How to Become an Account Manager


To become an account manager, you typically need communications, sales and marketing skills.


These skills may be acquired through post-secondary education in a related field (such as a diploma or a degree in marketing, management, commerce or psychology), or by way of work experience as a sales representative, a customer service advisor, or in a similar role.


Ideally, you have both work experience and formal education.


If you want to pursue a career in this field, you'll first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. Does the following describe you?


• You are exceptionally well organized

• You are able to effectively communicate with introverts and extroverts

• You are willing to accept responsibility for positive end results

• You thrive in a fast-paced and demanding environment  

• You have a customer centered approach to work activities

• You have an interest in a career field that offers financial incentives above a regular salary  


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as an account manager. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as salary expectations, an outline of the skills you’ll need, educational requirements, a list of possible employer types, and much more!



Education Needed

You may need an associate’s degree, certificate, diploma, bachelor’s or master's degree in a field related to business administration. Regardless of the industry you will end up working in, courses in marketing, market research, economics, statistics, accounting, the psychology of persuasion or perception and communication arts are highly applicable to a career as an account manager.


Some employers however, will hire you without formal post-secondary education if you have a solid background of work experience. As with many others careers, it is ideal if you have a combination of education and work experience. 





Experience Needed

Most employers prefer to hire candidates that already have work experience related to account management; work experience that comes from a role very similar to 'Account Manager', or work experience from a role that has allowed the candidate to develop transferrable skills, such as those in sales or customer service.


Regardless of where this experience comes from, employers are looking for demonstrable proof that the candidate has experience with the following functions, common to an account manager:


• Selling services to multi-site clients

• Experience selling similar products or services

• Experience in the industry

• Making sales calls to company executives

• Success in business development

• Maintaining a high rate of customer or client satisfaction 



Skills You'll Need to Succeed

In order to be effective in this occupation, you'll need to develop a certain skill set. In fact, many employers list variations of the following skills on account manager job postings.


• Knowledge of employer’s product

• Knowledge of the employers’ industry in general

• Knowledge of computer programs such as Microsoft Excel

• Exceptional organization skills

• Working knowledge of sales and marketing principles and techniques

• Able to apply strong listening skills to get to know the needs of the client

• Excellent negotiation and persuasion skills

• The ability to make presentations under pressure

• Able to effectively communicate with introverts and extroverts

• Able to resolve service delivery or product issues quickly, and to the satisfaction of the client





Characteristics & Traits Needed

In order to enjoy performing your job duties, you need to posses certain personal traits and characteristics. These traits will help you keep a positive attitude towards your work, which can lead to having a long and successful career.


• Strong interpersonal skills for working with high-level executives

• High level of personal motivation, energy and drive

• Willing to accept responsibility for positive end results

• Interest in a career field that offers financial incentives for success

• A customer service-oriented attitude towards work activities

• Enjoy consulting with clients and analyzing their needs

• Thrive in a high-pressure, fast-pace environment 



Who Creates Jobs in This Field?

Account managers are employed, typically on a full-time basis, by organizations that provide business-to-business services. They may also be hired by organizations that provide services to the general public. Types of organizations that employ these professionals typically include:


• Banks and financial institutions

• Advertising and marketing agencies

• Media publishers (such as websites, new agencies, magazines, etc.)

• Manufacturers and distributors of commercial, residential and industrial goods (ranging from software to sporting goods)

• Professional service offices (such as legal, accounting, etc.)

• Employment agencies

• Public relations firms



Putting it all Together: Steps for Becoming an Account Manager

To sum all of this up, here are the essential steps you’ll need to take to become an account manager:


Step 1 - Check if you’re well suited

Make sure you have the right demeanor for this job, and general set of interests. Do you thrive in a fast-paced, sink or swim environment? Are you interested in a 9-5 job with financial incentives? Are you customer-service oriented and willing to make cold-calls? If you’ve answered “yes”, then move on to step 2.


Step 2 - Get into school 

Most employers prefer to hire people with a combination of relevant education and experience. You can probably acquire these at the same time. Either way, relevant education would include anything related to marketing, business, accounting, psychology or economics. An associate’s degree will probably suffice, but you may need a bachelor’s degree depending on your level of experience. 


