If you have a passion for bringing customers and businesses together, running your own ad agency might seem like a dream job. The good news for any candidates is that advertising and marketing will always be an industry in demand as companies look to expand their customer base, and careers in advertising will grow at about 15% over the next ten years according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Advertising agencies do more than slap together a commercial and call it a day. Different departments work together to create the final product, and individual managers may have all the creative control or none of it. Some ad executives may only focus on their own company’s marketing by bring in new companies that require their service. Some may oversee the artists, designers, and writers who create slogans and logos. Others may brainstorm how to come up with creative solutions for a company’s problems. Most executives work more than the traditional 40 hours a week, since they are relied upon for the ad agency’s productivity. The good news is that they earn quite a pretty penny for their efforts, with a median pay of fifty dollars per hour or just over one hundred thousand dollars per year.
Education BackgroundUnlike career trajectories like engineering or medicine, an advertising executive can take many different educational pathways towards their job in management. Unless you start your own ad agency from scratch, you will need at least a four-year college degree in marketing, sales, communication, business, or finance in order to make yourself an attractive candidate for hiring. If you want to start in the trenches and work your way into management, a degree in digital design, art, or creative writing allows you to hone your creative skills so that you can get a job on the ground floor of an ad agency’s production department. Regardless of the track you choose during your time in university, look for internships and co-op opportunities that allow you to get real-world experience prior to graduation. The pay is low (in some internships, there is no pay at all) but looks excellent on a resume.
As in many jobs, no one path will guarantee certain employment. With many other candidates applying for advertising jobs, you will need to distinguish yourself in order to stand out from everyone else interested in taking entry-level jobs. Create a comprehensive portfolio of your work, featuring ads, slogans, and copy you have created in college, for any employers, for internships, and anything you have created on your own time. Send this portfolio to any and all advertising agencies and marketing departments of companies in order to have a better chance of standing out above your competition.
Getting PromotedBecoming an executive takes a very long time unless you have the great luck and skill to found your own successful business. The Economist reports that it takes some twenty-two years to become an executive in American business. You can try to fast-track this career trajectory by aggressively networking with existing ad agencies (besides the one you work for) in order to create an industry-wide reputation as a hard worker with creative ideas. Nevertheless, all promotion to the top occurs at a company’s specific needs and availability. Whenever you have a job opportunity, inquire about advancement opportunities and the long-term health of a company if you have the desire to work most or all of your career with their marketing team. Do not be afraid to switch employers or even careers to get to your desired job and salary level, since you can always find a larger or more successful ad agency.