of the company. In most cases, a marketing manager is responsible for designing, implementing, and reporting on marketing initiatives.

A marketing manager might be assigned to work on a specific product line or brand or oversee marketing and advertising for the entire company. On a daily basis, marketing managers brainstorm new ideas for campaigns, coordinate with other departments, and monitor existing campaigns. Additionally, this role also involves ensuring that the marketing team meets deadlines and hits goals. So, part of the job involves delegating tasks and taking corrective action when a project starts heading in the wrong direction.

Marketing managers must also stay current with the latest market trends, analyze data, and constantly come up with new ideas. One day you might be writing marketing copy, the next you’re spearheading a new marketing campaign, and the next you’re combing through data to identify trends.

Skills Needed

A successful marketing manager needs to be highly organized. This person is charged with managing a variety of initiatives at one time and needs to keep track of their own tasks, as well as their team’s. Small changes to a marketing campaign can involve a lot of coordination and marketing managers need to be prepared to communicate changes to their team and other departments.

This role also demands excellent communication skills, both written and oral. As a manager, you’ll need to be able to effectively communicate project requirements and delegate tasks to the right team member. You’ll also need to be a good listener. As a marketer in general, being a good writer will be instrumental in helping you find work. Many core marketing tasks involve writing, from crafting web copy to writing email newsletters, to blog posts, articles, and business plans. A manager might not perform these tasks on a regular basis, but they should be able to help their team hone these skills themselves.

Key skills:

  • Communication
  • Flexible
  • Goal-oriented
  • Skilled Planner
  • Creative
  • Responds Well to Pressure
  • Social Media
  • Internet Marketing
  • Analytical
  • Able to Juggle Multiple Tasks

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Alternative Paths

Because there is no definitive path toward a career in marketing, there are several alternative paths you can take to become a marketing manager. Most companies require that candidates have a bachelor’s degree, but often that degree can come from a wide range of majors. You might be able to earn an associate degree and learn marketing best practices by teaching yourself through earning online certifications.

Related majors like journalism, advertising, or even majors like art or design can translate to marketing. It’s that ability to plan, be creative, and keep up with the latest technology that is most attractive to employers, more so than the degree. The reason you’ll need a bachelor’s degree is, it demonstrates a certain level of competency to an employer; time management, communication, writing, and so on. Still, if you have a strong command of social media or are a skilled data analyst, it shouldn’t be too difficult to break into the field.

Marketing Manager Career & Salary

Where Might You Work?


Most marketing managers work in an office environment. Some might have their own offices, but more and more companies are moving toward open office plans where everyone from the top down works side by side. It’s hard to nail down exactly where you might work, almost every company can benefit from having a marketing manager on the team whether they’re in insurance, tech, retail, or finance.

Marketing is also one area where you might find opportunities to work remotely, whether that’s as a consultant or contractor or for a company spread across the globe. In any case, a skilled marketing manager will have no shortage of options and where you work will come down to whether you prefer to work a regular 9-5 or prefer something less traditional.

Potential Career Paths

The job title, Marketing Manager, is a broad term that can apply to a few different roles within a company. What this looks like depends on the size of the company, as well as the industry you’re in. Marketing managers in the tech sphere are going to have a vastly different experience than those working in fashion, entertainment, or insurance. Some industries require only knowledge of marketing concepts and applications. Others, mostly highly technical fields, depend on an in-depth understanding of marketing concepts and other relevant knowledge like computer programming, design, etc.

Here, we’ve listed a few different roles closely related to marketing manager.

Marketing Manager
Marketing managers take on a varied, generalist role, managing all marketing-related activities within a department or organization. The marketing manager might work in a specific department or oversee all marketing efforts, but their part generally involves coordinating marketing campaigns, planning and implementing a strategy that aligns with sales goals and supervising junior staff.

Digital Marketing Manager
Digital marketing managers manage digital campaigns on social media, websites, and in paid advertising. The role is centered around generating brand awareness within the digital space by driving traffic to online channels, identify a target audience, and acquire new leads and customers.

Public Relations Manager
Public relations managers handle communications between a company, the media, and the public. In this role, you’ll be responsible for creating and maintaining a favorable public profile for a client or employer. Typical duties may include writing press releases, pitching stories to media outlets, and organizing press conferences. Additionally, public relations managers respond to crises and work to counter negative publicity.

Advertising Manager
Advertising managers work with clients to create advertising strategies and timelines, prepare budgets, and negotiate contracts with media outlets. Advertising managers work with managers to discuss how advertising fits into the marketing plan and work with their creatives team to come up with advertising campaigns.

Brand Manager
Brand managers are responsible for maintaining the reputation of a brand or product line. Where a PR manager handles the status of an organization, the brand manager has a tighter focus, identifying opportunities to strengthen brand sentiment. Brand managers rely on data provided by market researchers, which they use to develop a strategy for improving a vision for a brand, a campaign, or new marketing materials.

Market Research Analyst
Market research analysts are responsible for gathering information about the target audience of a product or brand. This information is then used to analyze behavior and forecast sales. In this role, the analyst may run focus groups, conduct surveys, and interview consumers, as well as interpret data sets for further demographic insights.

Chief Marketing Officer
The CMO is the top role for a marketing manager who advances to the C suites. These executives are in charge of everything that falls under the marketing umbrella; advertising, brand management, public relations, creative, etc. Their role is to ensure that all marketing efforts are unified and align with an organization’s sales objectives. Typically, a CMO has an MBA or equivalent experience and must be a strong leader with the ability to delegate.

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Marketing Manager Career Salaries

Occupation Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Manager $45,000 $65,000 $68,000
Public Relations Specialists $41,000 $59,000 $67,000
Customer Service Representatives $22,000 $34,000 $56,000
Marketing Managers $48,000 $69,000 $81,000
Market Research Analysts $50,000 $65,000 $65,000
Advertising Sales Agents $33,000 $40,000 $40,000
Telemarketers $29,000 $35,000 $45,000

**Salary info provided by PayScale

Career Outlook

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts faster than average growth for marketing managers at a 9% rate between 2014 and 2024. The agency also reports that the median annual wage for a marketing manager is $140,000, which is considerably higher than average. Salaries do range quite a bit and that’s in part due to the diversity you’ll find within this role. For example, a marketing manager at a small company might only oversee two employees and earn about $60,000 a year.

A marketing manager for a huge multi-national corporation can easily earn well into the six figures. This person might oversee the social media department in a particular region or focus specifically on measuring various performance indicators.

While marketing managers don’t typically need a master’s degree in marketing to earn a comfortable salary, it’s worth pointing out that you need to keep up with the latest marketing trends to compete in the space.

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Advancing from Here

Advancing as a marketing manager might look like a clear-cut career path, from the entry-level to manager to director, VP, and beyond. Rising to the managerial level or even director doesn’t require an advanced degree. Instead it requires a core set of soft skills and the ability to produce results; drive traffic to websites, increase engagement on Instagram, or execute a big campaign.

Beyond that, you may need an MBA to be seen as a competitive candidate for a C-Suite marketing role. Your path depends on the kind of business you’d like to work in. For example, you could start your own business after spending a few years in the marketing space. The internet is full of marketers who make money from their own operations. In that case, it’s all about results and making connections.

And, if the BLS predictions are correct, marketing managers have a bright future ahead; no robot takeover in sight.

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