What it is

Marketing is raising awareness of products, services and brands among customers and other key audiences—and understanding how those key audiences perceive those things. Marketing has a creative side (writing ad copy, developing campaigns) and an analytics side (understanding consumer perceptions, analyzing market data). Humanities and social science PhDs can excel on both sides. The analytics side, sometimes referred to as “business intelligence,” “market research” or “customer insights,” values qualitative and quantitative research methods, allowing a PhD to use those skills in an “applied” way. Both sides work together in a recursive cycle of market information in, messages out. Not all marketing positions are in for-profits; large non-profits and institutions also have marketers on staff, or use marketing firms on a contract basis.

Starting points

A humanist or social scientist skilled in qual/quant research methods might start as some form of “analyst” or “researcher” on the analytics side, or as a writer/editor on the creative side. Look to your personal interests for possible starting points may help you identify market niches to target in your job search. For example, if you love rock climbing, consider marketing positions at companies like REI or Patagonia where you are already a customer.


Marketing is an excellent route into business management. Those with talent can move up to the Director level within their areas, cross over into other companies and industries, work for a dedicated marketing firm, or with continued professional development and relationship-building, move up into business development and from there to upper management.


All humanities and social science disciplines can potentially enter Marketing, as there are roles for many skill sets, and skills will always trump subject matter expertise.

Personality and outlook

You don’t necessarily have to be super outgoing, especially in analytics, but you must have an entrepreneurial streak, be good at working with others, have strong skills relating to the type of position you are applying for, and be genuinely interested in business.


For the analytics side, work with large data sets whenever possible. Practice searching out, organizing and understanding data, especially data about customers, audiences, constituencies. Choose projects that allow you to demonstrate your ability to identify patterns in data, find new information about specific groups, and explain all that to others in a way that helps them create well-targeted messages. Read business publications for articles relating to marketing and business intelligence. For the creative side, choose research projects focusing on messaging and its effectiveness, and/or service assignments that have you creating messages tied to specific goals.

Real Life Examples