A Bachelors or Masters degree isn't essential for entry into most marketing-related roles - but a professional course or further qualification may accelerate your career progression
If you're looking to kick-start your career in marketing, advertising or public relations (PR), you'll find various routes into the industry - including learning the ropes in a junior role at a digital agency. But the industry's current skills shortage means it's important to have the right attributes and knowledge to develop - especially when new and emerging technologies are continually being introduced.
Even if you already work in the industry, further study can be fitted around your job through flexible distance or online courses. Many companies offer support for employees studying professional qualifications. Here we've covered the most popular options.
A-level students may be thinking of applying to university and studying for a degree in marketing or a related subject; a good choice if your course is accredited by a professional body. This may even make you exempt from having to study further marketing qualifications at entry level before taking a professional diploma or advanced award.
According to the Guardian's University Guide 2018, there are more than 500 undergraduate courses in the UK with a major marketing component. While some are combined with related fields such as economics, psychology, design or fashion, there are standalone marketing options.
The highest-ranked UK institutions for business, marketing and management, along with a selection of their courses, are:
- University of Bath (in 2nd place for subject), BSc Management with Marketing
- University of Dundee (5th), BSc International Business with Marketing
- Lancaster University (6th), BA Advertising and Marketing
- Loughborough University (7th), BSc Retailing, Marketing and Management
- Durham University (8th), Marketing and Management.
Some three or four-year courses - for example, the BSc Business Management with Marketing at the University of Birmingham - are accredited by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) as part of its Graduate Gateway. They are typically delivered with input from industry professionals and often include the option of undertaking work experience in the UK or spending a year abroad.
Marketing degree graduates can go on to secure entry jobs in many different areas. Popular roles include account executive, brand manager, market research assistant, marketing assistant and marketing manager. To explore these roles in greater depth, see graduate marketing jobs.
If you're hoping to specialise in advertising or public relations, see below for dedicated short and professional courses. Information on specific undergraduate degrees can be found at how to get into digital marketing and 4 tips for starting a career in PR respectively.
Masters in marketing
Postgraduate qualifications in marketing are also approved and accredited by the CIM - for instance, the one-year full-time MSc Marketing courses at the University of Exeter and the University of Birmingham.
These programmes offer various routes into marketing, with jobs available at public and private sector companies, ranging from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to multinationals and not-for-profit organisations.
CIM marketing qualifications
As the industry's professional body, and accredited by the European Marketing Confederation (EMC), the Ofqual-regulated CIM provides a range of globally-recognised marketing qualifications, plus bite-sized flexible modules. Here are its main awards:
- Foundation Certificate in Marketing (Foundation, level 3) - designed for those at various stages in their career, this award is perfect for entrepreneurs and managers involved in non-marketing functions, new entrants and those on apprenticeships.
- Certificate in Professional Marketing (Intermediate, level 4) - gives you the knowledge and skills to progress your marketing career if you work in marketing support as a marketing assistant, or if your job involves aspects of marketing.
- Diploma in Professional Marketing (Intermediate, level 6) - the equivalent of a Bachelors degree, it's suitable for strategic-level marketers, such as marketing managers and marketing executives, plus business development managers and account managers interested in career development.
- Digital Diploma in Professional Marketing (Intermediate, level 6) - also at undergraduate level, this is for marketers in managerial, operational and supervisory roles looking to develop their skills in digital marketing.
- Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing (Advanced, level 7) - taken in two stages, this Masters degree-standard diploma gives experienced marketers and those working in senior strategic roles the chance to study for a professional qualification. After the first stage, you'll have achieved the CIM Professional Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing. The second stage involves a work-based assignment, to be completed within nine months.
In addition to tuition fees payable to your nearest study centre, you'll also need to consider the costs of registration, assessment and membership fees when enrolling onto CIM marketing courses.
See the CIM's marketing qualifications page for links to each course, where you'll be able to determine your eligibility, discover what you'll learn in detail, and get a full fee breakdown.
The CIM also offers individual and tailored in-company training solutions, with more than 90 one to three-day course options at different levels, covering a variety of marketing techniques and topics. These range from advanced copywriting skills to managing marketing communications and finding out how to plan a business's social media strategy.
To keep up to date with industry developments through its Exchange online content hub and webinars, attend events and benefit from discounted training, you'll need to become a CIM member.
Digital marketing courses
While traditional marketing degrees may cover online and offline marketing techniques (as well as business), digital marketing and a good awareness of technology is a fundamental part of any marketer's role. There are now university courses dedicated to this growing area. Find out what's available and discover how to get into digital marketing.
The Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing (IDM) is an awarding body that runs a number of digital marketing and direct marketing courses. Online, part-time, day release and intensive professional diplomas are available. Both the IDM Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing and IDM Diploma in Direct and Digital Marketing (at Intermediate, level 6) are aimed at those who manage the implementation of marketing campaigns and digital channels, costing £2,575 (2017/18) to members and non-members, plus a £150 exam fee.
If you're an experienced marketer seeking a postgraduate qualification, there are two (Advanced, level 7) options to advance your career and boost your business's performance: the IDM Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Marketing (PGDip DigM) and the IDM Postgraduate Diploma in Direct and Digital Marketing (PGDip IDM). These programmes cost £3,475 plus a £225 exam fee. The former is currently open to study as an online, intensive or part-time course, but the latter is only available as intensive study.
