Business Administration

Want to Work for Coke? Here Are the Degrees You’ll Need.

Want to Work for Coke? Here Are the Degrees You’ll Need.
Instead of asking candidates about their biggest weakness during job interviews, Coca-Cola hiring managers pose the question: "How could you be misunderstood?" Image from Unsplash
Mairead Kelly profile
Mairead Kelly March 11, 2020

Coke employees earn upwards of $180,000 per year, on average, for director- and managerial-level positions in IT, business development, sales, and decision science.

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It’s virtually impossible to exist in the modern-day world without awareness of Coca-Cola, easily one of the most iconic brands in existence. Since its origins in 1886, the signature drink has navigated changes in the U.S. and abroad, evolving into a time-honored corporation with a history of financial growth. That its humble beginnings are rooted in a narcotics-infused elixir only adds to its charm.

Like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, known as “Coke” to many, has roots in the late 19th-century apothecary scene. But whereas Pepsi was served as a sugary fountain drink, Coke inventor John Stith Pemberton initially created a beverage to impart good health and stamina, which mostly meant making it alcoholic and yes, included cocaine. He named it “Pemberton’s French Wine Coca Nerve Tonic.”

When prohibition swept through the U.S. and halted the production and sale of alcohol in 1886, Pemberton created a sweet syrup that could be mixed with carbonated water and served at the soda fountain. No more alcohol here, but the cocaine? It stayed.

That is, until 1903 when it was removed from Coke’s formula altogether. Other minor adjustments have been made in the past century or so, but beyond the “New Coke” disaster of 1985, the recipe has largely remained unchanged.

It’s easy to say there’s something special about the Coca-Cola company—even apart from its namesake soda’s historically psychoactive ingredients. These days, Coke asserts that no matter its nearly unparalleled success in the marketplace, it looks to build on its global reach, unrivaled distribution system, and the commitment of its employees.

Coke employees based out of the company’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia and offices and production centers across the U.S. enjoy a range of benefits that support their health and well-being and provide them with a foundation for professional and financial growth. These include extensive healthcare coverage, competitive performance-based bonuses, and tuition reimbursement for up to 50 percent of employees’ total educational costs.

Over on their site, the company lists many reasons to consider a career building brands people love. As Coke puts it, their corporate and production spaces are “a place where you can make a positive mark on the world.”

Whether through the company’s many sustainability initiatives, human rights work, or hundreds of beloved brands,, there are endless opportunities to build a career at Coke that’s limitless in learning, personal growth, and impact. You just might need these degrees first.

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A Sip of Coke History

Pemberton first sold his drink for five cents a glass at his pharmacy in Atlanta, where the sales for the first eight months averaged nine glasses a day. Another Atlanta pharmacist and businessman, Asa Griggs Candler, bought into Pemberton’s company and, in 1887, bought the remaining interest and formula. Unfortunately, Pemberton died just a few years later.

By the late 1890s, Coke was one of America’s most popular fountain drinks, largely due to Candler’s aggressive marketing tactics, which repositioned the soda as a refreshing beverage you could drink recreationally—and built up positive emotional associations with the drink among consumers.

Advertising was a crucial factor in Coke’s early success. By the turn of the 20th century, the drink was sold across the United States and Canada. Around the same time, the company began selling syrup to independent bottling companies licensed to sell the drink—an approach the U.S. soft drink industry continues to use.

Over time, Coke found success almost everywhere in the world—and sometimes, above it. Tourists can enjoy a frosty drink on their way to St. Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai. In the Mexican state of Chiapas, religious leaders at St. John the Baptist use the soda as decoration, for healing, and for religious services. Coke was even the first soft drink enjoyed in space.

Today, Coke produces nearly 450 brands in more than 200 countries and is easily one of the world’s most recognizable trademarks. It comes in at number six on Forbes’ list of the world’s most valuable brands, with an estimated market value of $203 billion.

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“Should I Get A MBA?”

The National Association of Colleges and Employers predicted an average starting salary for 2019 MBA graduates of $84,580—provided those graduates found jobs in computer science, engineering, science, or business. (source)

Students considering an MBA or graduate business degree can choose from varied career paths, including those focused on financial management, data analytics, market research, healthcare management, and operations management. The analytical skills and problem-solving techniques gained from graduate level business degrees are in high demand across business sectors. (source)

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Working at Coke

The company’s 62,600 employees work within teams across a range of departments, including advertising, science, research and development, sales and account management, and supply chain. PayScale data indicates that Coke employees in the U.S. typically make anywhere from $43,436 to $140,727 a year, with an average annual salary of $79,043.

