Marketing & Advertising

How Much Does a Marketing Director Make?

How Much Does a Marketing Director Make?
Step one is earning a bachelor's degree in marketing or a related discipline, like advertising or market research. Image from Death to the Stock Photo
Christa Terry profile
Christa Terry April 13, 2020

Marketing director is a mid- to late-career role that pays accordingly. Marketing directors earn six figures on average, with big cities paying the best (in Boston, marketing directors earn an average salary of $162,000).

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Marketing directors do a lot. These marketing management professionals develop strategies that drive marketing campaigns and advertising promotions. They also oversee all internal and external branding, marketing, and communications for companies and other types of organizations.

The job involves working with budgets, managing people, monitoring data analytics, and more. The hours can be long, and when campaigns don’t perform as expected, the marketing director has to answer to the board of directors, the CMO, or the executive vice president of marketing.

That’s why marketing directors typically earn a lot. According to a salary survey conducted by the Creative Group, the midpoint starting salary for marketing directors is $108,000, which isn’t too shabby.

As you’ll see below, however, that median salary doesn’t mean that your annual salary will be that high when you land your first (or fifth) director of marketing job. A lot of factors affect marketing director salaries, and there are choices you can make that can boost your earning potential in this role. Whether you decide to make those choices will depend on what your aspirations are and what you hope to get out of your career.

In this article about what the average marketing director salary looks like, we cover:

  • How do you become a marketing director?
  • Do marketing directors with master’s degrees earn more?
  • Are there certifications for marketing directors?
  • What is the average annual marketing director salary?
  • What are the best locations for marketing director jobs?
  • Where do marketing directors earn the most money?
  • How can I increase my earning potential in this role?
  • Is this the highest-paid position in marketing?

How do you become a marketing director?

Step one is earning a bachelor’s degree in marketing or a related discipline like advertising or market research. It’s possible to launch a career in marketing with a degree in analytics, communications, information technology, English, or business administration. That said, if your 10-year plan involves becoming a marketing director, marketing is the way to go. Not only will a Bachelor of Science in Marketing give you the kind of strong foundation knowledge that will prepare you for many marketing roles, but it will also help you land an entry-level position more quickly. You may also be able to command a higher starting salary right out of college, which means your total lifetime compensation will probably also be higher.

Step two is paying your dues and gaining some experience in roles like marketing specialist, marketing coordinator, or marketing assistant. These aren’t particularly lucrative positions (the typical salary range is $35,000 to $55,000), but they will enable you to hone the marketing skills you learned in school in a real-world setting.

Step three is earning a marketing master’s degree. While the highest level of education technically required to advance into a marketing manager-level role is a bachelor’s degree, 43 percent of marketing directors have master’s degrees. Chances are that when you’ve racked up enough experience to begin applying for director of marketing positions, you’ll be competing against candidates with advanced degrees.

Many aspiring marketing directors enroll in Master of Science in Marketing programs, but you should also look into getting an MBA in marketing. These programs give students a strong foundation in business, leadership, and management principles, but also cover advanced concepts related to traditional and digital marketing, advertising, and promotions.

Some top marketing MBA programs can be found at:

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Do marketing directors with master’s degrees earn more?

Marketing directors with master’s degrees tend to earn an average base salary higher than do marketing executives without advanced degrees. How much more you can earn in this position with a master’s degree depends on many factors. Data suggests that master’s degree holders in this position may earn almost 20 percent more. Marketing directors with MBAs are the top earners, with salaries $30,000 higher than the average for this role.

Are there certifications for marketing directors?

There are numerous professional certifications for marketing professionals, and plenty of marketing directors have professional credentials that showcase their experience and skills. That said, most surveys look at how practical certifications like the various Google Analytics and Google Ads credentials impact salaries. It’s not clear whether general marketing certifications or those designed for executives actually have a positive effect on earning potential.

Employers typically aren’t looking for marketers with specific certifications. The value of the following certifications may lie in how you market yourself:

What is the average annual marketing director salary?

It’s hard to pin down an average annual marketing director salary because different sources report different numbers. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that median pay for all management-level marketing professionals is about $133,000 (a number that Salary.com figure backs up). According to The Creative Group 2019 Salary Guide, however, the average salary for marketing directors is $108,000.

