Across all sectors and in most businesses, marketing, advertising and PR fulfil an important function helping organisations to develop and enhance public interest in their brand, organisation, person or product, and maintain their reputation.
People working in these areas are often regarded as being highly creative, yet the industry cannot depend on creativity alone and would not be able to function without people who are also highly organised, energetic and who have excellent communication skills.
Digital transformation has increased the number of roles and opportunities available to STEM graduates, and new job roles are emerging in agencies where students with degrees in mathematics, physics, computer science, data science, and psychology may have an advantage. Most opportunities in this sector are in the overarching area of marketing, with smaller numbers of jobs available in advertising, PR and event management.
Where do I start?
Within the marketing, advertising and PR sector you could be looking at a number of roles. Prospects has a useful list of job profiles each containing relevant information about key responsibilities, skills requirements, starting salaries, entry requirements, career prospects with links to major employers and current graduate vacancies.
Job roles in this sector include:
- Advertising account executive
- Advertising account planner
- Advertising art director
- Advertising copywriter
- Digital copywriter
- Digital marketer
- Market researcher
- Marketing executive
- Media buyer
- Media planner
- PPC specialist
- Product manager
- Public relations account executive
- Public relations officer
- Sales promotion account executive
- SEO specialist
- Social media manager
As part of your job-hunting strategy you will need to keep up to date on developments in this sector and keep track of any vacancies that are coming up. Below are some key resources to help you research opportunities available. The knowledge gained through your research may help you to target your applications and will help when preparing for interviews.
- IPA – comprehensive information for agencies in UK's advertising, media and communications industry
- Chartered Institute of Marketing – information and advice on the sector, the skills you will need and how to go about getting that first break. It provides an overview of the marketing industry, compares agency and in-house positions, and looks at typical hours and salaries in marketing.
- Chartered Institute of Public Relations – general information about public relations aimed at individuals interested in starting a career in the PR profession.
- Institute of Digital Marketing - training, networking, events and job vacancies within the digital marketing field.
If you need more information, check out some of the resources below to help you to research a sector in more depth.
- Campaign – Campaign provides vital, in-depth and up-to-the-minute information on the rapidly changing world of media, marketing and advertising. Useful guide to agencies and to trends. Full job vacancy listings, including international opportunities.
- Marketing Week – latest news in the marketing sector and job vacancy listings.
- Advertising Association – the Advertising Association website contains the latest industry news and the latest Advertising Association publications on policies and research.
- Catalyst – the magazine of the Chartered Institute of Marketing allows you to explore current issues in the marketing industry, follow the latest trends and gain advice on marketing practice.
- PR Week – PRWeek UK is a weekly magazine for public relations professionals working in all areas of public life. It is a source of news, analysis and opinion.
- The Drum – up-to-the minute information on the latest news and trends in the marketing industry.
Marketing, advertising and PR are highly popular career choices for graduates in the UK. Competition for jobs in this sector is fierce and work experience could be the deciding factor to secure a graduate job. Undertaking work experience will help you to develop expertise and the all-important transferable skills, which will help demonstrate your motivation and commitment to this area of work. What's more, work experience can help you to understand the workplace, and to build contacts, plus it can help you decide if a career in this sector is right for you.
Work placements can provide you with an invaluable insight into working life and offer you an opportunity to apply the industry knowledge you are learning as part of your studies. Placements will also enable you to develop transferable skills in the workplace, such as communication, teamwork and time management, in addition to finding out more about a specific job role or industry, which will lead to more informed decisions upon graduating.
On some degrees work placements are part of the programme, whilst on others you can choose to complete a placement as one of your modules. Many courses at the University of Portsmouth enable you to complete a year’s work placement or self-employment placement should you choose to.
Your first point of contact to arrange this will be your placement office in your Faculty.
A number of large companies and agencies advertise paid summer internships, which may lead to a graduate position for successful recruits. Some employers also offer open days, taster experiences, and short introductory courses to gain work experience.
The examples of large companies and agencies offering and advertising internships in the sector, listed below, will give you an idea of the sorts of opportunities that may be available. You'll need to do thorough research to identify further specific opportunities.
- FleishmannHillard Fishburn – one of the UK’s top ten communication specialists agency. Offers ad hoc internship opportunities throughout the year which can provide a grounding for anyone wanting to work in public relations, public affairs, and social and digital communications.
- PRCA – this UK-based PR membership body initiated a campaign to encourage a more professional approach to internships in the PR sector. Their campaign is called Better Internships and the web pages provide listing of all PR agencies offering paid internships.
- Hotwire Global – a communications agency advertising internship opportunities in the sector.