In addition to these qualifications, the IDM offers professional certificates (Intermediate, level 5) in email marketing, search marketing, social media and content marketing to develop expertise in a specialised area. These intensive face-to-face and online marketing courses are £1,500 for members and non-members.
Finally, there's a selection of six Intermediate (level 4) awards for those with some work experience but who are hoping to develop their skills in a specific discipline - for example, digital copywriting.
Online marketing diplomas
The Digital Marketing Institute is a certification-awarding body for the digital industry that allows students the flexibility of studying for their marketing diploma online.
By choosing the Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing, everyone from complete beginners to business owners can learn about key specialisms, including SEO, PPC, mobile marketing and social media marketing. This 30-hour course plus a three-hour exam costs £1,560.
Then there's the practitioner-led advanced Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Marketing for traditional and digital marketers wishing to validate their digital skills. It's delivered across 32 weeks and costs £4,200.
For senior management professionals, there's the two-year part-time Masters in Digital Marketing, which costs £8,400 and invites students to successfully implement and manage a digital marketing strategy.
In addition, its range of short online marketing courses includes specialist diplomas in:
- digital and social selling
- social media marketing
- digital strategy and planning
- and search marketing.
If you're interested in any aspect of marketing communications, you'll find that there are qualifications in advertising and PR to suit your area of specialisation - whether that's corporate, employee, consumer or investor relations.
The Communications Advertising and Marketing (CAM) Education Foundation offers a selection of CIM awards designed for those in a range of advertising and PR roles, from assistants and executives through to senior managers and directors.
Five key areas of study make up the Diploma in Marketing Communications - marketing and consumer behaviour, public relations, direct marketing and sales promotion, advertising, and integrated media. Tuition fees, which form the bulk of the costs, vary according to the mode of study (either face-to-face or via distance/online learning), with assessment fees and a CIM membership fee also charged.
The three most popular qualifications from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) are:
- IPA Foundation Certificate - an internationally-recognised 30-hour programme for advertising industry newcomers. This overview costs £250 (plus VAT) for members and £500 (plus VAT) for non-members, with exams held at various city locations (London, Manchester, Birmingham, etc.)
- IPA Advanced Certificate - designed by senior agency practitioners, this 45-hour course in communications and channel planning is for those with four to nine years' industry experience. It costs £1,000 (plus VAT) for members and £2,000 (plus VAT) for non-members.
- IPA Excellence Diploma - across a 12-month period (150 hours), delegates are given the opportunity to delve into the nature of brands and have their ideas challenged. Members are charged £4,500 (plus VAT) for this pinnacle award, with non-members paying £6,500 (plus VAT).
The PR industry's professional body, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), provides qualifications for PR practitioners at all levels and in all sectors. As 93% of its students recommend CIPR qualifications, this is an excellent way to get professional recognition and advance your career.
The foundation degree-standard CIPR Professional PR Certificate provides a detailed introduction for those embarking on a PR career. Experienced PR professionals and those with one year's experience and a Bachelors degree can choose the CIPR Professional PR Diploma. This gives you the chance to work on PR strategy at a senior management level. In addition, they offer short specialist courses in internal communications, crisis communications and public affairs.
Representing the UK's PR consultancies, in-house communications teams and freelancers, the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) provides a range of flexible and practical training courses that can be studied online or at a designated location.
Its professional qualifications, with varying prices for members and non-members, have been developed for those in an agency or in-house PR role, those who've already got a good grounding in PR and are now looking to progress, and management personnel seeking to improve their own performance and that of their team.
These courses include:
- PRCA Foundation Certificate (Fcert PRCA) - a fast-track entry-level programme that can be studied within one year.
- PRCA Advanced Certificate (AdCert PRCA) - a management-level qualification for those with a minimum of three years' PR experience. The training needs to be completed within two years.
- PRCA Online Certificate (OCert PRCA) - at intermediate-level, you'll need to complete 18 webinars online and in your own time, with no assessment.
As well as offering training for those working in journalism and the media, the Press Association (PA) also runs one and two-day courses in PR and communications based in London, although bespoke training is also offered. Getting a taster for PR or learning how to plan and develop a PR strategy will allow you to benefit from the latest developments in the rapidly-changing media industry.
You can also find out about related Bachelors and Masters courses in this popular marketing subject and get some tips for starting a career in PR.
Other marketing training
Education and training at the Institute of Promotional Marketing (IPM) includes an industry-recognised certificate and diploma in promotional marketing. The IPM Foundation Certificate can be completed online within four months and it's supported by three complementary lectures. The IPM Diploma is also available for study at home and can be achieved within six months. There's also the IPM Incentive & Motivation Diploma - a distance learning programme for those working in the reward and recognition industry, which can be studied within five months.
Market researchers are not neglected either when it comes to professional development, as the Market Research Society (MRS), a leading global research association for commercial and public policy research, offers a number of qualifications: MRS Certificate in Market & Social Research, MRS Advanced Certificate in Market and Social Research Practice, and the MRS Diploma in Market and Social Research Practice.
This is in addition to the accreditation of some Masters courses in the field. These are:
- MSc Strategic Marketing Management - Aston Business School
- MSc Strategic Marketing - Cardiff University
- MSc Strategic Marketing - Cranfield University
- MSc International Marketing - Newcastle University Business School.
If copywriting or content marketing is an area that interests you, CIM's Principles of Great Copywriting and IDM's various short courses are designed to help hone the writing skills of marketing communications practitioners for various mediums and audiences.