How to Start a Career in Advertising

Creative advertising office
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Advertising pros create paid ads for television, radio, print, and online media, and devise strategies for effectively targeting specific consumer groups who might purchase products or services. Advertising and media agencies carry out this work on behalf of client organizations. Some companies also have their own internal marketing staff.

Jobs in Advertising

Positions within ad agencies generally fall into the following categories:

Creative Department

Staff members of this department design the visual components of ads and write the copy of commercials, print ads, and websites. Typical entry-level roles include creative assistant, copy assistant, and design assistant. Employers seek candidates with artistic talent, creative thinking, and writing skills.

Develop a professional portfolio to demonstrate your skills and abilities.

Media Department

This department researches appropriate outlets for specific consumer targets, formulates plans to reach that audience at the right cost, and buys time and space from media outlets. Typical entry-level roles include assistant media planner, assistant media researcher, and assistant media buyer. Employers look for analytical skills, quantitative ability, and negotiating skills.

Account Services

Staff members in this department interface with clients and agency staff to help organize plans and satisfy clients. Account coordinators support the work of account executives at the entry level. Top skills for these roles include finesse with people, communication skills, attention to detail, organizational, and presentation skills.

Production Department

This department is responsible for the physical creation of commercials and interactive ads. Production assistants support the work of producers and production managers in this creative process. New hires must be detail-oriented, resourceful, organized, and have a keen sense for visual communication.

Education Requirements

A bachelor’s degree is required for most advertising, promotions, and marketing management positions. For advertising management positions, employers may prefer a bachelor’s degree in advertising or journalism.

Tips for Starting a Career in Advertising

High school and college students can prepare for entry into the advertising field by doing some or all of the following:

Develop a Solid Knowledge of Marketing

Take classes that expose you to theories and strategies for marketing products and services.

Work for Your School Newspaper

Look for roles at the school newspaper, magazine, or yearbook in the advertising department. You can take on roles that will give you experience designing/laying out ads, writing copy, securing advertising clients, and devising ad options that meet their needs.

Develop Your Social Media Expertise

Create social media accounts, websites, and blogs regarding topics of interest. Utilize social media and other marketing techniques to promote your sites and enhance traffic. Document your success in expanding your audience.

Take on PR Roles With Student Clubs

Devise and execute creative plans to increase attendance at events and expand club membership.

Enroll in Advertising Classes and Seminars

Use these classes to develop campaigns for your portfolio. Students targeting the creative department may also consider specialized portfolio schools like The Creative Circus or Portfolio Center.

Work for Your Campus TV or Radio Station

Specifically, look for opportunities to create and produce advertising. Often this will involve developing campaigns for public service spots for campus/community organizations.

Schedule Informational Interviews

Informational interviews are an excellent way to learn more about the field from people who already have your dream job. Get recommendations for pros to target from guidance and career offices as well as family contacts.

Consider job shadowing any contacts with whom you develop a nice rapport during a school break.

Join Advertising Professional Organizations

Don’t assume that these are off-limits because you’re still in school—some professional organizations allow student membership. Network with members, attend student conferences and participate in student competitions (ask teachers and professors for recommendations).

Do Internships

Engage in as many internships as possible with local marketing, media, or advertising firms. Most of these roles will be unpaid so consider coupling a part-time internship with a paid job.

By preparing in these ways, you’ll distinguish yourself from the competition and lay the foundation for a rewarding career in advertising.

The Skills Employers Seek

Here's a list of the skills that employers seek when hiring for jobs in advertising. Highlight the skills you acquired during your studies, internships, and jobs held during college in your cover letters, resume, and job applications.

A - D

  • Analytical
  • Applying Ethical Principles to Advertising
  • Assessing the Impact of Ads
  • Attention to Detail
  • Collaboration
  • Conducting Situation Analyses for Products/Services
  • Creating Advertisements
  • Creating an Advertising Portfolio
  • Creative Thinking
  • Critical Thinking
  • Critiquing Advertisements
  • Critiquing Presentations
  • Decision Making
  • Designing Ads for the Web
  • Designing Market Research Studies
  • Designing Visual Elements for Ads
  • Developing Advertising Strategy

F - PO

  • Facilitating Group Discussion
  • Formulating Advertising Budgets
  • Generating Market Profiles
  • Illustrator
  • InDesign
  • Interpreting Viewer, Listener, and Visitor Ratings Data
  • Multitasking
  • Organizational
  • Persuasive
  • Photoshop
  • Pitching Campaign Ideas to Team Members
  • PowerPoint

PR - Z

  • Presentation
  • Prioritizing
  • Problem Solving
  • Producing Ads for Television/Radio
  • Project Management
  • Receiving Constructive Criticism
  • Recommending Media Mix for Campaigns
  • Social Media
  • Storytelling
  • Tailoring Communications for Different Audiences
  • Teamwork
  • Time Management
  • Verbal Communication
  • Writing Creative Copy
  • Writing Essays
  • Writing Research Papers