- Inspiring Interns – offers listings of internships in the sector, particularly in the South of England.
- Step Recruitment - provider of paid student internships and placements.
Speculative applications for work experience
Whilst advertised internships or work experience opportunities may be limited, a good number of students secure work experience in the sector through speculative applications and networking.
It is essential that you do your research: learn as much about the sector as you can, and about potential specific organisations you might want to target. Be smart in your research: don’t just rely on information from the 'About Us' section on the organisation’s website – although that is a good place to start. Seek out blogs, research any whitepapers or publications the organisation has produced so that your covering letter demonstrates that you are well informed, resourceful, and keen.
Applications to a named individual within the organisation are often more successful in bearing fruit. Use your research into the company or agency to make contact and establish to whom it is best to address your application. Exploit opportunities to network and make contacts by going to industry events and seminars if possible, these may provide opportunities to meet key people working in the industry.
It is also well worth considering the voluntary sector for work experience; the Careers and Employability Service offers current students and graduates access to a Virtual Volunteering Bank which provides local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies. Similarly you can access these opportunities through the paper-based bank located in the Careers and Employability centre.
If you wish to instigate voluntary work experience during the vacation periods please refer to the 'External Sites' information on the voluntary work experience section of our website.
Examples of Marketing and PR - related support roles that the Volunteering Team have previously advertised and recruited for include:
- Events & PR Coordinator Volunteer with Sue Ryder Care - engaging in the organisation and delivery of fundraising events, volunteer drives and stock generation. Working as a liaison between and helping to build community contracts.
- Events Coordinator with RNLI – help us save lives at sea by ensuring the continued success of local fundraising events.
- Events Management & Marketing Volunteer with Dreams Come True – developing business skills in the charity sector, events management and project work.
- Marketing Volunteer with Groundlings Theatre – develop ideas for marketing campaigns, organising the production of advertising material, writing and distributing press releases.
- Social Media & Digital Marketing Volunteer with Portsmouth Together – create engaging content for social media, software schedules and marketing campaigns.
Think broadly about the sort of volunteering role that might provide the opportunity to develop transferable skills. Perhaps focus initially on voluntary organisations offering roles in event management, marketing or publicity, but don’t dismiss volunteering roles that might give you the chance to use and demonstrate relevant skills, for example, fundraising opportunities within third-sector organisations offer the chance to develop key transferable skills, such as the ability to build and maintain relationships, the capability to work under pressure and meet deadlines, strong project management skills, and a proactive attitude.
Volunteering in a marketing or communications role within the Students’ Union, or a University society or club, for example as the Publicity Officer, Media Secretary, Marketing Manager, or Events Volunteer will similarly enable you to strengthen those all-important key transferable skills.
Create your own experience
Digital media and technology is key in this sector for achieving advertising, marketing and PR goals, therefore, a strong understanding and use of different forms of social media and web technologies is desirable for someone wanting to work in the sector. This is an area where it’s possible to create your own experience.
Develop your own website
Someone who has set up their own website and developed an understanding of some of the tools of the trade such, as SEO (search engine optimisation), web analytics and content management systems, will have an advantage over those who have not – graduate recruiters prize evidence of students using their initiative to prepare for their chosen career. Many of the relevant tools are available online and you can learn them for free, for example Facebook Media, Social Media Examiner, Neil Patel, and Razor Social. What is more, in creating your own website you can demonstrate your creativity through your written and copywriting skills.
Volunteer for local business
You might consider approaching a local small business, say your local restaurant whose Facebook page you notice is not up to date, and ask them if you could volunteer to help with updating and maintaining their web or Facebook content.
Be active online
Producing your own blog, getting involved in Twitter feeds, podcasts, and joining in discussion groups on LinkedIn, all serve to demonstrate your skills in communication and digital technology.
Just remember, whatever you are doing online, keep it up to date and professional – it’s important to control your online presence – you want to ensure you are presenting yourself to the outside world, and particularly the business world, as you would wish to be seen.
Work with startups or start your own business
Start-ups are a good place to look to offer skilled help and support that will in turn develop your transferable skills for the sector. You may have your own business idea which you can pursue, which will demonstrate not only your enthusiasm and ambition, but evidence of doing things yourself.
Expert advice and support from the University’s student startup support team, will help you to get your idea off the ground. The Student Startup team offers a wide range of events, developmental workshops and pitching opportunities to help you get your business up and running.
Key considerations before starting your search for work experience
- What are your career goals and aspirations? How might the opportunity help you work towards these?
- Think critically about gaps in your skill set that need to be addressed? How might an opportunity enable you to fill this gap?
