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How to Become an Account Manager: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become an account manager. Explore the education requirements, and learn about the experience you'll need to advance your career in public relations. View article »

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  • 0:05 Account Managers
  • 1:12 Step 1: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2:12 Step 2: Experience
  • 2:41 Step 3: Industry Certification
  • 3:06 Step 4: Master's Degree

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Video Transcript

Account Managers

An account manager serves as a liaison between a business and its customers. He or she develops and maintains the relationship between customers and the business by helping to identify the needs of both parties and deciding how best to meet those needs. An account manager may have just one or several clients in his or her portfolio, depending on the size of the business. Many account management positions are found in advertising and public relations. Account managers in these fields need considerable creative, interpersonal, and organizational skills to serve the needs of businesses and customers.

The job of an account manager can be very stressful, especially as deadlines for projects approach. The position is directly correlated to a company's profits and, as a result, account managers carry a lot of responsibility and work closely with executive teams. Some travel may be required to meet with account holders. According to Payscale.com, in September 2015 account managers made a median annual salary of $50,760. Let's explore some of the educational and professional experiences that can help you start your career as an account manager.

Step 1: Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree in advertising, communications, or public relations can help you prepare for a career as an account manager, especially if you're interested in working in advertising or public relations. A major in business or marketing could also work. In an advertising or public relations program, you'll learn about maintaining the image of a company and promoting its products to customers. You'll also have the chance to develop your critical thinking and problem-solving skills and develop extensive experience in speaking and writing. Undergraduate programs in advertising and public relations can include courses in media planning, public relations ethics, statistics, and writing. They also teach students how to develop advertising or public relations campaigns.

Success Tip:

  • Complete an internship. Internships in advertising or public relations organizations offer opportunities for work experience, professional growth, and networking. Students can pursue a internships in areas like media management, copywriting, and account services.

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Step 2: Experience

After completing a bachelor's degree, an aspiring account manager may be hired as a junior account executive or assistant account manager. Day-to-day duties might include managing accounts, finding new customers, and ensuring current customers are happy. Since most account management jobs require some experience directly related to the field, future managers may need to begin with one of these entry-level positions. Good performance and experience may lead to a job as an account manager or senior account manager.

Step 3: Industry Certification

After five years of work experience, an account manager in public relations may sit for the Accredited in Public Relations certification exam offered by the Public Relations Society of America. Potential candidates must also complete a readiness review before they can receive this credential. Although it's not required, this certification can show potential employers that a job candidate has a certain set of skills useful in public relations.

Step 4: Master's Degree

Account managers seeking advancement in their advertising and public relations careers may want to pursue a master's degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), competition for jobs in these fields is strong and obtaining a master's degree could be one way for account managers to stand out in the sea of job candidates.

Master's degree programs in advertising and public relations emphasize strategic thinking, relationship management, creative skills, and ethical responsibility. Graduate-level courses include topics in communication strategies, corporate communications, creative processes, and integrated campaigns. Students also learn about media relations and planning, strategic planning and advertising, and public relations in politics. Some graduate advertising and public relations programs offer opportunities for internships.

Let's go over what we just talked about. A bachelor's degree program in advertising, business, communications, marketing, or public relations can help you prepare for a career as an account manager. As of September 2016, account managers earned a median salary of $50,760 a year, according to Payscale.com.

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