The eminent and eminently quotable 20th century management guru Peter Drucker had a way of breaking down the business of doing business into deceptively straightforward sound bites. He posited that the purpose of business is to create customers, so the two basic functions of an enterprise are marketing and innovation. As he noted, "Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business."
Innovation is a somewhat self-explanatory, if complex process: it’s the thinking and tinkering that goes into the conception, engineering and ultimate creation of a company’s products and services. The marketing side of Drucker’s equation can be more difficult to pin down. In practice, marketing encompasses a wide and diverse range of challenges, from surveying and determining demand for a product or service, to developing packaging concepts and advertising campaigns, from strategic branding and targeted promotions, to the day-to-day imperatives of public relations. It is, indeed, a unique and multifaceted function of business.
There’s no license necessary to enter the field of marketing. But marketing does require a broad base of knowledge, including finely honed communications skills, a firm grasp of consumer psychology, a familiarity with data analysis methodologies and a gut-level instinct for what does and doesn’t work in the world of business. There are internships and entry-level jobs open to applicants with a bachelor’s degree in business and management, media studies and communications, the behavioral sciences and related fields, however, other marketing positions require a graduate degree.
Preparation for a master’s degree in marketing can begin as an undergraduate, when specific areas of study can start you on a path toward a career in marketing. It all depends on the particular area of marketing you intend to pursue. For example, coursework in journalism and new media communications, coupled with strong writing skills, can lay some groundwork for the advertising side of marketing, as can classes in art history, studio arts and photography. On the other hand, a background in economics, computer science, statistics and business law could be more suited for those aiming at management roles in marketing.
Whatever the course of study, experience is always a plus. Internships and entry-level work can be particularly helpful in determining an area of focus. And online master’s degree programs in marketing are generally designed to encourage and accommodate students who have already begun working in the field.