Friday, March 19, 2010

Knowledge is Power

As you know, I am a public relations practitioner trying my best to break into the food and beverage/retail consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. As I have conducted informational interviews during the past several months, I have learned that one of the best ways to start your career in this industry is to earn a degree in this field. Between learning vital topics in the classroom, listening to guest speakers who are subject matter experts, and by gaining on-the-job experience through internships, a bachelor's and/or master's degree can provide students with a solid foundation.

While I considered going back to school, ultimately I decided that right now, I do not have the time and money to commit to becoming a full-time graduate student...again. However, I do believe that an MBA in food marketing or product management could be in my future once I gain a little experience in this field and can manage a part-time program in addition to full-time work.

Here are the schools that I came across in my many months of research that offer relevant programs:

John Lacko/Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo provides undergraduate students an opportunity to earn a bachelor of business administration in food and consumer packaged goods marketing with a minor in business. The program boasts nearly 100 percent placement upon graduation.

The University also hosts an annual Food Marketing Conference. This year’s event, Essential Business Lessons for the New Economy, takes place March 24-25 and features keynotes from executives at the Nielsen Company, Kellogg's, Kraft Foods, Daymon Worldwide, and Hormel.

Courtesy of Portland State University

Looking to work toward an MBA? MBA+ students at Portland State University can focus on food marketing and logistics. Core courses include Consumer Products Marketing and Purchasing and Logistics in the Food Industry.

Portland State is also home to the Food Leadership Industry Center. According to its Web site, the Center aims to promote education, leadership, and research critical to the food, beverage, and consumer packaged goods industry. Every fall, industry leaders and students gather at the Executive Forum and Women's Leadership Forum to discuss trends, technological advances, and groundbreaking ideas within the industry.

Michael Forster Rothbart/University of Wisconsin-Madison

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, MBA students seeking a career in the CPG field can choose the brand and product management specialization, where classes such as Brand Management Strategy and Consumer Behavior are part of the curriculum. The school prides itself on a 100 percent placement rate upon graduation and trains all of its students through the Center for Brand and Product Management.

Courtesy of St. Joseph’s University

In addition to offering a bachelor of science degree in food marketing, St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia also provides a post master's certificate for individuals in the food industry who already hold an MA or an MBA, and an executive master of science degree and an MBA in food marketing for professionals with at least four years of experience in the food industry. Many SJU faculty members previously worked full time in the food industry.

The school's Center for Food Marketing strives to develop current and future leaders to meet the needs of the global food industry. Each year, the Center organizes a Food Industry Summit, bringing together thought leaders and scholars to discuss marketplace issues and development.

While certainly not the only way to gain experience in the CPG industry, education can indeed accelerate your knowledge of the field and jump-start your career. Did you earn a degree from one of these schools? Did you study a similar program at another school? Tell me about your experience. I would also be interested to learn what other schools offer such programs.

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