Getting a graduate job in marketing, advertising and PR

Daniel Higginbotham, Editor
October, 2016

You'll need to be proactive and market yourself well, especially through digital channels such as social media, to secure work experience or a graduate role in this competitive and thriving sector

Do I need a relevant degree?

Degrees in specific marketing subjects aren't usually necessary, as employers instead tend to favour particular skills, attributes and any relevant work experience that you've managed to gain. Graduates who've studied courses that require creativity and excellent communication often find that they fit these roles, although digital skills are a must.

However, if you do hold a degree in (digital) marketing, advertising, public relations (PR), media, journalism, communications or event management, this does demonstrate interest in the industry, and it may prove to be advantageous for some positions.

Other useful subjects include:

  • business;
  • computer science;
  • economics;
  • English;
  • information technology (IT);
  • management;
  • mathematics;
  • psychology;
  • statistics.

For information on entry requirements and relevant qualifications, see job profiles. You can also visit Creative Skillset's advertising and marketing communications pages.

What skills do employers want?

Employers in the creative industries typically seek graduates with:

  • a good understanding of digital marketing;
  • analytical and numerical skills;
  • commercial awareness;
  • communication, interpersonal and teamworking skills;
  • creativity, innovation, initiative and imagination;
  • customer service skills;
  • flexibility;
  • negotiation skills;
  • organisational skills;
  • the ability to work under pressure;
  • the confidence to pitch, present and justify your ideas.

According to the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), advertising agencies often look for individuals with strong levels of diagonal thinking - a mix of creative and commercial thinking.

Where can I get work experience?

Work experience is an integral part of graduate recruitment in marketing. Many large companies and agencies advertise paid summer work placements to final-year students, which can then lead to a graduate position for successful recruits. Some employers also offer paid marketing internships or vacation placements to first-year students, while you can attend open days, taster experiences and short introductory courses to increase your chances of getting a foot in the door.

However, most graduates find work experience through speculative applications and networking. Voluntary organisations sometimes also have opportunities in their marketing or PR departments. You could also work in a marketing or communications role within your students' union, or a university club or society.

The IPA offers paid summer placements for final-year students and recent graduates, plus work experience for third-year students.

To find work placements and internships in the marketing, advertising and PR sector, search for work experience.

How do I find a graduate job in marketing, advertising and PR?

This sector is extremely competitive. As most employers don't usually require candidates to have related degrees, vacancies are often open to all graduates.

Many organisations promote their vacancies through university careers services and careers fairs. The following sites also have dedicated sections listing jobs in marketing, advertising and PR:

Building up your network of contacts is also very important, as smaller businesses and digital marketing agencies may use informal recruitment practices to find candidates. Check company websites early in the academic year to find information on marketing graduate schemes.

Creating and maintaining a profile on LinkedIn is another way to find employers and potential work. Many companies advertise graduate opportunities on social media, so ensure that you regularly check the Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages of marketing-related organisations that you'd like to work for. For more tips, you can explore how to get into digital marketing.

There's no standard application process in advertising and vacancies are often filled by word of mouth, so making speculative applications is essential. The IPA advises you to avoid sending an unconventional CV - instead, well-presented skills, achievements and work experience are favoured.

To browse the latest vacancies in this sector, you can search graduate jobs in advertising, marketing and PR.