How do I Become a Media Buyer?

Stephanie Taylor Christensen

Becoming a media buyer is a process that typically takes a combination of education and experience, and as such it isn’t usually something you can jump into right away. Just the same, it is something that you can prepare for with a combination of schooling and job training. It’s usually a good idea to start with a university degree in a field like communications, marketing, or general business. This will give you the foundational and formalized knowledge you’ll need once you get started. From there, you’ll want to look for work in the field. Some media firms actively recruit students, but in many cases this part of the process will take a lot of effort on your part; you’ll need to research employers in your area and be assertive when reaching out. Attending conferences and networking events can be a good way to get started. In general you’ll also need a willingness to begin in more junior roles like media assistant or consultant and work your way towards buyer with time.

Obtaining an internship with an advertising or marketing agency is an early step in becoming a media buyer.
Obtaining an internship with an advertising or marketing agency is an early step in becoming a media buyer.

Formal Training

There are, of course, a few exceptions, but in most cases you’ll need formal university training to become a media buyer. Most people who enter their studies knowing that they want to focus on media take courses designed specifically for work in the field, though this isn’t really required. For most employers, the crucial thing is that new hires have a university degree in something.

Media buyers negotiate for and buy advertising space.
Media buyers negotiate for and buy advertising space.

If your degree is in a discipline not closely related to the industry, like biology or English, you may need to get more creative, but there are usually a lot of options. You might look to start out in a company that focuses on buying media related to school curriculums or science classroom activities, for instance, or you could present yourself as someone with a keen eye for language and good writing — two essential skills in this line of work. It may also be a good idea to try to pick up a few additional courses without necessarily getting a new degree. Many schools offer courses that can be taken in the evenings, on weekends, or sometimes even online on topics like advertising principles, media planning, online and social marketing practices, and basic business accounting. Any or all of these can be a useful way to both boost your knowledge and your competitive edge.

Work Experience

Getting some sort of in-field work experience is also usually an important part of the equation. Many colleges and universities maintain networking databases of alumni and other employers interested in hiring students and recent graduates, and this can be a good place to start. Reaching out to companies in your region can turn up leads, too. Experience can come in many forms. Taking a part-time internship while you’re in school can often be just as good as a year or more spent working at the entry level, since the main idea is to show basic industry knowledge and proficiency.

Breadth of Knowledge Considerations

It’s important to keep in mind that media buying, and media generally, is a very broad field with many different specialties. Even if you know the sector you want to end up working in, it often makes sense to get a diversity of experiences when you’re just starting out. This will make you more marketable and more flexible, especially if your interests change as you progress in your career. Experts often advise students and young professionals to learn all they can about print, radio, outdoor, out-of-home, non-traditional, and interactive media placements. Being able to converse across platforms will in many cases make you more valuable when you do ultimately become a media buyer.

Conferences and Networking

Aside from formal education and on-the-job training, attending media-centered conferences and networking events is often one of the best ways to improve your portfolio and expertise. These sorts of events are particularly helpful for people who are trying to break into the media buying business from other unrelated job fields. Conferences are put on in many major cities on a fairly regular basis, and are usually a place where many of the field’s leading voices meet up to swap stories, tips, and trends. Presentations about cutting edge tactics are common as well. Additionally, conferences can also a good place to meet people who might be able to help you land a job.

On-the-Job Advancement

It’s often somewhat unusual for a person to be hired right out of school or straight from another industry into a media buying position. More often, the job is seen as something of a promotion from other, lower-ranked media jobs. Buying assistants and interns are usually the best suited for this sort of advancement, but people who work in other facets of the field are often contenders, too. As a result, it’s usually best to be realistic about the time it will probably take you to become a buyer, and to not get discouraged if it seems like you’re stuck in the lower rungs of a firm. Doing all you can to improve your knowledge and demonstrate your work ethic are usually the best tips for promotion and advancement.

Many schools offer training on topics including media planning, online and social marketing practices.
Many schools offer training on topics including media planning, online and social marketing practices.

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do you know of an online course i can take?

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