Digital Insights

Making the Best Marketing Career Choice: In-House or Independent Agency


Published: December 5, 2014

Marketing is marketing, but the working environment of an in-house department and an independent marketing agency is typically as different as night and day. Both employment alternatives offer marketers a unique set of advantages and disadvantages that should be evaluated on an individual basis within the context of one’s chosen career path.

Not all marketers share the same career goals, and the experience and skillset necessary for career advancement will likewise be different from individual to individual. Your choice of in-house or independent agency employment depends on what you’re looking for at the different stages of your career.

  • Newcomers just breaking into the industry may benefit the most from a position with an in-house marketing department. In-house marketers usually have complete access to every element of a marketing campaign. The ability to follow a limited number of brand properties in detail will give you the type of in-depth experience needed to fast-track your career.
  • More experienced marketers who have already refined their specific career goals may opt for a position with an independent marketing agency where they can focus on a specific position that matches their skills and interests. An agency position will broaden your experience by providing the opportunity of working in a variety of different industries and niches.

The In-House Experience: The Pros
Compared to an agency environment, an in-house marketing department job is typically a much less stressful and hectic experience. The work schedule tends to be more predictable and orderly – allowing you to prioritize your responsibilities at a more reasonable pace.

Being able to focus on a few branded products enables in-house marketers to acquire an in-depth knowledge of the company’s products and customers, and of the marketing required to successfully reach the target markets peculiar to their employer’s industry or niche. Marketers with experience in a particular niche are usually highly valued by prospective employers.

The In-House Experience: The Cons
One of the most frequently cited criticisms of the in-house environment is the lack of breadth. In-house marketers have limited opportunity to grow outside the sometimes narrow confines of their employer’s products and niche. Different products frequently require a different marketing approach, and this creative discipline may be lost on the in-house marketer whose universe is confined to a single product line.

In-house marketers frequently have to deal with a significant amount of red tape and top-level bureaucracy in carrying out their assignments. You may find yourself competing with other departments just to get your marketing budget approved.

The Marketing Agency Experience: The Pros
The breadth of the agency account list means that marketers will have the opportunity to work on a variety of projects, allowing them to develop a strong and diverse skillset.

Every day in an agency brings new opportunities and challenges, and boredom is seldom if ever a problem. Agencies are expected and encouraged to think outside the box, and agency staffers benefit from creative brainstorming and collaboration with their peers.

The Marketing Agency Experience: The Cons
The typical marketing agency is no place for the faint of heart. The hours are long, the pace is fast, and the deadlines are tight. A universal agency skill is the ability to think on one’s feet and demonstrate grace and good judgment under fire. Agency staffers, especially in the creative side, may be uncomfortable with the notion that they “are only as good as their last great idea.”

Agency marketers have to live with the fact that their hard work must pass muster with clients who may be unimaginative, uninspiring, and unrealistic in their demands and expectations.