Glassdoor reports that marketing directors earn $96,000, PayScale reports the average salary is closer to $88,000, and ZipRecruiter’s estimate is significantly lower at $74,000.

There’s no way to know which source is correct, and there’s a chance that they all are if they’re using self-reported data to calculate those figures. Salaries can vary significantly by location, industry, company size, highest level of education, experience, specializations, and other qualifications. A marketing director with a master’s degree and multiple certifications working in New York City will probably earn more than one with a bachelor’s degree working somewhere in West Virginia. However, a marketing director with a bachelor’s degree working for a large healthcare system in West Virginia might earn more than a marketing director with a master’s degree employed by a smaller digital marketing firm in New York City.

What are the best locations for marketing director jobs?

Unsurprisingly, big cities are where you’ll find the most marketing jobs, whether you’re looking at openings for entry-level positions or top executive roles. According to Forbes, the best cities for marketing jobs are:

  • Boston, MA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Long Beach, CA
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • New York City
  • Oakland, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • San Jose, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Washington, DC

Of course, just because there are more jobs for marketers in these cities doesn’t mean you’re more likely to land one of those jobs. Large urban areas tend to have more openings for marketing directors, but there will also be more people applying for those openings. You might actually have better luck applying for marketing director jobs in smaller cities or even suburban or rural areas where there’s less competition.

Where do marketing directors earn the most money?

If you do decide to look for work in a big city, chances are you’ll earn more money than your colleagues working in other parts of the country. According to PayScale, the best cities for marketing jobs are also the cities where marketing directors tend to earn the most.

Before you decide to move to NYC or LA, however, you need to consider that the cost of living in major metro areas tends to be high. You’ll probably earn a lot more working in Seattle than you will if you take a job in Spokane, but Seattle is 86 percent more expensive than Spokane with regard to housing, food, and other essentials. The number on your paycheck will be higher, but your buying power will be a lot lower—and you may have nothing left to save at the end of the month.

Which industries pay marketing directors the most?

Openings for marketing directors can be found in almost every industry. If your goal is to earn as much money as possible in this position, you may want to steer clear of agency work. Designing advertising campaigns for clients doesn’t typically pay as well as heading up a team of marketing professionals in these high-paying industries:

  • Finance and investments, where you can earn $164,000
  • Oil and gas extraction, where you can earn $162,000
  • Computer equipment manufacturing, where you can earn $159,000
  • Scientific research and development, where you can earn $159,000
  • Film and entertainment, where you can earn $158,000

Across all industries, big corporations pay their marketing directors the most. Land a job at a company like Microsoft or Medtronic, and you’ll earn an average base salary of close to $200,000.

How can I increase my earning potential in this role?

Knowledge is power, and work experience is earning power. Earning more when you become a director of marketing is a matter of understanding as much as you can about marketing and then leveraging that knowledge in ways that make money for your employer.

According to PayScale, the top income-boosting skills for marketing directors include:

It’s not enough to show that you studied these topics in your master’s program, however. You need to demonstrate that you are capable of leveraging your knowledge and skills to get tangible results. Can you show that a marketing strategy you devised resulted in increased sales or that your past hiring decisions resulted in social media engagement that led to revenue gains? How did your choices increase user acquisition, profits, and customer engagement in the leadership roles you’ve held in the past? The more hard numbers you can show on your resume, the easier it will be to negotiate higher salaries.

Is this the highest-paid position in marketing?

No, that honor belongs to the CMOs of the world, who (according to PayScale and Glassdoor) earn about $173,000 on average. That base salary estimate doesn’t include bonuses, commissions, or profit sharing, which means that most CMOs earn a lot more. Some CMOs actually take home seven-figure paychecks.

However, marketing director is one of the highest-paid positions in the marketing world, along with global marketing executive, channel development executive, and market research executives. You definitely won’t go hungry when you land in this role, even if you’re not bringing home the big bucks yet.

Remember, salary averages never tell the whole story—for every top earner, there will be a marketing director out there earning $80,000 or less. Sometimes the only way to find out what you’re worth is to put yourself out there. Start applying for director of marketing positions, and you’ll soon discover what kind of salaries you can command. If the numbers you’re being offered aren’t as high as you were hoping to see, it might be time to think about getting that marketing MBA you’ve been putting off.

(Last Updated on February 26, 2024)

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