Neuromarketing Careers

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CareersinNeuromarketing2_1_Are you looking for a career in neuromarketing, or as some prefer to call it, consumer neuroscience? How should you pursue that goal? Is such a goal even a good idea? I’ll try to provide answers, or at least some information that will let you arrive at your own answers.

Still Nascent After All These Years

I’m contacted frequently by those who think neuromarketing would be an interesting career and want to get in on the ground floor. I first wrote about this topic nearly a decade ago, and while some aspects remain similar, there are big changes afoot in specific spaces.

One surprise is that we can still talk about neuromarketing as a nascent industry despite the progress that has taken place.

The activity in the neuromarketing space has definitely picked up. We see that in various ways. Here’s a graph showing the 10-year trend in Google searches for “neuromarketing.”

Search trend - neuromarketing

The peaks tend to correspond to bursts of news coverage.

Neuromarketing Worldwide

Although a lot of the talk about neuromarketing seems to be U.S.-focused, the global interest appears stronger. This chart shows a concentration of interest outside the U.S., with a particular strength in Spanish-speaking countries:

regional neuromarketing interest

(The distribution of interest shown in the above chart is one reason why I’m so excited that the Spanish translation of Brainfluence has finally been released by Ediciones Urano!)

Odd discovery: Another Google Trends chart shows that neuromarketing may have gender identity issues. Searches for “el neuromarketing” and “la neuromarketing” are about equally common. Perhaps one of my Spanish-speaking readers can shed some light on this…

Also interesting is that the increasing interest in neuromarketing is a global phenomenon. Searches in the United States show a modest downward trend at the same time as the global numbers are increasing.

neuromarketing searches - united states

Adding “consumer neuroscience” didn’t make a significant difference in the chart, so this sluggish trend isn’t an artifact of terminology.

Academic Preparation for Neuromarketing Jobs

One thing that hasn’t changed is that it’s difficult to steer would-be neuromarketers in a particular academic direction. In the general field of neuromarketing, there are no well-defined, universal job descriptions or career paths.

There are a few academic programs specifically focused on neuromarketing or consumer neuroscience. In the U.S., Temple University, the University of Akron, and Iowa State all have active research in the area. Other schools are focused on related fields, like consumer behavior, neuroeconomics, and decision science. Generally, these programs don’t award a degree in “neuromarketing” per se, but may provide both coursework and research opportunities.

Among U.S. academics, neuromarketing has had to overcome the perception that it may be pseudoscience. Or, if it’s real, it might be evil.

Back in 2007, ScienceCareers.org published an interesting and reasonably accurate perspective on careers in neuromarketing.

The ScienceCareers article played down the immediate career prospects in neuromarketing, noting that much of the action is still in the academic world. They also pointed out the gulf that exists between academia and business by quoting George Loewenstein of the Decision Sciences Department at Carnegie Mellon University. We don’t doubt that CMU’s founding father, industrialist Andrew Carnegie, would be spinning in his grave if he heard Loewenstein say,

If a graduate student in neuroeconomics ended up in industry, that would be a disappointment. The reality is that when you do marketing, you are a slave to economic interests, to people who want to promote certain goods and services.

Loewenstein isn’t quite as Marxist as that makes him sound. We’ve reported on his groundbreaking neuroeconomics research several times. He even did an interview with us – see The Pain of Buying.

In 2011, the disdain of U.S. academics for neuromarketing was underscored when a 50+ university neuroscientists were dismissive of neuromarketing claims from branding expert and neuromarketing author Martin Lindstrom. (See Do You REALLY Love Your iPhone?)

Today, some academics are less skeptical.

A recent Temple University study (see Neuromarketing Bats 1 for 6, Still Wins and Neuromarketing: Pseudoscience No More at Forbes.) concluded, “Our findings clearly demonstrate the potential of neurophysiological measures to complement traditional measures in improving the predictive power of advertising success models.”

logo_uabOutside the U.S., academic neuromarketing has fared somewhat better. Some programs use the term specifically, like the new Masters in Neuromarketing program at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. (I’m one of the professors.)

