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Advertising, marketing & PR Career Pathways For School Leavers

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Advertising, marketing & public relations (PR) is an industry that’s full of life and helps a brand/company to deliver their messages into the world through a range of creative mediums - usually in order to influence behaviours. It’s a popular industry, especially among younger generations, and can offer a highly varied career path.

Working days in this industry can be long, especially when finalising details for a campaign or getting a proposal in before a deadline, but the feelings of satisfaction when you see a campaign you've worked on come to life, or you win a client, make it worthwhile.

Typically jobs in this industry can be divided into two camps - agency and in-house. Those who work for an agency will have multiple clients to work on, whereas in-house you will focus all of your energy on the company that you work for. Types of activities that you will work on include: organising campaigns, planning strategies, designing marketing materials, working out advertising plans, and much more.

A marketing and advertising team in a large company is likely to comprise of a number of people with slightly different job titles, with slightly different specialisms, and you will work together to make campaigns come to life. In these teams, it’s important that you’re able to work collaboratively to make sure all the different elements of a campaign come together to form a cohesive whole.

There are a huge variety of roles available within this industry because it covers such a large remit and different activities. This means that you are likely to find something that suits your requirements for a job - travel opportunities, flexible working, the chance to sell and pitch ideas. It also means that your career can be very varied, as it's quite common for those to move around within the industry to develop new skills.


To work in advertising, marketing and PR it’ll help if you have a social personality and are able to get on with people easily - both for building relationships with clients and working within a team.

Different roles in this industry require many different types of skills, but in general you’ll need the following to succeed:

- Ability to Work Under Pressure
- Analytical skills
- Creativity
- Organisation
- Teamwork
- Verbal Communication
- Written Communication

Progression opportunities

Although there are many different roles available within this industry, there is a general progression structure that most companies tend to follow - although the titles may vary slightly. The general structure is:

  • Assistant

  • Executive

  • Senior executive

  • Manager

  • Senior manager

  • Director

Expect to stay in each of these roles at least a couple of years, before being given the opportunity to prove yourself and move up.
You should be in a position to apply for assistant level roles after you complete your apprenticeship, if this is the route you decide to go down.

Career development

If you look online you will find a number of companies and organisations that offer training courses and professional qualifications in marketing. These courses will help you to keep your knowledge and skills up to date, while also proving your dedication to the industry. This’ll help your case when looking to be promoted, or seeking a more advanced role in a different company. The most highly recognised body who offers these courses is the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM).

If you have completed an apprenticeship in this area, you could consider going on to university afterwards in order to increase your professional standing.

Types of jobs in Advertising, marketing & PR

Earning potential

As an apprentice, you’ll earn a minimum of £3.70 per hour if you’re under 19 or in the first year of your apprenticeship, or the National Minimum Wage if you’re over 19. This works out at around £150 - £240 per week.

Entry-level salaries tend to be pretty low in this industry, but as you take on more responsibilities and make yourself indispensable to a company your salary could increase quickly.

The salary that you’re paid in advertising, marketing and PR depends on your level of experience and the amount of responsibility you hold in a company. Corporate marketing, specifically in areas such as finance and property, are likely to earn more than those in the more sought after sectors such as entertainment and fashion.

Average salaries, according to PayScale, are:
Marketing executive- £23,172
Marketing coordinator - £21,918
Marketing manager (entry level) - £29,229
Marketing manager - £32,907
Senior marketing manager - £48,407
Events Co-ordinator - £19,600
Events Manager - £25,846
Advertising account executive - £19,999
Advertising account manager - £26,636
Advertising account director -£43,927
Art director - £36,064
Senior graphic designer - £34,661
Advertising manager - £36,194
Copywriter -£23,497
Senior copywriter - £39,001
PR executive - £20,397
PR account manager - £26,700
PR manager - £33,608
PR account director - £44,946

Qualification requirements & subjects to study

As a school leaver who is determined to make it in advertising, marketing or PR, you have a variety of options.

One route is so go to university and study a subject aligned to the area – for example marketing, business, management, PR or similar. Humanities subjects such as English and history, or social sciences like psychology, are also good degrees to take if you want to get into this industry.

If you don’t want to go to university, you could look at alternative career routes. Apprenticeships are available in advertising, marketing and PR, and will see you studying and working for a company at the same time. You will work alongside experienced staff and will have one day off per week to study, usually at a local technical college or equivalent. This can be a great route for those who know what they want to do early, and don’t want to burden themselves with the time and debt of university.

Industry Bodies

Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM)
Direct Marketing Association (DMA)
Chartered Institute of Public Relations
Institute of Practitioners in Advertising
Institute of Promotional Marketing
The Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing

Further Reading

Marketing Agencies Association (MAA)
Public Relations and Communications Association
Market Research Society (MRS)

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