Step 3 - Get relevant work experience 

While you're in school, get a job working in sales and/or customer service. This will enable you to develop some key skills and competencies for the job, such as customer service, communication, and so on. Alternatively, you could get an entry-level job in the industry. For example, if you’re looking to be a radio advertising account manager, then try getting a jobs as an account assistant, or sales and marketing assistant in the radio industry. This could be while you’re in school, or once you’ve completed school.


Step 4 - Get a job

Contact all of the people you’ve networked with while you were gaining relevant work experience as a student to get leads on jobs. If this doesn’t work, just take the old-fashioned route of getting an entry-level job in your target industry.


Step 5 - Work your way up

Getting your first job will be the hard part. Display initiative and competence in your work, and go after job vacancies that offer more responsibility as they become available.





Details of the Work: Job Description

An account manager’s overall mandate is to acquire and develop new business, and maintain old business, on behalf of their employer. They are essentially big-picture client managers who wear many hats in order to effectively do their jobs: salesperson, customer service representative, and company-client liaison.


There is a large sales component to the job of an account manager. They must not only identify and pursue new business opportunities (accounts) for their employer, they must also maintain and usually up-sell their portfolio of products and services to existing clients; matching the products and services of their employer to the needs of their clients.


An account manager is essentially the face of their company in the eyes of their clients. Serving as the client’s first point of contact, it’s the account manager’s responsibility to see that those clients are satisfied with the products and services provided.


They may be in charge of a number of smaller accounts, or may focus on a few larger accounts. 



General Job Duties

Although the job duties of an account manager can vary quite a bit based on the the size and type of their employer, and their level of responsibility, they are generally responsible for performing the following duties:


• Identify and solicit new customers

• Create budgets and schedules for meeting their accounts' needs and enforce deadlines

• Plan and manage the relationships between the company and its most important clients

• Ensure clients are being provided with great customer service and resolve any issues that may arise

• Conduct regular reviews on accounts to evaluate clients’ needs and account usage

• Determine the types of fees, products and services, which would serve the client’s needs as well as the company’s objectives

• Prepare various reports surrounding the metrics of the sales department

• Keep records of transactions



How Much Do They Earn?

The salary level of account manager can vary depending on their personal qualifications, the specific responsibilities of their job, the industry sector they work in, the size and type of their employer, and many other factors.


Their earnings are also affected by their remuneration structure. Account managers are often paid a base salary, and are able to earn commission on their sales. They may receive sales target bonuses, incentives and other forms of additional compensation.


There is no salary information available from reliable sources for the career Account Manager. We can however, get a good idea of what they earn by looking at the salary figures for workers in closely related occupations.


Typical Salary in Alberta: According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Professional occupations in advertising, marketing and public relations​ occupational group earn an average salary of $74,664 per year.


Typical  Salary in the United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, American workers in the Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers occupational group earn a median salary of $124,850 per year, and workers in the Advertising Sales Agents occupational group earn a median salary of $48,490 per year. 



Account Manager Jobs

Our job board below has "Account Manager" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.





Work Environment

Work Setting: Account managers are typically based out of an office. They often have to travel, within their city limits and sometimes outside regions, in order to attend meetings with clients and solicit new business.


Working Hours: Those in this profession often work regular, weekday working hours. It is not however, uncommon for them to spend time working in the evenings and during the weekends, in order to do paperwork and attend meetings.


Working Conditions: The work of account managers involves speaking with business owners and executives. They may be demanding an unreasonable at times, which can be stressful and requires patience. The work can also be stressful when there are frustrating circumstances preventing delivery of goods or services to clients. 



Similar Careers in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Account Manager, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Advertising Account Executive

Advertising Manager

Bank Manager

Financial Advisor

Sales Representative



References for this Career Guide

The following resources were drawn from in the preparation of this career guide:


• “Occupational Profile: Advertising Account Executive.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved October 18, 2019.

• “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers.” (May, 2015). United States Department of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved August 11, 2016.

• “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Advertising Sales Agents.” (May, 2015). United States Department of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved August 11, 2016.



Scholarships for Relevant Academic Majors

The Relevant Majors section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as an Account Manager. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming an Account Manager. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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