What About Neuromarketing Jobs?

Back in 2007, a search of jobs listed at Monster.com showed zero listings containing the term “neuromarketing.” Zero.

Fast forwarding to 2015, things haven’t changed all that much.

monster-neuromarketing

Three jobs listings at Monster contain the word “neuromarketing,” but none are direct jobs in the field. Rather, they reference it as something applicants should be familiar with. Furthermore, the newest of the listings was a month old when I searched, and the oldest was four months old.

At least on that site, neuromarketing is hardly a hotbed of recruiting activity.

That doesn’t mean that neuromarketing jobs don’t exist. There are both new and established firms in the field that have positions to fill. But, currently, the neuromarketing field remains quite specialized.

neuro-door

What’s the best path to a neuromarketing career?

What should one who believes in neuromarketing as a future career path do?

First, there is no perfect path. One reason is the different technologies used by neuromarketing practitioners. At one end of the spectrum, there are fMRI brain scans that use costly equipment and produce 3D maps of brain activity. At the other end, there are simple implicit tests that are more the province of psychologists. In between, there are biometric tools, eye-tracking, EEG brain wave devices, and more.

It may be an oversimplification, but I see several good paths into the industry. The best choice depends on the individual’s interests and strengths.

Science-based Careers. A student with a strong scientific bent can certainly get in on the ground floor of neuromarketing and neuroeconomics by pursuing an advanced degree in neuroscience at an institution that is engaged in such research. (An interdisciplinary program like CMU’s Social and Decision Sciences department might be even better.)

I expect to see more formal neuroeconomics and decision science programs before neuromarketing or consumer neuroscience programs. (Pursuing neuroeconomics would be as close to a neuromarketing degree as one can get at most institutions, and even that topic isn’t all that common.)

An undergrad degree in neuroscience would probably be a good foundation, but to get into the serious hands-on (so to speak) brain scan studies enrolling in an advanced degree program is almost certainly necessary. If neuromarketing goes truly mainstream using fMRI and EEG, then grad students (or newly minted PhDs) with direct experience in designing and analyzing brain scan/brain wave studies will be in demand. At some schools, there may already be opportunities for grad students to work in professor-led business ventures.

Of course, any given neuromarketing services provider probably needs far more non-scientists than scientists. And, to the extent that the technology becomes standardized, the demand for scientists will level out or decline.

For example, today many firms use eye tracking for studying ads, evaluating user behavior, etc. but don’t need to employ scientists that understand human vision, how to track eye movement, and so on. The hardware and software take care of those details, and the level of academic training needed to use the equipment and interpret the results is comparatively low.

Marketing-based Careers. Not everyone is cut out to slog through four years of undergrad science and math, and many more years as a grad student/lab rat. Students who are more geared to the business side of things might pursue an undergrad degree appropriate for marketing, advertising, or consumer behavior. That might be a business or economics major at some schools, or even a more communication-oriented liberal arts degree.

I’d highly recommend loading up on psychology courses as a minor or concentration, perhaps picking up some neuroscience coursework along the way.

As neuromarketing is more widely adopted, advertising firms, the advertisers themselves, and boutique neuromarketing agencies will have a need for individuals who are primarily marketers and business people, but can communicate with the neuro-geeks.

Data-focused Careers Regardless of one’s academic preparation and specific degree, I think the ability to analyze data and draw appropriate conclusions is critical. This includes both scientific data generated in the lab and business data obtained by measuring behavior.

One of the hottest topics today is Big Data, and professionals capable of turning this data into useful information and business strategies are in high demand. We certainly aren’t far from the day when Big Data and neuromarketing overlap and marketing efforts are targeted at “neuro-similar” groups or even individuals based on their behavior.

