To become a chief marketing officer (CMO), you must have a certain amount of talent for the job and seven to ten years of experience in the marketing industry. Most companies will also expect at least an undergraduate degree in business. Demonstrated marketing talent can trump formal education in some instances.
Many of the activities that fall under marketing, such as advertising and promotions, are staffed with professionals that have artistic talent or a penchant for coming up with original ideas to catch the attention of consumers. Although there is plenty of work under the heading that only requires ordinary business skills, marketing is primarily considered a creative department. Marketing departments in certain industries require more creativity than others, such as the entertainment industry versus the pharmaceuticals industry. If you want to become a chief marketing officer, your innate talent for engaging consumers can play a significant role.
A traditional path to the CMO position is to major in marketing at the undergraduate level. Upon graduation, you can take a job as a marketing assistant and work up through the ranks of a marketing department. After seven to tens years of increasing responsibility, you would be qualified to apply as a CMO. If you obtained an MBA in marketing, it may increase your chances of being hired.
In more creative and fluid industries, special talents for marketing can trump years of experience. If the success of the product relies on popularity, buzz, or requires heavy promotional work, an ability to successfully attract the attention of the public would be more valuable than any educational credential or amount of experience. A non-traditional path to become a chief marketing officer may be to work with an Internet start-up that requires particularly creative marketing and social networking to position itself in a fluid environment. As the company grows you would grow into the chief title, and it would be more a function of talent than credentials.
Large, well established corporations will require a CMO candidate to present traditional qualifications and also be a leader in the field. Involvement with marketing trade associations in a leadership capacity will help you become a chief marketing officer, as well as any other activities that establish expertise in the field. These may include teaching marketing classes at a community college or local business association, offering an expert opinion for media opportunities, and writing marketing papers for journals and publications. These extracurricular activities will also serve to demonstrate the soft skills that are necessary for the position, such as an ability to manage people, poise, and professionalism.