Marketing has been critical for attracting audiences to brands and products for centuries — but only in recent decades have marketing leaders received the respect they deserve. With the rise of digital marketing, many companies have invited marketing professionals into the c-suite with roles like Chief Digital Officer (CDO) and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). In the United States, a c-suite leader in marketing earns an average salary of about $339,556 (according to Salary.com) — which might be why so many professionals in marketing are eager to reach this high point in their career.
Fortunately, the career path to CMO can be a relatively straightforward one. Here are the steps marketing professionals need to accomplish to obtain a coveted position in the c-suite:
Entry-level Marketing Jobs
A long and strong history in the marketing field is essential for achieving the CMO position later in one’s career, so it is best for professionals to begin their careers in marketing with entry-level jobs that provide hands-on experience with marketing tasks. Beginner marketers can have a wide range of responsibilities, from working on creative teams in developing brand assets and campaign materials to collecting and analyzing data on consumer behavior to inform marketing strategy.
Almost every company has at least one in-house marketing position, but the best place for junior marketers to look for opportunities is with firms that provide marketing services to other businesses. Such firms will have a diverse suite of marketing projects, so entry-level professionals can learn as much about the field as possible, helping them to understand the scope of responsibilities ultimately assumed by the CMO.
Entry-level marketers tend to earn salaries between $27,000 and $51,000 (according to Glassdoor), depending on their level of education and experience as well as their regional location. Fortunately, with the right effort and credentials, marketers can move up their career ladders to higher-paying positions with speed.
Advanced Marketing Degrees
Early in a marketer’s career, it is wise to invest free time into improving education credentials and gaining high-level knowledge and skills that apply to the marketing space. Usually, a bachelor’s degree is required for work in marketing, but if a professional lacks a bachelor’s in marketing, they can return to business school to pursue a marketing master’s degree, perhaps even an MBA with a specialization in marketing. A master’s degree, particularly masters in business administration, is usually a requirement for management-level positions within marketing, and it can radically improve a professional’s earning potential.
Education should continue to be seen as a priority as a professional rises up the ranks within an organization. Professional development opportunities can be exceedingly beneficial in expanding knowledge and skills to reach the next level of the marketing career ladder. Higher-level executives might take digital marketing online courses from top-tier universities to improve their understanding of emerging and evolving trends in the marketing space. Some CMOs have PhDs in marketing or a related field, but this is not usually a strict requirement for the position.
Marketing Leadership Experience
As early as possible in one’s marketing career, a professional should strive to develop leadership experience. Once a professional becomes comfortable with their tasks, they might ask their superiors for the opportunity to work as team leader, which will help them understand the knowledge and skills necessary to function in management within the field of marketing. Lower-level marketers might look for mentors within the field to help guide them, and more advanced marketing professionals can gain more leadership experience by functioning as mentors. Professionals can find ways to accrue leadership experience outside the workplace as well, through community service, education, sports clubs and more.
Chief Marketing Officer Positions
Most companies are not interested in hiring a CMO candidate who has less than decades-worth of experience in the field. Though it might be frustrating to young and ambitious professionals who are eager to achieve their career goals as quickly as possible, the truth is that the key to obtaining a CMO position at a reputable and reliable organization is time. Professionals should strive to make the most of the decades they spend in marketing before they qualify for CMO roles, to ensure that they will be effective marketing executives when they reach that stage of their careers.
Marketing is a fast-paced and creative field that has become one of the most important aspects of conducting business in recent years. With dedication, any marketing professional can achieve their dreams and become CMO.