Marketing Jobs: The Outlook is (Still) Bright

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Editor’s note: This is an update of the blog post we ran last year, summarizing employment opportunities in marketing for the near term. Statistics and references have been updated.

We’re celebrating Labor Day by turning the lens on our own industry. Whether you’re a grizzled old veteran or a fresh-faced college student, we hope you enjoy this look in the mirror.

Most of us have read or heard that “Five Years From Now, CMOs Will Spend More on IT Than CIOs Do.” And in 2016, four years after that stat was initially published, we’re pretty dang close. That’s impressive; so, where is our industry heading? And what does that growth mean for marketing practitioners?

Marketing as a profession has changed just as much as the technology we now use to deliver our campaigns. Hopefuls looking to enter the marketing field have more avenues than ever to get started. Along with the traditional Mad Men skills of messaging, content creation, art, and writing, technical knowledge and data science are now commonplace (and highly valued) within every great marketing department. Marketers today are Swiss army knives, with a variety of skills and interests. From SEO specialists with a degree in advertising, to coding-savvy copywriters, where will new candidates fit in? How will these teams be built, now and in the future? Let’s dive in and get some answers.


What sort of education do you need to be considered for a marketing career? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that many entry-level marketing jobs require a bachelor’s degree. Numerous graduates take this direct approach – going from school straight to a marketing job is what many grads want to do. BA holders tend to move deeper into the marketing department right off the bat, and are more likely to start in a field specific to their focus.

Even though the straightforward path is desirable, it is very common to earn a degree in an adjacent field like technical or creative writing, performance, video, or business management. These students may have missed Marketing 101, but it’s quite possible that, since marketing is needed in every industry, they gained some exposure to different facets of marketing along the way.


With or without a degree, many marketers today get their start in a sales-focused role. Salespeople often use tools created by marketing; they may find themselves gravitating towards creating those tools themselves, and fascinated by the process that converts customers behind the scenes. They also might look to get into product marketing, where all of their knowledge of the buyer can help guide outbound marketing and sales enablement.

We polled a subset of our customers about where they gained their previous experience. Here are the answers:

As you can see, many of the fields of origin are closely tied to marketing within an organization. Sales is obviously the front-runner in this aspect, with retail, technical, and design careers close behind in channeling talented professionals to marketing positions.

The skills needed to flourish in a marketing role can vary, especially when considering the generalist in opposition to the specialist. Typically, a combination of technical knowledge, data analysis, and creative writing can make for a good start in just about any role, whereas titles like Marketing Manager require experience leading teams and managing complex schedules. An introvert with a degree in economics might be well-suited for a job in data analytics. A history teacher with a flair for writing might become a great content producer for National Geographic. Many jobs in related fields can provide the experience necessary to make the switch, as long as you know how to leverage those skills to perform well within a marketing team.

Different Disciplines, Different Skill Sets

So what sort of skills will make you a successful marketer? According to Jane Creaner Glen, Head of Recruitment and HR at the Digital Marketing Institute, “A lot of companies are still looking for broad digital marketing skills at Manager and Executive level. Although, as the industry matures it is separating out more into specific skills areas, such as content, SEO/SEM, analytics, and social media.”

A company’s size and industry play a part in the types of marketers it hires, also. The bigger a company is, the more channels it’s likely to be in, and the more program types it’s likely to run. A large company, for example, might a series of smaller departments within the marketing department such as: product marketing, content, social media marketing, corporate communications, demand generation, analytics, web development, and sales enablement. This creates the need for people to run operations that keep it all ticking along, and analytical minds to assess success along the way.

Tomasz Tunguz, a venture capitalist at Redpoint Ventures, recapped a talk by Bill Macaitis, CEO of Slack and former CEO of ZenDesk on his blog recently. Macaitis identified nine discrete disciplines inside a SaaS marketing team:

As you can see, these disciplines cover many diverse areas. Neighboring experience in other fields can play a very crucial role in building a high-functioning marketing team.