__Some of the highest-paid jobs at Coke include the following, listed by average base salary:__

  • Director of research and development: $231,000
  • Global information technology (IT) director: $227,500
  • Vice president of business development: $224,000
  • Market unit general manager: $219,500
  • Vice president of sales: $209,992
  • Senior design director: $208,000
  • Group director: $195,752
  • Vice president of engineering: $193,500
  • Director of decision science: $191,500
  • Business services project manager: $185,500

Want to Work at Coke? Here Are the Degrees You’ll Need.

Coke’s job site features thousands of open positions in areas such as marketing and brand management, IT and engineering, and business management.

Marketing and brand management jobs at Coke

Coke’s marketing and brand management team works to increase sales, market share, and profit by understanding its customers, consumers, and competition. Whether through package design, social media, or print ads, the team’s expertise helps drive the success of one of the world’s best-known brands and build cohesive marketing strategies to grow awareness of others.

This department is currently looking for candidates to fill openings for multiple product portfolio specialists. Management opportunities focus on marketing communications, brand development, and consumer and brand analytics and insights.

Job seekers pursuing a product portfolio specialist role at Coke will need a bachelor’s degree in business, supply chain management, or a related field. Though the company doesn’t list a degree requirement for candidates pursuing managerial titles in this area, they may benefit from a master’s degree in marketing or marketing analytics.

IT and engineering jobs at Coke

Day-to-day, you may find members of Coke’s IT and engineering department helping the company’s digital marketing team bring their ideas to life, working with distributors on data scanning systems, and testing and deploying systems for gathering volume and revenue data.

Those who aspire to provide the next iteration of knowledge and skills behind Coke’s world-class systems and infrastructure have many opportunities to consider, covering positions like big data engineer, principal project engineer, and cloud engineer.

While candidates pursuing big data engineering roles will most often need a bachelor’s in computer science, information systems management, or a related degree, other openings within Coke’s engineering team note a preference for graduate-level education.

For cloud engineering, it’s a master’s degree in computer science or a related field. For principal project engineering, the company favors candidates with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). B-school concentrations in engineering management, project management, or data analytics may be particularly beneficial.

IT openings include a master data systems administrator, characters per second (CPS) IT technology architect, principal IT auditor, and senior software developer. Although a number of these listings highlight advanced responsibilities, all of them keep education requirements at the undergraduate level. Here, candidates typically need a bachelor’s degree in a field like computer science or information technology.

Business management jobs at Coke

It’s strategy that powers Coke’s future—and it’s often up to its business management experts to anticipate the next big market trend, take on big challenges, and put ideas into practice. This department is currently searching to fill a myriad of jobs, which include listings for a demand planning specialist, business systems analyst, and a logistics operations specialist.

Management opportunities span openings for a senior manager of trade strategy and insights, global governance and operations manager, and a senior manager of category strategic advisory.

Associate-level positions in this area commonly require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree, with some jobs noting concentrations in business, finance or supply chain management. On the other hand, job seekers considering senior-level business management positions will find that while an undergraduate education may be adequate, candidates with an MBA or a related master’s degree are preferred.

Internships at Coke

Coke’s summer internship program recruits career-minded undergraduate and graduate students to work across teams spanning from supply chain to creative services—and just about every department in between.

Internships typically take place over ten weeks at Coke’s Atlanta headquarters and give students a pathway to engage in meaningful work, learn from talented employees across the business, and build lasting connections with other interns and colleagues.

Throughout the summer, Coke emphasizes community service, networking, education, and socializing by coordinating trips to Braves games, river clean-ups, dynamic business presentations, and tours at other Atlanta-based organizations where students can learn about corporate innovation.

In turn, Coke asks students to take on challenges and contribute back to the business, whether launching social media platforms for the company or pursuing engineering projects.

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Make an Impact With Coke

In a 2018 Business Insider interview, Stacey Valy Panayiotou, Senior Vice President of Global Talent and Development at Coca-Cola noted that she isn’t one to ask candidates about their biggest weakness during interviews.

Instead, she prefers two questions. One is “How could you be misunderstood?” and the other, “How can people get the wrong impression of you, and what do you do about that perception?”

According to Panayiotou, these questions “help candidates address the obstacles they face and how they manage to get around them. At Coke, we want well-rounded people, people who know how to learn through failure.”

Panayiotou’s questions may seem intended to send candidates scrambling for answers, but they aren’t designed to. Rather, they’re designed to highlight relevant experiences and skills in a candidate’s past that could help them in the role.

This doesn’t mean that Panayiotou and others in charge of hiring at Coke are focused on candidates’ flaws. “I love to ask questions that help to bring a candidate’s résumé to life,” she says. “And I encourage them to describe why the job they seek is interesting to them.”

(Last Updated on February 26, 2024)

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Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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