One example of how emotion and psychology of an individual customer are being combined with digital tools comes from the world of mobile gaming. MediaBrix (I’m an advisor) delivers targeted brand impressions based on the consumer’s predicted emotional state, and reinforces the visual stimuli with sound and haptic feedback.

Another way to bridge the gap would be to combine data collected by neuromarketing tools with the existing store of data about an individual consumers. (Needless to say, this would have to be done in an ethical and transparent way.)

How to Get into Neuromarketing

At this point, neuromarketing career opportunities remain a bit speculative. It’s not that there aren’t opportunities now, or that there won’t be even more in the future, but that predicting their nature is difficult. Technologies will vary, and any given company may have very different roles to fill.

Hence, focusing on a particular technology might prove unproductive. Now, for example, fMRI is the most academically-used approach, but it’s entirely possible that other techniques will prove more productive (or more cost-effective) for specific marketing purposes in the future. At this moment, there are more than a half dozen general types of technology, and dozens of companies employing them in different ways, both singly and in combination.

My advice for prospective neuromarketers starting their college careers is not much different than the advice I’d offer to students interested in other fields: get a solid undergrad degree in a field that you enjoy, take diverse courses to broaden your knowledge and resume, and try to affiliate yourself with activity in your field of interest by volunteering in a lab, working as an intern, etc.

At the end of your undergrad education, with any luck you’ll have a better understanding of potential careers via first-hand exposure, and will be well-equipped either to continue in your original direction or pursue different opportunities.

Trying to guess what career will be “hot” four years or more in the future is a fool’s errand. Focus on what you like and enjoy, attend a school that will provide a transforming undergrad experience, as well as both breadth and depth of knowledge, and you’ll be well equipped for even an uncertain future.

Graduate students should focus on specific opportunities that provide lab facilities or business partnerships that will provide exposure to neuromarketing tools and techniques.

Current Neuromarketing Jobs

If you are past the academic stage, or are still working on a degree but want experience, your best bet is to contact companies in the neuromarketing space. Check each company’s website first, but be aware that openings aren’t always posted. A good starting point is this site’s Directory of Neuromarketing Companies. (If you are a neuromarketing company and aren’t in our directory, please contact us.)

Career Planning Caution

One of the most quoted statements about war is, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” The original quote from Helmuth Von Moltke and dates to the mid-19th century. This maxim applies to career planning, too. One might phrase it, “No career plan survives contact with the real world.”

Regardless of the field, one should expect the unexpected: big demand fluctuations for degrees and skills, technology changes that demand new skills, and so on.

At the individual level, opportunities and challenges will arise that may dictate a change in career path. Few people with a decade or two of experience are doing today exactly what they expected they would be doing when they began their career.

The best way to prepare for this uncertainty is to build a strong base of academic and practical skills. Good written and verbal communication ability will be important even when technologies cause market upheavals. The same applies to interpersonal skills and quantitative ability. The more basic skills you have, the more readily you’ll adapt to change at the market or company level.

The point of this article isn’t to provide broad career planning advice. Still, even if you have a great interest in neuromarketing, keep your eye on the big picture of building broadly applicable skills.

For a smart look at marketing careers in particular, read Mark Schaefer’s post, How to be “Future Ready” for a career in marketing.

coming soon

Coming Soon

Predicting the future is always tricky business, but there are a few trends that I think could affect the neuromarketing industry and what neuromarketing jobs might look like. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Lower cost tools enable startups and smaller players to offer neuromarketing services.
  • Greater acceptance and lower costs will expand the market for neuromarketing services.
  • Some brands and companies will bring neuromarketing activities in-house.
  • Mobile devices and wearables will continue to be adapted to neuromarketing use, making testing cheaper and more scalable.
  • New skill sets, like biometric app development, will be needed.
  • Much, if not most, of the innovation may take place outside the U.S.

What’s your take on a neuromarketing career? Leave your thoughts in a comment!