LinkedIn’s Take

LinkedIn analyzed all of the hiring and recruiting that happened on LinkedIn in 2015, and came up with a list of the top 25 skills that got potential applicants hired. Four of those were directly related to marketing, and a handful of other skills are often found under marketing as well. Broad knowledge of channel marketing, campaign management, and search engine optimization (SEO) techniques topped the overarching skill sets desired by marketing recruiters. In addition, specific skills in web architecture, business intelligence, UX/UI design, and data science are also held in high regard. LinkedIn dubbed 2015 as “the year of the cloud,” as skills related to cloud and distributed computing shifted to be highly desired by recruiters.

The Role of the Creative

The creation of marketing content thrives on the talents of graphic designers, writers, and curators. These specific marketing roles are often filled from more varied education and experience paths, with only 28% of content professionals coming from an adjacent marketing role as shown in a recent study by Boston Content. Most of those surveyed were found to have come from related fields like journalism, or completely unrelated fields like archaeology, teaching, construction, and law. The good news? This means that even if you didn’t get your undergraduate degree in marketing, you may be a great fit for a content marketing department if you hold the right strengths and interests.

Content-based roles in marketing departments are becoming more and more important, with a corresponding effect on marketing budgets. A survey from Contently states “a quarter of respondents are devoting more than 50% of their budgets to content” and another from Regalix notes, “98% of B2B marketers say content marketing is core to their marketing strategy.” Even though content marketing isn’t new, most data points to its continued growth in the very near future, leading to a large demand for applicants with skills to contribute to the creation of content.


As with people and companies, some industries are early adopters and others are laggards. There are a few standout industries that have embraced the risks and rewards of digital marketing, including:


Marketing in the technology industry has seen a massive boom over the past few years. This is especially true for the companies who sell marketing technology; they’re all busy putting their money where their mouth is, trying to out-market one another. Just between January of 2014 and January of 2016, the marketing technology landscape saw total companies in the space swing from 947 to a whopping 3,874. If you’re looking for a marketing job, a marketing company could be a good bet.

(And if you are interested in the fast-paced atmosphere of a start-up, there are plenty in this space.)

There’s room at the top, too: Companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Salesforce are all looking for a highly qualified marketing candidates, and their needs continue to grow. As Kathryn Dill notes, writing in Forbes, of the top companies hiring for marketing roles right now, technology dominates. But the lines are blurry; if you went to work for Tesla, would you consider yourself as working for a car company or a tech company? Is Amazon technology or retail? As Paul D’Arcy, Senior VP at Indeed says, “Right now in the economy it seems like almost every company is becoming a technology company, but also every tech company is becoming a marketing company.”

Real Estate

Real estate is on the verge of a mainstream adoption of marketing automation and other advanced digital marketing techniques. According to the National Association of Realtors, a whopping 92% of buyers starting their house hunt online, and the industry is working to meet them there. Now that realtors are seeing a positive swing back to their former glory days, the competition is heating up and leading to more outreach efforts across the board.

In a survey by Imprev, while nearly two-thirds of real estate brokerage and franchise leaders say their firms do not currently use marketing automation, nearly one in three (29%) plan to implement marketing automation in 2016.” This bodes well for new marketers, as growing adoption rates means a larger need for skilled marketing professionals.


Finance is heating up; so is healthcare. Many marketing agencies offer services tailored to make the most of new technologies for companies that don’t want to do it themselves. So if you have a passion for a particular industry and for marketing, you’ve got a good chance of satisfying both of your cravings with one job.

Salaries and Employment Stats

The demand for creative and marketing players is growing, and is expected to continue its growth pattern going into the next five-year stretch. Starting salaries in marketing are seeing an average of 3.9% growth this year, and US News reports that hot jobs in marketing (like market research analyst) are seeing a median salary of a little over $60,000, and marketing manager roles are hitting in the low to mid $120,000s.

On top of the growing salaries and growing market for skilled labor, the unemployment rate for marketing professionals is sitting between 3-3.9%.


The marketing sector will see another transformative phase over the next five years as the role of marketing grows and adapts. (see Rethinking the Role of Marketing). This will in turn increase the need for smart, proactive people to fill these new positions and new departments. (Interested in a career at Act-On? Check out our Careers page, and if there’s a fit, get in touch.)