Media Planners and Buyers


Employment Prospects


Media planners and buyers often work for advertising agencies in large cities, such as Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. These agencies represent various clients who are trying to sell everything from financial services to dishwasher soap to the latest comedy featuring the hot star of the moment. Other media specialists work directly for radio and television networks, newspapers, magazines, and Web sites selling airtime and ad space. While many of these media organizations are located in large urban areas, particularly radio and television stations, most small towns have newspapers and therefore need specialists to sell ad space and coordinate accounts.

Approximately 147,900 advertising sales agents work in the United States. Approximately 36 percent are employed in advertising, public relations, and related services. About 12 percent work for newspaper, book, periodical, and directory publishers, and 15 percent work in radio and television broadcasting. Approximately 10 percent of advertising sales agents are self-employed.

Starting Out

More than half of the jobs in print and broadcast media do not remain open long enough for companies to advertise available positions on employment Web sites and in the classified sections of newspapers. As a result, many media organizations, such as radio and television stations, do not usually advertise job openings to the public. Media planners and buyers often hear about available positions through friends, acquaintances, or family members and frequently enter the field as entry-level broadcasting or sales associates. Both broadcasting and sales can provide employees just starting out with experience in approaching and working for clients, as well as knowledge about the specifics of programming and its relation to selling airtime.

Advertising agencies sometimes do advertise job openings, both in local and national papers and on the Web. Competition is quite fierce for entry-level jobs, however, particularly at large agencies in big cities.

Print media employees often start working on smaller publications as in-house sales staff members, answering telephones and taking orders from customers. Other duties may include handling classified ads or coordinating the production and placement of small print ads created by in-house artists. While publications often advertise for entry-level positions, the best way to find work in advertising is to send resumes to as many agencies, publications, and broadcasting offices as possible. With any luck, your resume will arrive just as an opening is becoming available.

While you are enrolled in a college program, investigate opportunities for internships, co-ops, or on-campus employment in related areas. Your school's career services office should have information on such positions. Previous experience often provides a competitive edge for all job seekers, but it is crucial to aspiring media planners and buyers.

Advancement Prospects

Large agencies and networks often hire only experienced people, so it is common for media planners and buyers to learn the business at smaller companies. These opportunities allow media specialists to gain the experience and confidence they need to move up to more advanced positions. Jobs at smaller agencies and television and radio stations also provide possibilities for more rapid promotion than those at larger organizations.

Media planners and buyers climbing the company ladder can advance to the position of media director or may earn promotions to executive-level positions. For those already at the management level, advancement can come in the form of larger clients and more responsibility. In addition, many media planners and buyers who have experience with traditional media are investigating the opportunities and challenges that come with the job of interactive media planner/buyer or Web media specialist.

Tips for Entry

The American Association of Advertising Agencies offers an advertising agency search engine at its Web site, Use it to find potential job leads.

For job listings, visit:


Participate in internships or part-time jobs that are arranged by your college’s career services office or professional associations. The American Advertising Federation offers information on its internship programs at

Conduct information interviews with media planners and buyers and ask them for advice on landing a job.