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HR vs. Marketing: What's the Difference in Salary and Goals?

HR vs Marketing

January 11 2020 - You know you want to enter the corporate world, but you are not sure where you should start. If you know you are not suited for finance or accounting, maybe human resources or marketing might be a good place to begin.

Both Human Resources and Marketing require strong people skills. You have to communicate with a wide range of personalities, and you need a high degree of emotional intelligence.

How do you decide where to focus your job search? That depends on several factors, from how much you expect to make in the first ten years to what you truly enjoy in your work environment.

Here are five factors to consider in both fields to help you decide between HR vs. Marketing.

1. Potential Salary

Can you make more in HR or in Marketing? Although Marketing generally pays more, both fields have great room for upward mobility.


Human Resources often calls itself "the poor sibling" of Marketing. The latter is considered more outward-facing and creative.

However, HR performs a critical function in the hiring, retention, and termination of employees. The satisfaction and safety of employees in the workplace make a huge difference in a company's productivity.

While Marketing traditionally pays higher salaries than HR, this is changing in some corporate environments. More and more successful companies are inviting human resource professionals into the C suite. A Chief Human Resource Office can make over $153,000 annually.

On average, HR Directors earn between $60-80,000 per year.


Chief Marketing Officers make on average $200,000 per year. However, CMOs at large public corporations can make a lot more. The  Starbucks CMO makes over $2 million per year!

Marketing salaries vary widely depending on the industry, level of experience, and geographic location. If you start out at a nonprofit right out of college, you may earn under thirty thousand dollars per year. However, there is great potential to move up fast.

Salaries also vary depending upon your specialization in marketing. If you develop a focus on marketing technology, you may start earning lots more money right away.

2. Department Objectives

Both HR and Marketing must communicate clear messages to important audiences. HR focuses on the internal audience, or employees, while Marketing focuses on external stakeholders like clients, media, and competitors.


Human resources aim to keep employees satisfied, productive, and in line with company values and brand. As today's job market continues to improve, companies work hard to make sure employees do not leave.

That means keeping salary commensurate with the marketplace. That means making sure employees are challenged, valued, and promoted. That means zero tolerance for prohibited behavior like harassment.

A large HR department will have special niches devoted to discipline, compensation, benefits, training, and recruitment. You have plenty of areas to explore to see where you may fit in best.


A Marketing department aims to promote the company brand in order to increase business. Its team members may accomplish this through advertising, websites, events, and public relations.

Marketing may measure its success through sales, or more ancillary tactics (like website visits).

If you are in Marketing, you will work to raise the profile of your company and to present it in the best light possible. You will work to create a brand that is appealing to customers and to keep that brand foremost in their minds.

3. Special Skills

Certain skills come in handy in both HR and Marketing. If you work in either department, you need to be good at communicating with people. HR communications are internal, and Marketing communications are external.


In HR, you may get to know many of the employees in a very personal way. You may need to speak with them when they are not performing well or when they are getting fired. An ability to be sympathetic but also to maintain boundaries is crucial.

You may also utilize accounting skills in HR, especially if you work in Payroll or Benefits.


Marketing often attracts employees with strong backgrounds in visual arts or writing. If you like working with colors, fonts, and imagery, you may want to participate in graphic design projects in Marketing.

If you know how to code or analyze data, you may gravitate towards the marketing technology area. If you are up on the latest trends and have an active Instagram account, you may want to pursue the job of social media coordinator.

4. Day-to-Day Experience

Both HR and Marketing require lots of face time with others. Be ready to deal with a range of personalities!


If you work in the field of HR, you will be meeting with people throughout the day. In the morning you may lead an internal class on a professional development topic like how to become a home health aide. In the afternoon you may meet with the company president to decide raises and bonuses for staff.

You will probably be on your computer for much of the day. You may have to respond to emergency situations over the weekend, especially if an employee gets in trouble or hurt on the job.


No matter your role in the Marketing department, you are likely to have a slew of different problems to solve and projects to tackle throughout the day.

You may have a long term web project that takes months to launch. You may have to address a media emergency if a newspaper publishes a negative article about your product.

You may need to produce brochures or set up events after hours. You will probably receive emails all through the day and night!

5. Department-Specific Challenges

How do you feel about telling someone they are in danger of losing their job? How do you react under stress, or in the face of an immediate crisis? HR and Marketing offer different challenges to overcome.


In HR, you have to handle employees who are not doing well at work and help management decide what to do about it. If they are suffering from health problems, you may need to assist them. If they are breaking company rules such as being absent repeatedly, you may have to give them a warning or even fire them.

If you work in a public company, you may also have to address employees who are much higher in authority than you are. Even managers and directors may need training or discipline in areas like sexual harassment or insider trading.


Marketing can be fast-paced and stressful. Often there are many simultaneous projects going on, and everyone needs them done immediately.

A marketing error can be very public, like a typo in a brochure or a mistake in a magazine article. Good marketers are resilient under pressure and roll with the punches.

HR vs. Marketing: Which Area is Right For You?

If you are trying to decide HR vs. Marketing, consider your career goals and salary expectations. What kinds of projects and pressures excite you, and which terrifies you?

Because there are so many subspecialties in each area, you are sure to find the one job that is the best fit for you.

Keep checking back for more guidance on your career options!

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