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39 Comments

  1. Katherine says

    I found this article extremely helpful and uplifting, as I have been looking into a career in Neuromarketing for the past few years. The opportunities in Canada are minimal and I’ve found my search discouraging at times, since there are not many to seek advice from. Thank you so much! I’m continuing in my search now – are there any recommended MBA or Masters programs that have a solid focus in Neuromarketing?

  2. Elias says

    The University of Warwick has some podcasts based focusing on Neuromarketing via iTunes U. In order to find these lectures simply go to the iTunes store search bar and type “neuromarketing” it should pop up. Happy Listening!

  3. appy says

    Hi Roger

    I have followed ur blog for sometime and have become hooked on to neuromarketing. I am interested in pursuing a PhD. in neuromarketing. Are u aware of Universities where one can pursue it. I am aware that Oxford has one such research going on but that is not a PhD.d program. Do let me know if u get any information on this.

  4. kitty says

    This is a very interesting article. Does anyone know what type of volunteering work you can do which incorporates neuro-science and marketing??

    Also if a person has not come from a typical science education background but more from a psychology/social sciences background is it easier to make the transistion over to neuro-science and marketing? Anyone have any advice on this? or advice on further post -graduate courses, im from the uk. Thanks

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Kitty, I’m not familiar with any volunteer opportunities, but you might try contacting various neuromarketing companies about internships. For specific neuromarketing studies, you might check out Iowa State University and the University of Akron. You’ll find more programs if you broaden your search to topics like “neuroeconomics” and “decision science.” Good luck,

      Roger

      1. kelvino says

        hai i am trying to take up some research in the field off niuro marketing in a south Asian context,. the cultural and behavioral difference has a big difference in the current context of research and the applicability on them is mostly in to the urban population. but unfortunately the urban is just 25% of the Asian market. is there any place i can get research help to continue my research …

  5. Antonio Arreola says

    Hi everyone, its been a while since this article have been published. Im Mexican guy studying marketing and aiming my professional career into neuromarketing. Does anyone know where I can study a master marketing degree, doesn’t mind where I just wanna study the most interesting mix of sciences.

    I’ll appreciate your advise!

    Thnx

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Hi, Antonio, there are probably hundreds of universities to get a masters in marketing. If you want to focus on neuromarketing, that’s a lot more difficult. In the US, University of Akron and Iowa State have labs. There’s a university in Spain that may be starting an actual masters program. If you expand the concept to “decision science” you may find more schools. Good luck!

      1. Antonio Arreola says

        Thnx Roger! Appreciate your answer!

  6. Carolina says

    Hi Roger. Would you help me with the name of the university in Spain?? Thanks.

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      That would be Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Carolina. The neuromarketing program is not yet operating, however.

  7. Paula says

    Hey Roger,

    I’ve been waiting for such an article for so long! Thanks a lot.

    I was about to start a neuromarketing post-graduation in Portugal, but it ended up not opening due to the low nr of enrolments. I am now curious about that one in Barcelona, which is “close” to me as well.

    To end up, it’s “el neuromarketing” as it is “el marketing”, but it’s “la neurociencia” for neurosciences.

    regards,
    Paula

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Thank for the language lesson, Paula. I wonder who all the “el neuromarketing” searchers are?

      Glad you found the post useful, good luck with your studies!

      Roger

      1. mage says

        In Spanish we tend to put articles to every noun. therefore it is more normal to speak about “el neuromarketing” as we would.speak about “la biología”. Thanks for.the article

