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Media Buyer Career Guide

How to Become a Media Buyer

The average American is exposed to around 4,000 advertisements each day. These ads must be in the right place, on the right channel, and at the right time for people to see them. This visibility is largely made possible by media buyers. It’s their job to find and purchase ad space for print, radio, TV, social media, and other online campaigns in order to promote their company’s message. 

Becoming a media buyer can be a great career fit if you’re media-savvy, enjoy numbers and metrics, and want a job where you can flex your negotiation skills. And with companies spending billions of dollars each year in advertising their products and services, media buying can be a highly lucrative and in-demand career path.

Wondering what a media buyer does and how you can become one? Keep reading this guide to find out. 

budget analyst crunching numbers

What Is a Media Buyer?

Television, print, radio, film, social media, and the internet are all key platforms through which products and services are publicized and sold. Media buyers are experts on these platforms. They know which channels get the best engagement and stay up-to-date on how events or seasons might affect ad placement and cost. Media buyers use this knowledge to negotiate with sales managers to get the best advertising spots while sticking to a strict budget.

Because they often work together, sometimes people use the terms “media buyer” and “media planner” interchangeably. However, their roles are very different. To put it simply, media planners develop a placement strategy and then media buyers buy and place the ads based on that strategy.

What Does a Media Buyer Do?

Media buyers do much more than just purchase ad space. They build strong relationships with media channels to get the best media slots with the biggest reach to increase conversions and maximize ROI. Once an ad campaign is launched, media buyers track its performance metrics to make sure it's meeting campaign goals. 

To give you a better idea of what your day-to-day might look like as a media buyer, below are some of the general responsibilities you can expect to have in this role.

  • Define, measure, and evaluate relevant media key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Identify target audiences.
  • Compare and negotiate rates, ad space, and airtime.
  • Oversee and manage paid media budgets.
  • Experiment with new platforms and channels.
  • Ensure ads are creative and displayed appropriately.
  • Monitor costs and return on investment (ROI).
  • Use web analytics tools to monitor digital campaigns.
  • Experiment with new platforms and channels. 
  • Optimize plans and budgets according to the best media mix.

How Do I Become a Media Buyer?

Below are some common steps you can take to become a media buyer. 

Step 1: Pursue a bachelor’s degree: Most employers will require you to have a bachelor's degree in marketing, advertising, communications, or another similar field.

Step 2: Gain experience: You can do this by applying for internships or entry-level positions with a marketing agency or practicing with tools like Facebook Ads Manager, Google Ads, etc., on your own.

Step 3: Earn certifications: Certifications are always a great way to show you’re serious about growing in your role. Some of the most common certifications for media buyers include the Certified Internet Marketer (CIM) and Professional Certified Marketer (PCM).

Step 4: Consider a master's in marketing or an MBA: If you have your sights set on a senior media buyer position, earning a master's degree in marketing or an MBA can help increase your knowledge, build your skills, and boost your resume. 

Best Degrees for a Media Buyer

Marketing – B.S. Business Administration

For those who want to lead brands and steer consumer markets:...

For those who want to lead brands and steer...

For those who want to lead brands and steer consumer markets:

  • Time: 67% of graduates finish within 36 months.
  • Tuition: $3,575 per 6-month term.

Some careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • Marketing and PR manager
  • Director of marketing and communications
  • Director of publications
  • Customer intelligence manager
  • Marketing sales manager

Marketing is a creative and exciting field—and one where an undergraduate degree will open better opportunities.

Marketing – M.S.

Two online marketing master's degree options with a focus on...

Two online marketing master's degree options with...

Two online marketing master's degree options with a focus on either digital marketing or marketing analytics.

  • Time: 70% of grads finish master's programs within 24 months.
  • Tuition: $4,530 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 11 total courses in this program
  • Specializatin: Students choose from two specializations to focus their marketing studies on digital marketing or marketing analytics.

Sample careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • Marketing manager
  • Marketing analyst
  • Marketing director
  • SEO manager
  • SEM manager
  • Email manager

A marketing master's degree will help you prepare for a wide range of exciting marketing careers.

Master of Business Administration

The flexible MBA program you need, focused on business...

The flexible MBA program you need, focused on...

The flexible MBA program you need, focused on business management, strategy, and leading teams:

  • Time: Graduates can finish in 12 months.
  • Tuition: $4,530 per 6-month term.

Sample careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • President and CEO
  • Vice president
  • Executive director
  • Chief strategic officer

Our competency-based model gives you an innovative learning experience you won't find anywhere else—and our MBA grads tell us they loved accelerating their program to see a faster ROI.


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What Skills Does a Media Buyer Need?

Finding success as a media buyer requires excellent communication, networking, and critical thinking skills, as well as the following: 

  • Media savvy. You should be familiar with media buying, planning, and research, as well as the latest media trends.
  • Negotiation skills. You’ll often need to negotiate with advertising sales agents to ensure the most cost-effective deal structures.
  • Research skills. Media buyers conduct marketing research and analyze demographics to identify target audiences and optimize plans and budgets according to the best media mix.
  • Tech savvy. You must be tuned in to what’s going on in the world of technological innovation so you’re aware of apps or features that may impact your ad’s performance.
  • Digital ad experience. You should be comfortable working on platforms such as Facebook Ads Manager, Google Ads, LinkedIn Campaign Manager, and other media platforms.  
male budget analyst

How Much Does a Media Buyer Make?

$74,000

The national average salary for media buyers is about $74,000, but with certifications and experience, they can make up to $98,000.

Location can also impact how much you make as a media buyer. According to a 2022 report by Zippia, media buyers make the most in Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Washington, and Mississippi.

What Is the Projected Job Growth?

6%

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't provide a job outlook for media buyers, the projected employment for all media and communication occupations is expected to increase by 6%, or 68,600 new jobs, from 2021 to 2031.

Where Does a Media Buyer Work?

Varies

Media buyers work for companies that have a product, brand, or service to promote. They’re typically employed at marketing or advertising agencies or companies that have a large marketing department and need to buy a lot of media space.

Additional FAQs

Most companies will require you to at least have a bachelor’s degree in marketing or in a related field such as advertising or communications. 

Certifications aren’t a must-have, but they will help you stand out to future employers, which could give you a leg up when it comes to landing a media buyer job. 

Interested in Becoming a Media Buyer?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this exciting career.

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