What's in a Career as an Account Manager?

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Account managers are the ''go-to'' people in modern business. Whether it's public relations, advertising, sales, or promotions, this high-speed career promises high rewards and equally high challenges.

The term account manager is one that covers a wide variety of jobs. In general, account management strategy involves an account manager as the point man of the company, directly interfacing with the customer, developing support for products and services, improving market penetration through public relations, advertising, promotions and sale initiatives, and managing sales, promotion and advertising professionals who will take the company’s message out to the public. The job is a rewarding but high-pressure position, as account managers must constantly adapt to changing market forces and conditions. Account managers can be found in almost all areas of modern business, as well as in government and educational settings where working and influencing public perceptions is key.

Account Managers: The Backbone of Business

Without account managers, the modern business world would grind to a halt in no time. In their many roles, account managers handle company sales, making sure that their sales staffs reach customers and provide the best service. They set the agenda for advertising, promotions, and public relations, drawing in customers to create new business opportunities and cementing old business relationships with fresh new incentives, promotions and products. The job is high pressure, and the stakes high—but the job is also rewarding and lucrative. If you’re the type that loves making the big play, setting the direction of new businesses and the thrill of competing head to head with other companies for the biggest piece of a market share, a career as an account manager may be just the challenge you’re seeking.

Account Managers Wear Many Hats

The term ''account manager'' covers a number of positions, each with its own emphasis. In general, however, account manager jobs can be broken down into five types: advertising managers, marketing managers, promotions managers, public relations managers, and sales managers.

Advertising Managers

Account management also includes account management advertising positions, such as advertising managers. They are in charge of a company’s advertising and promotion. In the case of smaller companies, this job may entail being the main contact between the company and whatever ad or promotional agencies are handling its accounts. If the company is large enough to have its own advertising/promotional department, then the advertising manager is in charge of the creative or media services this department provides. The advertising manager also is responsible for deciding what kinds and how much advertising the company needs, and determining what kind of promotional functions need to be addressed.

Marketing Managers

Marketing managers are responsible for directing a company’s overall marketing strategies. Working with product and marketing research managers, they determine potential markets for the company’s products and services. Marketing managers are also responsible for setting pricing strategies, locating potential new markets, and ensuring customer satisfaction with existing products and services. Marketing managers also monitor competitor’s products, advertising and promotional strategies to maximize their company’s competitive advantages.

Promotions Manager

Promotions managers are in charge of setting up advertising programs that involve some kind of purchase incentives to promote sales. They use direct mail, telemarketing, radio and television ads, catalog, exhibits, point of purchase displays, internet promotional sites, and various events to promote their products. In addition, discounts, samples, rebates, gifts, coupons and contests are all used to sway the potential customer into noticing and trying the company’s products -- the promotion manager is in charge of deciding what incentives will be used and designing campaigns to effectively put these incentives into action.

Public Relations Managers

Public relations managers are in charge of managing publicity programs, directing these initiatives to reach a specific audience. They may also employ teams of public relations specialists to actually deliver the message of the publicity program while they oversee the overall vision. Public relations managers are often employed to manage the public perception of the company during a crisis, legal issue or other embarrassing problem, using press conferences, releases and other media tools to shape the public’s perception of the company.

Sales Managers

Sales managers are in charge of directing a company’s overall sales program, assigning sales territories for its sales staff, setting sales goals, and directing sales trainee programs. To this end, they are also responsible for helping their sales representatives improve their performance in the field. Often, when accounts are held oversees, global account management is involved and employs global or international sales manager positions as well. Sales managers are also responsible for maintaining relations with dealers, distributors, and retail chains. In very large companies, they may have a staff of regional sales managers reporting to them; these regionals handle accounts in specific areas of the country under the overall sales manager’s direction.

What’s the Job Like?

In account management jobs, high pressure is the name of the game. Deadlines are often tight, and the need for flexibility is paramount. Since you may be dealing with a wide variety of players -- advertisers, customers, sales staff, promotions people, market researchers, government agencies, corporate managers and the press, good management and people skills will be at the front of your agenda.

Account manager careers are not for part timers or for the faint of heart (fewer than 15% of all account managers are part time employees). Long hours and weekends are common in this position, although comfortable offices and perks like health club facilities and club memberships help reduce the stress. Traveling may also be a large part of your job if you manage far-flung sales or promotional operations for your company.


Most account manager positions require account management training, normally obtained through earning a bachelor's degree and/or three years of experience in the field, typically gained through interning in an advertising, promotions, or sales position. The biggest quality required in this position is the ability to lead teams effectively and handle a wide variety of tasks at one time—time management skills are critical.

Employment Outlook

Based on US Department of Labor surveys, advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales managers accounted for approximately 583,000 jobs in 2006, distributed by occupational specialty:
Sales managers                                    318,000
Marketing managers                              167,000
Public relations managers                      50,000
Advertising and promotions managers 47,000

Because of the wide number of position variants, account managers are always in demand and will continue to expand positions at a somewhat higher ratio than the national average for other jobs. Increased use of the internet and web commerce will help fuel this expansion, especially with computer savvy management applicants. Typical account manager salaries range from around $36,806 for starting positions, to approximately $77,819 based on experience.

Where the Jobs Are

Account managers can be found in almost any industry. Most, over half in fact, are sales managers employed in wholesale, retail, manufacturing, finance, and insurance industries. Another fourth are marketing managers working in scientific, professional, financial, insurance, and technical fields. Overall, the vast majority of ad and promotion managers also work in these fields, while the bulk of public relations managers work in service industries including finance and insurance firms, professional, scientific, technical, and educational services, and health care and social assistance. Advertising and public relations services firms are located throughout the country, but most are concentrated in large cities. California and New York together account for about 1 in 5 firms and more than 1 in 4 workers in the industry.


If you’re looking for a challenging position with great pay and the chance to make a mark in the business world, a career as an account manager may be just the ticket. And with the wide variety of account manager jobs, you’re certain to find a fit that will match your personal style and skills.
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