Careers Service Occupations




Advertising is one of the most dynamic industries in the UK, with opportunities available in agencies or in-house.

Jobs in advertising are changing to reflect the needs of a global digital economy. The industry want graduates from a wider range of disciplines, such as economics, languages and computer science.

Gaining relevant experience and networking is vital to getting a graduate job in this competitive field. You will need to be resilient and self-motivated, with strong commercial awareness. Experience in this field tends to come through speculative applications.

Opportunities in advertising can be found across the UK, although around half of all jobs in the digital and creative sector are found in London and the South-East. Some other key creative 'hotspots' include Bath, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Guildford, Edinburgh, Manchester and Oxford. 

Careers advice

Careers websites

Industry news

Campaign includes marketing, advertising and communications news, case studies and examples of creative work. It is useful for keeping up-to-date with the sector. 

The Drum features industry news and jobs.

Professional bodies 

These represent people working in the sector, providing training and networking opportunities. They often provide careers support for students and graduates. 

They also provide development for people already working in the sector. Follow them and sector skills bodies on LinkedIn, or visit their websites for news, contacts, work experience and vacancies.

Professional associations

Sector skills councils/industry groups

  • D&AD – exists to promote excellence in creative communications and run awards and education programmes
  • Young Creative Council - collective of creatives that provide help and support to young talent in the ad industry
  • NABS – charity offers advice, careers guidance and support to people in the advertising industry

Find professional bodies outside the UK on GoinGlobal by selecting ‘Professional and Personal Networking’ on each of the individual country guides. 

Making contacts

Making contacts is essential for success in this sector. Many jobs in this field come through networking and speculative applications. You could start with:

Social media, particularly LinkedIn and Twitter, is useful for making contacts, finding employers and opportunities. Find out more about how to use social media for your career and subscribe to our Advertising sector Twitter list.


Recruitment fairs, open days, talks and events give insight and opportunities to make contacts. Regular events organised by the Careers Service include Employer & Sector Insights and Recruitment Events.

Related sectors

You may also be interested in Marketing or PR. See our other Explore Occupations pages for more options.

Roles & Skills

As well as the more traditional advertising roles listed below, there are also emerging roles with the growth in digital.

Ben Quigley, CEO of EverythingDifferent agency in Newcastle and former Chairman of the IPA (England and Wales), told us:

‘Agencies need people with new skills to fill these opportunities. If you are a thinker or analytical you might make a good strategist, planner or data manager. 

'If you are good with words and pictures or UX (user experience), you may be cut out for a creative career or tech development. 

'If you are highly organised and personable, you might make a good project manager or production manager. If you are a journalist, you may find opportunities within a content team or brand newsroom.’

For these new areas, employers are keen to attract graduates from an increasingly wide range of degree disciplines. These can include statistics, biology and computer science. See the IPA website to find out more.

Roles in advertising 

See also Campaign's list of job descriptions

Advertising account executive

Advertising account planner

Advertising art director

Advertising copywriter

Creative director

Media buyer

Media planner

Media analyst

Skills employers look for

Employers look for skills including:

  • good analytical skills and the ability to generate ideas; being strategic as well as creative
  • the ability to communicate your ideas clearly and convincingly
  • excellent organisational skills and the ability to stick to tight deadlines
  • the ability to work under pressure and show initiative
  • the ability to form strong working relationships and be a team player - all aspects of an advertising campaign are rarely developed by one person

Recruiters will be looking for a good degree, not necessarily in a related subject. They will seek enthusiasm for and understanding of the industry.

Advertising agencies also look for people who can switch between linear and lateral thinking to find solutions to complex problems. 

Gaining Experience

Getting into advertising is extremely competitive. Work experience can be invaluable in developing relevant skills and demonstrating your interest and commitment to recruiters.

Advertising employers value work experience over further academic study. While some postgraduate courses do include a work placement and have links with industry, a postgraduate qualification is not essential and will not guarantee a higher salary. 

Several large advertising agencies offer internships, apprenticeships and graduate schemes, for example, VCCP and Ogilvy in London. In Newcastle, examples of agencies who offer/have offered work experience in the past include Different and O (PR, Digital and Creative Communications agency).

Applications generally open around August or September, with closing dates as early as October and November. 

Smaller agencies often don’t advertise jobs or work experience. You may need to contact them with a speculative approach. Do this early, as it can be competitive.

Finding work experience

Internships and placements  

  • Search for vacancies on MyCareer
  • The Careers Service also runs term-time and summer internships which often include marketing/advertising roles (eg copywriting). You can search for these under Vacancies on MyCareer - look under 'Vacancy Type' for Term time or Vacation Work Experience
  • The Dots - advertises creative internships
  • See Internships, placements and shadowing for additional sources of vacancies

Some advertising agencies offer taster programmes, including workshops, crash courses, work experience or apprenticeships to create opportunities for students from all backgrounds. Some of these programmes are specifically targeted at students from diverse backgrounds to enrich the industry.

Finding companies 

Find organisations that interest you and get in touch, always with a named contact. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for. 

Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills. Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show you’re keen.

See Campaign for an interesting article about approaching advertising agencies.

Talk to people working in the sector, eg informational interview, for insight into the roles found in advertising.

Other ways to gain experience

If you're struggling to find work experience, you could try alternative routes, such as:

  • applying to become a marketing placement student for the Careers Service, promoting our activities and events - applications typically open in semester 2 for the following academic year.
  • entering an advertising-related competition - see Awards & Competitions for details of external competitions
  • practising your written skills by writing promotional copy for societies, articles for the Courier or create your own blog
  • thinking about voluntary work: charities and voluntary organisations often need communications expertise. See Volunteering

Young Creative Council details other ways to get into advertising, including short courses and programmes.

You can develop your commercial awareness by researching agencies and looking at recent campaigns. Think about what the core message of the campaign is and why the brand would want to promote itself in that way. What is it trying to achieve and what impact does it have?

Finding Jobs

Opportunities are found mostly within advertising agencies, but there is a growth in companies developing agencies in-house, eg Spotify, Google and Metro.

Competition is strong, especially for initial positions.

Professional bodies also advertise graduate positions. See About for a list of organisations.

Use the following resources to find advertised vacancies and research employers for speculative applications.

Vacancy sites

For more sources of vacancies, go to Graduate jobs.

To find opportunities outside the UK, see GoinGlobal and International Jobs.

Specialist recruitment agencies

Finding companies

Find agencies that interest you and get in touch – always with a named contact. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for. 

Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills. Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show that you’re keen.

For opportunities in the US, see 4A’s – the trade association for the US advertising industry. It includes an agency search tool – useful for speculative applications and networking.

Work for yourself

In advertising, opportunities to work as an independent consultant are rare.

Some experienced professionals, however, do go on to form their own agencies/consultancies.

For more information and advice on freelancing and self-employment, and to find out how our START Up team can support you, visit our Work for Yourself pages.