- How much time can you commit to work experience? How will you fit it in with your plans and other commitments during term time or over the summer period?
- What type of organisation would you like to gain experience with? A bigger national or multinational company? A small to medium-sized enterprise? A charity or not-for-profit organisation?
Tips for success when looking for experience
- Research companies and agencies offering summer internships, vacation placements, taster experiences, or introductory courses.
- Build your knowledge and understanding of the sector through trade press and online, so that you can keep up to date with industry trends and developments.
- Get involved in University extra-curricular activities related to your interests such as with the Students' Union or with University clubs or societies; here you can develop skills and experience in relevant communications roles.
- Write your own material either for student publications or your own blog, or take on an editorial role to hone your written skills.
- Create a LinkedIn profile to network with sector employers - see our Networking and Social Media section for further guidance.
- Speak to your tutor or other members of Faculty staff to identify potential networking opportunities that could lead to work experience.
- Make the most of opportunities to meet industry professionals at events both within the University and externally to build your network of contacts.
- Remember, although direct work experience may be difficult to secure, any other work in a commercial context may be helpful, so think broadly about the relevant sector skills you are seeking to develop and pursue opportunities where you might be able to use these.
Finding a job
There are various routes into this highly competitive industry. Employers expect recruits to have an understanding of new media, and they particularly value creative, innovative individuals. Journalistic skills are also highly regarded. Analytics have never been more important in this sector and the increase in social media use has created a huge dataset that marketers can utilise to improve analysis of consumer behaviour. Databases are used to better understand segments of the market and move towards direct marketing, helping to build long-term customer relationships. Graduates with numerical and analytical skills who are able to exploit databases are therefore in high demand.
The Advertising, Marketing and PR industry is broadly divided into those who work in-house for an organisation and those who work for an agency. Agencies are appointed to provide specific services to paying clients. Those working in advertising will almost always work for agencies, while those working in PR and Marketing are often employed by large organisations.
Although small in number some large companies run graduate schemes which provide a direct route into the sector. However, competition is fierce and places on the schemes are frequently highly oversubscribed, which can mean that many talented applicants are turned down. Typically graduate schemes are advertised in September and the application window is generally between September and January, so start early to explore options and be well prepared and ready to apply.
Jobs boards on websites, such as those listed below, provide details of available vacancies. Most entry-point opportunities for graduates are trainee positions such as publicity assistants, press officers, or trainee account executives. It is useful to remember that many companies will often advertise their vacancies through their own website before they turn to other methods; this is where your own research into companies you might want to work for is vital to help you to identify opportunities.
Recruitment agencies, specialising in the sector, can be a good way of getting access to jobs that might not be openly advertised, and building relationships with recruiters can pay dividends as you progress in your career. Examples of these are included in the useful websites listing below.
The Careers and Employability Service also has a dedicated in-house Graduate Recruitment Consultancy team that delivers a personalised matching job service.
Useful websites to help you start your job search
- The Guardian - Find the latest marketing jobs and PR jobs on Guardian Jobs.
- TARGETjobs - Graduate jobs, training schemes and placements in marketing, advertising and PR.
- Simply Marketing Jobs - Specialises in advertising the latest marketing jobs.
- Campaign - Job site that covers all areas of marketing, media and advertising recruitment.
- IPA - Includes a jobs listing for the advertising industry.
- Marketing Week - With the latest jobs in Marketing and PR, including graduate and trainee positions.
- PR Week Jobs - Vacancies in public relations, communications or corporate social responsibility roles.
- VMAGroup - specialist recruitment agency for marketing, PR, corporate communications and internal and external communication roles.
- MyCareer - Here you will be able to find graduate jobs across different sectors and locations.
- Step Recruitment - provider of paid graduate internships, placements and permanent opportunities, including within marketing.
Tips for finding a job
- Check advertising and marketing agencies' websites in September to see if graduate schemes are available and to find out deadlines for applications.
- Make sure your application is tailored to each agency. If you can show you have some insight about what makes them different – or what accounts they have – they are likely to be impressed.
- Most companies have a Twitter, Linkedin and/or Facebook account, register with them as this is often a place where new opportunities are posted, and where you can keep in touch with their current activities or advertising campaigns.
The Careers and Employability Service offers support to students throughout their studies and provision for graduates up to five years after graduation, with advice and guidance on:
- Career options
- Further study
- CV and covering letters
- Application forms
- Job search
We have an online jobs board advertising a variety of graduate jobs across different sectors and locations. We also have a dedicated in-house Graduate Recruitment Consultancy that delivers a personalised job matching service.