A Bachelors or Masters degree isn't essential for entry into most marketing-related roles - but a professional course or further qualification may help to accelerate your career progression

If you're looking to kick-start your career in marketing, advertising or public relations (PR), you'll find that there are various routes into the industry - including learning the ropes in a junior role at a digital agency. But, as covered in our sector overview, the industry's current skills shortage means that it's important to have the right attributes and knowledge to develop in any marketing job - especially when new and emerging technologies are being introduced all the time.

Even if you already work in the industry, further study can be fitted around your job thanks to flexible distance or online courses. Many companies offer support for employees who are studying professional qualifications. Search professional courses in marketing and advertising.

Here are some of the most popular options…

Marketing degrees

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 exempt you from having to study further marketing qualifications at the entry level before taking a professional diploma or advanced award.

According to the Guardian's University Guide 2017, there are more than 500 undergraduate courses in the UK with a major marketing component. While some are studied as part of a business management degree, there are standalone marketing options, or the subject can be combined with related fields such as economics, psychology, design or fashion.

The highest-ranked UK institutions for marketing, along with a selection of their courses, are:

  • University of Surrey (in 2nd place), BSc Business Management (Marketing);
  • University of Bath (3rd), BSc Management with Marketing;
  • Falmouth University (5th), BA Fashion Marketing;
  • Leeds University Business School (6th), BSc International Business and Marketing;
  • Lancaster University (8th), BSc Marketing;
  • Coventry University (11th), BA Marketing.

Some of these three- or four-year courses are accredited by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) as part of its Multi-Award Pathway (MAP). They are typically delivered with input (guest talks) from industry professionals and often include the option of undertaking a business placement in the UK or spending a year studying 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 jobs in marketing.

Again, postgraduate qualifications are likely to be approved and accredited by the CIM - for instance, the one-year full-time MSc Marketing courses at The University of Manchester's Alliance Manchester Business School, 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. Search postgraduate courses in marketing and advertising.

CIM 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, 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, for example, 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 for marketing staff in management, supervisory or operational positions. It's also well-suited to business development managers and account managers interested in career development.
  • Professional Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing (Advanced, level 7) - Taken in two stages, this Masters degree-standard diploma will give experienced marketers and those working in senior strategic roles the chance to study for a professional qualification. The second stage involves a work-based assignment, which needs to be completed within nine months.

In addition to tuition fees payable to your nearest study centre, there are the costs of CIM registration, assessment and membership fees to consider.

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 more detail, and get a complete picture of the fee breakdown.

The CIM also offers individual and in-company training with more than 90 one- to three-day course options at different levels, covering a variety of marketing techniques and topics - ranging from advanced copywriting skills to writing an integrated marketing communications plan.

To keep up to date with industry developments through its Exchange content hub, attend events and benefit from discounted training, you can also decide 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 now a fundamental part of any marketer's role, while becoming crucial to many companies' marketing strategies. Therefore, it's unsurprising to know that this is a growing area in terms of the provision of university courses.

UK courses with a digital marketing component include: BA Digital Marketing at the University of Portsmouth; BSc Marketing with Digital Communications at Edge Hill University; BA Marketing with Digital Media at Edinburgh Napier University; and BA Marketing Management (Digital Media) at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

As with other marketing undergraduate and postgraduate courses, it's likely that the qualification will be accredited by the CIM, while one-year placements in a relevant marketing role are fairly common at Bachelors level. With these courses, there's often a technical aspect, with work undertaken in computer labs, using marketing software as well as media applications. Therefore, a creative flair for web design, multimedia production, digital graphic design or marketing communications may make tailored courses, such as the degree at the University of Portsmouth, more closely suited to you than those with a general marketing or business slant.

The Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing (IDM), as its name would suggest, 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 in the former. Both courses are aimed at those who manage the implementation of marketing campaigns, and currently cost £2,575 (2016) to members and non-members, plus a £150 exam fee.

If you're an experienced marketer seeking a postgraduate qualification, there are two options at the strategic level to advance your career and boost your business's performance: the IDM Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Marketing (PGDip DigM) and the Postgraduate Diploma in Direct and Digital Marketing (PGDip IDM). Both programmes cost £3,175 plus a £225 exam fee. The former is currently open to study as a day release, 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 in email marketing, search marketing and social media to develop expertise in a specialised area. These intensive face-to-face courses are £1,570 for members and £1,740 to non-members, with the exam fee set at £75.

Online marketing diplomas

The Digital Marketing Institute is a certification-awarding body for the digital industry that allows students a variety of flexible options, including online study.

Professional marketing diplomas, with course fees of £1,950 (2016), are available in: digital marketing; digital and social selling; digital strategy and planning; social media marketing; search marketing; and mobile marketing.

Then there's the practitioner-led Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Marketing for students wishing to build on their foundation-standard digital skills and put into practice digital marketing strategies. It costs £4,200.

Its advanced-level Masters in Digital Marketing, which costs £8,400, invites students to successfully manage a digital marketing strategy while completing a piece of industry research.

In addition to the above, its range of short online courses include: content outreach; pay-per-click advertising - search; search engine optimisation - setup; e-commerce; and user focused design.

Advertising and public relations courses

If you're interested in any aspect of marketing communications to manage an organisation's various relationships, 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.

PR degrees are particularly well covered, according to the Guardian's University Guide 2017, with most joint PR and marketing/business courses offering an optional sandwich year. The highest-ranked institutions for the subject are: Liverpool John Moores University (38th); Edge Hill University (44th); the University of Huddersfield (62nd); Manchester Metropolitan University (75th); and the University of Worcester (78th).

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. These are: 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 learning), with assessment fees and a CIM membership fee also charged.

Specialist digital unit awards are also available in: mobile marketing in practice; web analytics and social media monitoring; and integrating digital media and branding.

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. UK graduates of any discipline can study the Advanced Certificate in Public Relations without having to complete the Foundation Award. Studying degrees recognised by the CIPR can lead to exemptions from the Advanced Certificate or Diploma in Public Relations. As 93% of its students recommend CIPR qualifications, this is an excellent way to get professional recognition and advance your career.

Representing the UK's PR consultancies, in-house communications teams and freelancers, the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) provides a hundred flexible and practical training courses that can be studied online or at a designated location.

Its four levels of professional qualifications, with varying prices for members and non-members are: introductory, for those in an agency or in-house PR role; intermediate, if you've already got a good grounding in PR and are now looking to progress; advanced, enabling management personnel to improve the performance of your team; and personal skills, to improve your interpersonal skills.

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.

Other marketing training

Education and training at the Institute of Promotional Marketing (IPM) includes industry-recognised promotional marketing certificates and diplomas, as well as one- and half-day sessions in specific areas relating to marketing campaigns.

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 an assortment of certificates, advanced certificates and diploma courses, while it accredits some university-based Masters courses in the field.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates' 'Content is king' phrase, that he made back in 1996, still rings true today where digital media is concerned. So if copywriting or content marketing is an area that interests you, there are short courses run by CIM and the IDM that are designed to help hone the writing skills of marketing communications practitioners for various mediums and audiences.