Studying Sales and Marketing: Degrees at a Glance
Sales and marketing programs can teach you the best techniques for showing potential customers the value and strengths of a particular product. Associate's degree programs in sales and marketing or sales and marketing technology can lead to a career as a sales or advertising agent. Obtaining a bachelor's degree could lead to management-level career opportunities in a variety of industries. Undergraduate sales and marketing programs cover a variety of business concepts that can be applied to many different types of companies.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that sales managers were projected to see a 12% increase in jobs from 2010-2020, which was roughly as fast as the average for all occupations. You're likely to face strong competition for sales and marketing management positions, as many experienced workers tend to apply for these positions.
|Who is this degree for?||People who wish to gain general knowledge of sales and marketing techniques used in entry-level positions||Individuals seeking mid-level management positions related to sales and marketing|
|Common career paths (with approximate median salary)|| - Insurance sales agent ($47,000)* |
- Sales assistant ($35,000)**
- Advertising sales agent ($45,000)*
| - Advertising or promotion manager ($88,000)* |
- Sales manager ($102,000)*
- Sales and marketing director ($137,000)**
|Time to Completion||2 years, full-time||4 years, full-time|
|Common Graduation Requirements|| - Basic business courses|
- About 6-10 courses in sales and marketing
| - Core business courses|
- About 10-12 courses in marketing
- About 4-7 courses in sales
|Prerequisites||High school diploma or equivalent||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Online Availability||Yes||Some hybrid online/on-campus options|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **Salary.com (August 2012 figures).
Associate's Degree in Sales and Marketing
Sales and marketing studies at the associate's level can be found in two different types of programs. Associate's degrees in sales and marketing are often found at for-profit institutions, while associate's degree programs in sales and marketing technology are often available at non-profit schools. Sales and marketing technology programs put an emphasis on the business technologies and software programs that you'd commonly use in the field. You may be required to complete an internship in a sales and marketing technology program as well.
Pros and Cons
- May have an advantage over applicants with a high school diploma for entry-level positions (sales assistant, advertising sales agent)
- Broad education means your skills may be useful in multiple industries
- Some associate's degree programs include an internship
- You'll probably need a bachelor's degree if you hope to advance to mid- or high-level sales and marketing jobs
- Many of the jobs you're qualified for don't require an associate's degree
- Programs cover a wide range of topics (business concepts, sales, marketing, etc.), giving you little room to specialize your studies
Common Courses and Requirements
Sales and marketing associate's programs generally begin with some introductory business courses, such as marketing principles, business principles and business law. Sales and marketing technology programs may also include courses in business applications, computer information software and sales technology.
Later on in the program, you'll take courses such as sales management, service marketing, advertising concepts and customer service. Sales and management technology programs may also include an internship, which can give you valuable experience before you graduate.
Online Degree Options
Both types of associate's degree programs are available in online formats. Coursework in the distance learning programs is very similar to the on-campus programs, but you might not have the opportunity to participate in an internship with an online program. Some professional organizations, such as the Sales & Marketing Executives International (SMEI), offer online courses (not for college credit), and some schools offer online training programs that could lead to a certificate.
Stand Out with This Degree
You may want to look into joining a professional organization, such as SMEI, the American Marketing Association (AMA) or the Sales Association. Members of these associations have access to development tools and training opportunities that keep them up-to-date with the latest advances in the industry.
Some professional organizations may also offer certifications that could boost your job search. For example, the AMA offers the Professional Certified Marketer designation, which can show employers that you have solid marketing skills and in-depth knowledge of marketing practices. The right certification for you may depend on the industry you're planning to work in or what types of products you hope to sell and market.
Bachelor's Degree in Sales and Marketing
Sales and marketing studies are found in a bachelor's degree program in marketing; some schools offer a specialization in sales. A focus on sales and marketing studies can prepare you to use current technologies to market, analyze and sell products. You may also learn how to deal with real-world variables that you'll come across in business interactions, such as consumer behavior, cultural differences and consumer ethics.
This type of program gives you a foundation in general business concepts followed by sales and marketing courses. Schools encourage students to pursue an internship during their studies, but few programs actually require an internship as part of the curriculum. This is a coursework-based program, so don't expect many hands-on or lab experiences during your 4 years in school.
Pros and Cons
- Bachelor's degree is required for most mid-level management positions in sales and marketing
- Programs are designed to give you a broad education that can be useful for careers in many different industries
- Bachelor's degree holders are often preferred over associate's degree holders
- Since few schools require internships, you may have to put in extra effort to gain experience while you're in school
- You'll have to learn about specific products and industries on your own, as bachelor's programs focus on general sales and marketing concepts
- You're likely to face stiff competition for the jobs this bachelor's degree program is designed to prepare you for (sales manager, advertising manager)
Courses and Requirements
You'll usually spend your first and second years taking general education and business foundation courses. The core business courses cover many topics outside of marketing, such as accounting, statistics, finance and management. The marketing curriculum can teach you about general marketing operations and procedures; some of your course options might include consumer behavior, marketing strategies and selling principles. While you're taking your marketing courses, you'll take sales courses in professional selling, sales management and selling strategies. Some programs may also require a portfolio course, which can give you an advantage when you hit the job market after graduation.
Online Course Options
Full marketing and sales programs are not available online, but some schools may offer hybrid programs that give you a mix of in-class and distance learning opportunities. Some professional organizations also have online training courses, but these won't give you academic credit. If you do happen to come across a school that offers a fully online sales and marketing bachelor's program, you'll want to make sure the school is accredited by an agency approved by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Getting Ahead with This Degree
Since most programs don't require you to complete an internship, you'll want to find ways to gain experience before you finish school. Entry-level sales positions are usually available to anyone who has a high school diploma and the drive to sell products, so you can look for a part-time sales job to get your foot in the door. If you manage to secure an entry-level position at a large company, you may have the opportunity to advance after you get your degree. Schools may also have student organizations for students interested in sales and marketing; joining one of these could lead to networking opportunities and give you the chance to participate in activities and field trips directly related to your interests.
Obtaining a certification from a professional association can help you stand out from other applicants who also have training in sales and marketing. For example, the National Retail Federation has a non-profit foundation that offers the National Professional Certification in Sales. This designation can be useful to anyone looking to work in sales or retail, regardless of the products being sold. Each industry may have specialized certification options, so you may want to explore your options before picking a certification to pursue.