Editor-In-Chief: Al Anderson
    Feature Editors: Erin Clinch, Faith Ragan
    Sponsored Content Editor: Tina Barni

    The Shortlist welcomes pitches for stories pertinent to advancing marketing and business development in the architectural, engineering, and construction fields. Email pitches to Al Anderson.

    The Shortlist

    Tips for Breaking Into the A/E/C Industry as a Marketer

    In the past month alone, 22 marketing positions have been posted to the SMPS SFBAC Job Board. Many firms are seeking marketing assistant or coordinator talent, titles which are generally considered entry-level.

    So how does one enter the architecture, engineering, and construction (A/E/C) marketing industry? Most A/E/C firms don’t have an institutionalized marketing career path or college degree funnel, and marketing professionals find their way to the industry in a variety of ways. To marketers new to the industry, career progression can be confusing.

    We took a look at demographic data from our 2018 Salary Survey as well as the past six years of new member profiles for The Shortlist to shed some light on breaking into A/E/C.

    Degree Dedication

    Based on a review of more than 200 samples from the Salary Survey and the Shortlist, it appears that about 90% of A/E/C marketers have college degrees. There are examples of people who started as an administrative assistant and eventually moved up to more senior positions in their organizations without the benefits of a college degree, but they are the exception.

    Most marketers have a Bachelor’s degree and approximately 18% have advanced degrees. This begs the question: what did they study?

    Per the Salary Survey, 20% of marketers have a technical background (majoring in graphic design, architecture, engineering, construction management, or a related field). Half of the respondents with a technical background cited training in graphic design.

    This emphasis on graphic design is important to note, because 44.5% of survey respondents indicated that they do graphic design as a regular part of their job. Graphic design is especially important for marketing at architecture firms, where the visual look of proposals is a key element of their selling power. Other common additional job functions include recruitment marketing, administrative work, and technical writing.

    But what about the 80% with a non-technical background? The survey did not ask for non-technical degree subjects, so I dug into Shortlist profiles, where degrees are often mentioned. In the past six years of Shortlist articles 29 majors have been mentioned, as follows: Marketing (7), Graphic/Visual Design/Photography (5), English/Literature/Journalism/Communications (4), Architecture (3), Landscape Architecture, Counseling, Art History, Health Care Administration, History, Social Work, Anthropology, Economics, Government, and Business Management. While there are some more common majors, A/E/C marketers come from a wide variety of backgrounds.

    Newcomers might be surprised to know that there are no professional accreditations required to break into the industry. 69% of those currently working in the industry as A/E/C marketers do not have a professional accreditation. That said, the Certified Professional Services Marketer (CPSM) is one accreditation that A/E/C marketers strive to achieve. In the San Francisco Chapter alone, there are 39 current CPSMs.

    The Path to Success

    Some suggestions:

    • Recent graduates should check out the internships page on the SMPS San Francisco website, especially during the winter/early spring, when internships tend to be posted. A marketing internship is almost a guarantee of a follow-up job offer in this industry.
    • Get involved in SMPS even before you graduate! The Chapter offers an annual student scholarship to help cover membership dues.
    • If you’re trying to break in to A/E/C from another industry, join SMPS and take advantage of your local chapter’s Mentorship Program. This program pairs you with industry veterans who are more than happy to give you the inside scoop on what it takes to succeed. For the San Francisco Chapter, enrollment starts every September.
    • Attend the Chapter’s programs! The programs offer valuable continuing education, and there are always opportunities for networking. Networking is the key to finding the right job to match your qualifications.


    A/E/C needs marketing leadership. It’s an exciting time to get involved in the industry, as firms are in growth mode and opportunities abound.

    Al Anderson, CPSM, is the Proposal Manager for Nova Group, Inc., a construction company located in Napa. He has been a member of SMPS for 14 years and is the Managing Editor of the Shortlist.

    Return to list