  8. Paul Bolls says

    This is a very helpful article and as a Professor of 15 years, I can verify the good advice given by Roger. That being said, I think Neuromarketing is a poorly defined field and the definition that has been developed completely ignores history which I think makes academic programs in “Neuromarketing” of limited value to preparing students to be critical thinking scientists/professionals who bring maximum value to companies. In the interest of transparency I need to disclose that I am an associate professor of strategic communication in the University of Missouri School of Journalism where i direct the MediaBrain Lab, a lab dedicated to studying how individuals interact with, perceive, and are influenced by media content and technologies. Students working in my lab with me get broad scientific training in what I call the Media Psychophysiology paradigm. These students do what Roger recommends. They get a broad and solid interdisciplinary education that equips them with specific skills but more importantly makes them great thinking MEDIA scientists prepared to help clients solve COMMUNICATION problems. Neuromarketing is only a narrow application of the broader discipline, Psychophysiology that has intellectual roots going back to Aristotle, Charles Darwin and William James. The only thing “new” about Neuromarketing is the application of brain imaging with fMRI. EEG was used study memory for TV ads back in the late 1980’s in a published paper co-authored by Esther Thorson, my graduate dean here in the Missouri School of Journalism! The Neuromarketing community is mostly unaware of this history and I think the science suffers for it. Neuromarketing will always need Neuroscientists but I’d argue that well trained, critical thinking, Media/Communication Scientists are more critical to actually applying research to solving communication problems for clients. Further, this background prepares a student for more than just a “Neuromarketing” career. I’d be happy to discuss this further, especially with any potential students. Yes, I did just give a selfish recruitment pitch! Please allow me a little more selfish promotion and say that anyone interested in learning about the history I’ve referred to or the Media Psychophysiology paradigm can check out the following references:

    Potter, R.F. & Bolls, P.D. (2012). Psychophysiological Measurement and Meaning: Cognitive and emotional processing of media. New York: Routledge (NOTE: Chapter 1 provides a historical review)

    Bartholow, B. & Bolls, P.D. (2013). Media Psychophysiology: The brain and beyond. In K. Dill (Ed.), pp. 474-495, Oxford Handbook of Media Psychology. Oxford University Press.

    Thank you for reading and thank you, Roger for this post!
    Paul Bolls
    Director, MediaBrain Lab
    Missouri School of Journalism

    1. Kim says

      Hi Paul, very interesting comment! I’m currently doing a Neuroscience degree in the UK and wonder if you have any advice on getting into Neuromarketing as what you’re studying seems very interesting but I have no idea how to get into the field/what sorts of things I can be doing whilst I finish my final year to make me more likely to get a job?

      Thank you,
      Kim

  9. Carolina says
  10. Jorge says

    Hi Roger,

    Thanks for this fantastic article. It’s really insightful and detailed. Would you mind me writing a summary post about your post in my blog?

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      No problem, Jorge, feel free to do that. Glad you found it useful!

      Roger

  11. Raul Alvarez says

    Hi, my name is Raul, I’m in my junior year, I’m really interested in Neuromarketing, If I want to get whatever masters or phd in Neuromarketing should I study Neuroscience or Marketing?
    Thanks

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Read the article, Raul. There’s no perfect path. If you really enjoy neuroscience, do that. Or, do marketing. Good luck!

  12. Salita says

    This gave me an insight on a long hanging doubt and am now able to know better about the field. Thank you Roger, keep up the good work 🙂

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Thanks for stopping by, Salita, and good luck!

  13. Dogus says

    Hi Mr Roger,
    i would study .MSc Neuromarketing. which College or Universty Better in the World

  14. Kim says

    Hi Roger, thanks for an interesting and eye-opening article. I’m currently studying Neuroscience in the UK and wondered if you had any other info of neuromarketing in the UK?

  15. Nik says

    Hi Roger,
    Many thanks for your article, and for your overall job οn this site. I found your article quite helpful as I am finishing my Undergrad studies in the field of Marketing and Neuromarketing has stuck into my mind for the last 4-5 years since I heard it when I was 17. I have a question for you. Do you thing that neuromarketing has potential future growth capabilities? I mean, since the field is so new, probably in the coming years inventions in that field might arise. So, do you think that we are heading towards a more specialized – scientific marketing era where a marketer will have to be into the concept of neuromarketing or not?

