Become a Media Buyer: Education and Career Roadmap

Watch this video to learn how to become a media buyer. Find out about the education requirements, training and experience you'll need to start a career buying advertising space for companies.

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Do I Want to Be a Media Buyer?

Media buyers are responsible for purchasing advertising space for their companies in a variety of media. This advertising space can come in the form of print ads in newspapers and magazines, television commercials, cinema advertisements, radio spots and ads on the Internet. Media buyers conduct market research on the likely customers for their client's product and evaluate advertising strategies to determine which are most likely to be effective in reaching those customers. They negotiate advertising rates and create a cost-effective buying plan.

This profession involves making decisions that are both creative and business-driven. Media buyers often work with the top executives of companies and court high-level clients. However, they often face stressful days driven by deadlines.

Job Requirements

Media buyers usually need a bachelor's degree with a focus on advertising, marketing or sales. College-level business courses can be helpful preparation as well. The following table describes the core requirements for a career as a media buyer.

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field(s) Advertising, marketing, or communications
Experience Optional internships may help an entry-level media buyer obtain the initial professional position
Key Skills Active listening, critical thinking, persuasion, social perceptiveness, speaking, judgment and decision making, negotiation skills, monitoring, active learning, coordination, operations analysis
Computer Skills Analytical or scientific software, customer relationship management CRM software, database user interface and query software, graphics software
Salary (2012) $29.11/hour or $60,550/year (Median salary for Purchasing Managers, Buyers and Purchasing Agents)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Survey of job postings in October 2012, O*Net Online.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Most job postings for media buyers in October of 2012 required that entry-level candidates possess a bachelor's degree in advertising, marketing or communications. A typical bachelor's degree program in advertising offers courses in advertising principles, account planning, media planning, public relations, consumer behavior, integrated campaigns and sales. Some students may also choose to take courses in photography, graphic design and copywriting.

Success Tip:

  • Complete an internship. To gain work experience while still in school, students may seek out internship opportunities. Some internships are offered as part of a degree plan, while others are offered by local advertising firms, media companies and other agencies. The American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A's) regularly posts internships and other career opportunities on its website. Duties for an advertising intern may range from assisting account specialists with media management services to implementing a media campaign.

Step 2: Find a Position

Sometimes internships turn into full-time positions; otherwise, candidates may look for work with advertising firms or media buying agencies. Media buyers work under the supervision of media planners and are responsible for following and purchasing available advertising space. Some typical tasks involved in the duties of an entry-level media buyer might include conducting market research analysis, managing client schedules, screening the advertising content produced for a client and handling billing discrepancies.

Success Tip:

  • Join a professional organization. Both new and experienced media buyers are likely to benefit from the educational and networking opportunities available to them from such organizations as the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the American Academy of Advertising (AAA). The IAB offers vocational advice on industry best practices, conferences and symposiums, networking opportunities and a job board. The AAA is a more scholarly network for advertising professionals with a focus on education. Taking part in activities that are offered by organizations such as these can help keep a media buyer informed about current trends in the profession.

Step 3: Continued Education and Training

Many media buyers/planners need to be proficient with planning software, such as Strata and Media Ocean. They also need to be familiar with Nielson Ratings and target audiences. Learning how to track data and make educated predictions based on previous data, as well as having up-to date information in terms of ratings, traffic, and audience is essential.

Success Tip:

  • Subscribe to professional journals. The Journal of Current Issues and Research in Advertising (JCIRA) through the American Academy of Advertising, is a source for current research, data, and the role of advertising in society.
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