How to Become a Marketing Manager

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn what skills and education are required to become a successful marketing manager.

[featured image] Marketing manager gives a presentation to her business team on her findings

Marketing managers use both their right brain (creativity) and left brain (analytical skills) to generate consumer awareness and interest in products, brands, and services. They are in charge of communicating across various media channels to reach the target audiences. To successfully land a role as a marketing manager, you'll typically want to have bachelor's degree in marketing and a few years of relevant experience.

Marketing managers in the United States earned a median annual salary of $141,490 in 2020, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. How much you make will depend on your location, your company, and your industry. The number of new job openings is expected to increase by 10 percent between 2020 and 2030 [1]. 

This article will lay out steps you can take to pursue a career in marketing, including what skills and degrees you'll need, how many years of work experience are required, and how to leverage your network.

How to become a marketing manager

To become a marketing manager, you'll need to show employers that you can create marketing strategies and plans, launch marketing campaigns, analyze data and track metrics, manage budgets, and help design products or services. Wherever you are in your career, the following steps can bring you closer to your goal.

1. Build your marketing skills.

The following skills are most commonly found in marketing job descriptions.

Workplace skills:

  • Analytical thinking

  • Communication

  • Creative writing

  • Leadership skills

  • Teamwork and collaboration

  • Problem solving

Technical skills:

  • Ability to use Microsoft Office, Google Analytics, Salesforce, social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok), Adobe Creative Suite, MailChimp

  • Marketing analytics

  • Graphic design

  • Social media marketing

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)

If you’re already in the workforce, consider taking a course to level up your career. You can build your technical skills by learning the basics of marketing or enhance your workplace skills with courses such as Leadership for Marketing, Intercultural Management, or Leading People and Teams.

Or, you can focus on an area such as digital marketing or social media marketing.

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If you are switching from another field, focus on articulating your transferable skills. Sales, business development, graphic design, and many other fields, often involve skills like data analysis, communication, and creative thinking, all of which are transferable to marketing.

2. Consider a marketing degree.

Approximately 75 percent of marketing managers in the United States have earned a bachelor’s degree [2]. A bachelor’s degree is often required even for entry-level positions. If you are hoping to pivot your career, you can open many doors with a master's degree in marketing or a professional certificate.

By earning a bachelor’s (BA or BS) in marketing, you can gain a solid foundation of skills to add to your tool kit through courses in marketing principles, economics, finance, and accounting. Round out your degree with electives in consumer behavior, cross-cultural marketing, and advertising.

Make the most of your degree

Consider pursuing a minor in a field such as psychology or graphic design. You might brush up your management skills by taking on a publicity or another leadership role in a club.

During the summers, seek internships in marketing. You may decide to specialize in brand, content, digital, communications, product, or social media marketing. Internships are an excellent way to apply classroom learning in the real world. You can learn as much as possible, network, and gain mentorship in a limited span of time, without the pressures of a permanent job.


3. Create a marketing portfolio.

Your portfolio should be a curated selection of your best work. It can feature marketing campaigns you worked on, brand stories that you collected and wrote, and marketing materials you helped design. If you don't have any work experience, your portfolio can highlight relevant coursework and internship experiences.

While portfolios may not be required in a job application, having one can distinguish you from a pool of applicants with similar education and job experience. Portfolios can be especially helpful for brand communications or strategist roles to illustrate your creativity.

Include accomplishments that suit the job’s needs, adding metrics like sales increases and brand conversions to demonstrate that you are data-driven and strategic.

4. Practice common marketing interview questions.

Once you have wowed the employer with your resume (and portfolio, if you submitted one), you might be invited to interview for the role. These are eight common questions you might be asked in marketing interviews:

  1. Tell me about yourself.

  2. Why are you interested in a career in marketing?

  3. What is a marketing trend or campaign you liked?

  4. What do you think of our recent marketing campaign?

  5. How do you manage the launch of a new product?

  6. What motivates you?

  7. What are your hobbies and interests?

  8. Do you have any questions?

For marketing manager roles, you may be asked questions about your leadership potential. To prepare, you might reflect on experiences when you managed an intern, a project, or the creative brief process at a former job.

Read more: 9 Marketing Blogs for Industry News and Trends — 2021 List

5. Gain work experience.

Start by landing an internship or an entry-level position in marketing, where you can develop an understanding of the processes, systems, tools, and ideas that drive brand or product growth. Then, you can develop your career from there.

The typical trajectory for marketing professionals begins as an intern, assistant, or coordinator, then specialist and associate roles, before moving on to become a manager. Marketing managers can aspire to become directors, vice presidents, and then chief marketing officers (CMO) in the future. Keep in mind that not all marketing managers follow this conventional path to get to where they are.

Once you’ve gained a few years of solid work experience, you may be ready to apply for marketing manager positions. Some marketers work their way up from associate to manager on the same team, while others switch companies to move up.

6. Expand your network.

Networking can be an intentional, even enjoyable practice of connecting with people in marketing who inspire you. One way to do this is on the job by getting to know your colleagues outside of the professional setting. With many jobs using team chat tools to communicate, it is easy to reach out to grab a coffee or have an informal 15-minute Zoom meeting.

Another way to make connections is to join a professional organization for marketers. The American Marketing Association is the largest one in the United States, with over 30,000 members globally. Some associations focus specifically on advertising, public relations, or internet marketing, while others are identity-based, such as the Asian American Advertising Federation. Benefits of joining such an organization include access to certification exams, resources, internships, mentorship, and conferences.

Volunteering can also expand your network. Many organizations need, but cannot afford, marketing assistance. Giving your skills and knowledge to a worthy cause can lead to unexpected professional connections.

7. Consider an MBA degree.

With some years of marketing experience under your belt, you could be qualified to become a marketing manager. However, if you notice a career stall or have specific skills you hope to build upon (like organizational behavior or strategic marketing), you may consider an advanced degree like an MBA. Full-time MBA applicants typically have about five years of experience, while executive MBA applicants have more than that. 

Earning an MBA can be costly, so it is wise to make sure it will deliver a high return on investment before you decide it is the right path for you. Marketing managers who complete a master’s degree earn on average $124,000, compared to $103,000 for those with a bachelor’s, according to Zippia [2].

Get started in marketing

To become a marketing manager, you need both education and work experience. Consider launching your marketing career with an online Bachelor of Science in Marketing from the University of London, a top 25 UK university. The program is taught by internationally renowned experts in marketing and business.

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Related articles

Article sources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers,” Accessed December 1, 2021. 2. Zippia. “Marketing Manager Demographics and Statistics in the US,”  Accessed December 14, 2021.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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