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      It’s hard to say, Nik. I do believe we are heading into an era of more scientific marketing in general. More data, more testing, more quantitative analysis, etc. One of the areas that will contribute, no doubt to a greater degree, is neuromarketing. It’s tougher to say what skill sets will be most important. I don’t think every company will need neuroscientists on staff. Rather, having people who can work with the technology and with service providers may be more important. And, of course, being able to take data of all types and turn that information into effective strategies.

  16. Lyes says

    Is the master in neuromarketing at UAB offered in distance-learning and taught in English?

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Hi, Lyes. As far as I know, this is in-person only for now. My session will be in English, but I expect others will be in Catalan or Spanish. I notice that UAB offers quite a few Masters programs in English, perhaps the Neuromarketing program will make that list in the future.

  17. Lyes says

    Thanks Roger. I have a question for you that is running through my mind. What is the difference between Neuroscience Marketing, Consumer Psychology and Behavioral Economics when it comes to Marketing?

  18. Jenni says

    Hi, the department of Experimental Psychology at University College London (UCL) in the UK is doing some interesting stuff on consumer neuroscience and I know of someone who is doing a PhD there on consumer decision making which is also delving into neuromarketing. In fact, the PhD student teaches on a short course there on neuromarketing.
    Short course: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/lifelearning/courses/consumer-neuroscience-what-science-offers-neuromarketing
    Department of experimental psychology: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/pals/research/experimental-psychology/

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Good to know, Jenni. I’ve written about some of the great research done my UCL. Maybe one day we’ll see a neuromarketing degree…

  19. Dario says

    Thanks!!! I am a student almost graduated in my trade marketing master where I ve discovered the nuoroecoomics world, forthcoming to the work of world and this article was perfectly on time for my needs. I hope to find one work place that ll give me all of the ambitious and expectations which I am waiting for.
    I am so glad because I ve found, thank to you, a lot of meeting point between the skills profile needed for the career in neuro-markenting and my passions and this it has gave me really hight hope about my future. Thank you again. A big good luck to all of us.. from italian guy

    1. Sarah says

      Hi Dario, may I ask if you enjoyed learning about neuroeconomics snd what interested you most as I’m very interested in a career in this field.

  20. Karla says

    Dear Professor Roger,

    Thanks for this helpful article, I am a current student of the Master in Neuromarketing at Autonomous University of Barcelona. I guess I will see you soon.
    Let me to thank you in advance for the interesting articles and audios which are help me to know more and follow my marketing career in this new field named Neuromarketing.
    Additionally, the list of Neuromarketing companies will help me and my colleagues for looking our professional practices and then our future jobs.
    Meanwhile I am studying the Master I am analyzing if I could get a good job in a marketing research company or If I could do a Neuroeconomics PhD in the University of Zurich, I am not sure yet. I think the big data focus information that you mentioned is quite interesting because I love to know the international consumer behavior and our cultural differences in making decisions.

    Thanks.

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Glad you find my stuff useful, Karla! The field of neuromarketing is continuing to evolve rapidly, it’s probably time to update this article again. Current trends are falling costs, use of mobile devices, and testing small elements of campaigns (e.g., images, headlines) instead of finished ads. Good luck, hope to see you at UAB someday!

      Roger

  21. Sarah says

    Hi Roger I live in the U.K. And would really love a career in neuromarketing however most of the internship opportunities you listed were in the US. Are you aware of any in the UK? And also would you suggest doing an undergraduate degree in neuroscience to get into it and then business as a masters degree?

  22. Chloe Koleilat says

    Dear Roger,

    Thank you for this article! I graduated with a BS in marketing and advertising and then did a MBA specialized in marketing and Communication. I am now very attracted to neuromarketing and would love to write a thesis about it. Would you happen to know any university in which I could enroll for a PHD in neuromarketing please ?

    Thank you in advance

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      I’m not aware of any universities that offer a PhD in neuromarketing, Chloe. I don’t think the field is mature enough to have created that much academic interest. You would probably have to enroll in a related program and focus your research on a neuromarketing topic. Good luck!

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