Guide to College Majors in Advertising

Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.
--Mark Twain
Table of Contents

What Is Advertising?

The primary goal of most commercial firms is to market and sell their products or services at a profit. Advertising is the mass-market equivalent of the salesperson's one-on-one approach. Since the first ad agency began in the U.S. in 1841, the goal of advertising has been to inform, persuade and remind consumers of companies' products.

A college degree in advertising generally includes academic training in the creative or visual aspects of selling a product or service, combined with a technical and practical focus on technology and business applications. If you're creative and a strong communicator, this field might be a good choice for you. While employment is projected to increase rapidly, competition in advertising careers is expected to be intense. The right person - highly motivated, resistant to stress, flexible, and decisive - can expect to receive a high salary, but will travel a lot and put in long hours. You'll also need tact, good judgment, and the ability to establish and maintain effective personal relationships both with your team and with your clients.

Talent, leadership skills, and experience can result in your steady career advancement, but a bachelor's degree in advertising will improve your chances. The advertising degree provides solid business fundamentals and exposure to the diverse software programs that are used in modern, Internet-based advertising campaigns. Add to this your own creativity and innovative ideas for communicating your client's message to the intended audience, and you've got a recipe for career success.

Your career advancement can also be accelerated by participation in management training programs conducted by many large firms, either in-house, at local colleges and universities or online. Courses can include brand and product management, international marketing, sales management evaluation, telemarketing and direct sales, interactive marketing, promotion, marketing communication, market research, organizational communication, and data processing systems procedures and management.

Career Education in Advertising

A bachelor of science in advertising should provide you with both business and creative arts courses. Advertising degrees are relatively new, but are designed to provide you with the key skills required to work as an advertising account manager. You will go through the steps involved in researching a product or service, liaising with the client, developing a campaign idea, and practicing the technical aspects of bringing your ideas to light. While a bachelor's degree in sociology, psychology, literature, journalism, or philosophy are often still acceptable to employers, requirements now vary according to the particular job and the practical tools needed. An advertising degree can often qualify you for more advanced positions in the industry.

Employers may prefer job applicants with experience in related occupations plus a broad liberal arts education background. Your preparation for advertising management positions should include bachelor's-level coursework in advertising or journalism topics like marketing, consumer behavior, market research, sales, communication methods and technology, and visual arts such as graphic design, art history or photography.

For management positions in marketing and sales, a bachelor's or master's degree in business administration with an emphasis on marketing may be preferred. If you decide to pursue a career in a highly technical industry, such as computer and electronics manufacturing, then consider a bachelor's degree in engineering or science, combined with an MBA. Public relations management positions often require a bachelor's or master's degree in public relations or journalism with courses in advertising, business administration, public affairs, public speaking, political science, and creative and technical writing.

Online College Courses in Advertising

Many of today's working professionals don't have the time to drop their careers and attend college full-time, but increasingly stringent education requirements are keeping the best jobs off-limits to those without a college education. Online college classes have become an increasingly popular option for students who don't have the time or resources for a traditional education. Online advertising degrees and courses are a flexible option for members of the industry who are ready to move up but don't want to sacrifice pay or personal time.

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What Can You Do With a College Major in Advertising?

There are many different career paths available within the advertising field. Whether you're in advertising, promotions, marketing, public relations, or sales, you'll be involved at some level with sales, market research, marketing strategy, advertising, promotion, pricing, product development, or public relations activities.

Employment in this industry is expected to grow much faster than average in most business services industries, like computer and data processing, and in management and public relations firms. Little or no change is projected in manufacturing industries. Median salaries in 2002 for advertising and promotions managers were over $57,000 per year. Here is a quick sampling of the most common advertising jobs:

Managers oversee the advertising and promotions staff. In a small firm, managers may liaise between their firm and the outside advertising agency they have contracted. In larger firms, advertising managers handle in-house accounts, creative, and media services departments.

Account executives assess the need for advertising, manage the account services department and, in advertising agencies, maintain client accounts.

Creative directors oversee the copy chief, art director, and their respective staffs. The creative services department develops the subject matter and presentation of ads.

The media director oversees planning groups who select the communication media.

Promotion managers supervise their promotion specialist team and direct promotion programs.

Marketing managers develop the firm's marketing strategy, working with advertising and promotion managers to promote the firm's products and services and to attract potential users.

Product development managers and market research managers determine the demand for products and services offered by the firm and its competitors. They identify potential markets, develop pricing strategies, monitor trends that indicate the need for new products and services and oversee product development.

Public relations managers direct publicity programs to maintain the support of the specific target group upon whom their organization's success depends, such as consumers, stockholders, or the general public. They often specialize in a specific PR skill, such as crisis management, or in a specific industry, such as healthcare. They stay on top of social, economic, and political trends that might ultimately affect the firm and make recommendations to enhance the firm's image based on those trends. Public relations managers focus on both the internal and external relations of an organization.

Other advertising jobs include copywriting, editing, graphic design, web design and web development. In all these divisions of marketing, well-trained, experienced, successful managers may be promoted to higher positions in their own or other firms or may gain the capital and expertise to branch out on their own.

Certification and Licensure

Professional designations, licenses and certification are not required for a career in advertising. Industry certification is more common in other divisions of the marketing field. Relatively few advertising, marketing, and public relations managers are currently certified, but the number of managers who seek certification is expected to grow. The Public Relations Society of America and the Canadian Public Relations Society offer accreditation programs such as the APR (Accredited in Public Relations) for practitioners based on years of experience and testing.

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