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Ryan Snook for Money

Before the days of social media influencers, getting a job in college typically meant rocking a hairnet at the dining hall, asking alumni for donations at the call center, or working at a nearby mall or restaurant.

But as major companies began to value influencer marketing, brands like Amazon, Microsoft, Teach for America, TikTok, and Victoria’s Secret PINK launched campus ambassador programs that bridge the gap between part-time jobs and internships.

The positions, where students earn cash or prizes for promoting brands, can serve as a door into marketing departments at well-known companies. And in an academic year where traditional campus jobs are less abundant, major companies actually are still hiring brand ambassadors. Plus, the positions can lead to skills that are predicted to grow in demand in the coming years: From 2019-29, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Services predicts the availability of product promoter jobs will increase 3% and marketing opportunities will increase 5%.

Chris Nyland, chief operating officer at The Campus Agency, a marketing agency that helps brands connect with college students, says he’s seen an increase in companies valuing access to the college demographic over the last three to four years, in part because their generation isn't as moved by traditional advertising and marketing.

“Training students to execute marketing campaigns on their campus is a scalable model for converting students into paying customers,” Nyland adds, of why companies are adding — and keeping — these roles.

But while ambassador positions “are taking the place of work-study and delivering pizzas,” according to Nyland, they could result in more work for less pay for students, who usually have to attend campus events, present to student organizations, and post on social media. The social media component plays an even bigger role this year, as COVID-19 continues to disrupt in-person campus activities. Many ambassador programs have adapted to hosting virtual events and meeting with clubs online, too.