Opportunities for digital marketing professionals continue growing, although the graphic above is from 2017. Specific data on the growth of digital marketing from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics are hard to come by, as digital marketing gets folded into their reports under the general category of marketing, which will grow by 10% — a figure exceeding that for other careers. So, if you ever thought about a career in digital marketing, here’s some information to get you on the right track.
Supply and demand for digital marketing professionals
The difference between the supply and demand for digital marketing professionals reflects great opportunities for digital marketing careers. Notice, the gap between supply and demand represents huge growth in digital marketing, especially when compared with the opportunities for other areas of marketing. Again, the data is a little old, but the trends continue.
Not surprisingly, this difference between supply and demand results in higher salaries for digital marketing, as you can see below from Salaries.com, the median salary for a Digital Marketing Director is $163,453 and the range is between $115K and $214K, which is a lot of money in anyone’s book. Sure, you don’t start as a digital marketing director, but even starting positions, at the Digital Marketing Analyst position brings a starting salary of over $57K, making it one of the highest-paid positions that only require a bachelor’s degree. Even the position as a digital marketing director doesn’t require a master’s degree, although the number of years required to achieve this title is longer if you don’t have an advanced degree.
Don’t expect you’ll land one of these high-paying jobs without the requisite skills needed to perform at a high level. Next, we present some of the top job skills necessary to land a job in digital marketing.
Digital marketing skills
Digital marketing, by its very nature, is cross-functional, meaning you need skills that encompass the functional areas of:
- Business analytics
- Website development
- Project management
- Cross-channel advertising
The skills needed to obtain these opportunities for digital marketing professionals grow every year, as more job seekers present with highly relevant skills. Gone are the days when your typical out-of-work English major entered digital marketing on the basis of their writing skills. Sure, writing is still important, but you also need skills specific to digital marketing like marketing strategy, lead generation, and website development that most folks don’t have without specific training in digital marketing.
In addition, opportunities for digital marketing professionals require more technical training, as you can see in the image below. Dropping from the list are a few technical skills, including research and design, further limiting this as a career option for those without training in technical areas.
Getting started as a digital marketing professional
Great news for folks who want to break into the digital marketing field. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, which is pretty much the ticket if you want consideration for a job in marketing, lots of programs now offer short, non-credit certificate programs in digital marketing. Many programs are online from prestigious schools (although classes don’t transfer into any of their traditional programs, so consider that when making a choice). Most top programs charge between $1500 and about $4000 for programs that run anywhere from about 3 to 12 months. Each ends with some form of paper indicating successful completion and most have very liberal acceptance policies.
Other schools, such as Shenandoah University, where I head up the digital certificate program, offer for-credit courses culminating in a certificate. All coursework transfers to our MBA program and most AACSB programs accept our courses, as well. The courses, taught either online (synchronously or asynchronously) or in-person in Northern Virginia, take 8-months to complete at a cost of around $6000.
The Digital Marketing Institute teamed up with the American Marketing Association to offer a certification testing program designed to offer some consistency and standardization to the process. The certification test isn’t free (as little as $350) and they offer several options for gaining the skills necessary for passing the test, which also isn’t free. They offer virtual classes (currently on sale for around $1400) or videos through Linkedin Learning to prepare students for the test. Forbes also offers a certification program for folks interested in entering the digital marketing field.
IT and digital skills
Digital marketing is a continually changing field; full of innovations, concepts, strategies, and technologies that are key to improving your digital marketing opportunities. Gaining an IT or digital qualification has a huge impact on propelling your marketing business forward as online marketing requires some understanding of IT. A large number of companies offer online training and certifications, so consider ITIL certification to acquire knowledge, languages, processes, and best practices to support your evolution as a marketer in the digital era.
ITIL certification and similar companies combine concepts and frameworks that engage with IT service management. When you combine this certification with marketing qualifications, you broaden your prospects. You should also consider adding IT and project management qualifications.
Combining digital marketing with IT skills and project management qualifications sets you up to meet the ever-growing challenges associated with changes to the digital landscape. Keeping those skills up-to-date requires a commitment to continuous learning, so, even after you complete a certification program, recognize you must dedicate time on a consistent basis to reading from leading-edge experts to hone your skills as elements of the digital world change.
Free and low-cost courses
- Google Academy offers free training and certification in areas like Analytics and Ads.
- Hubspot offers several certification tests related to digital marketing.
- Coursera, EDX, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning offer courses related to digital marketing at very reasonable costs
Of course, the drawback to these free and low-cost options is that they may not gain you the respect of having a certificate from a university. Some, like Hubspot and Google, offer training and testing that doesn’t really challenge the learner, hence reducing the impact of obtaining these certifications.
Learn by doing
Learning by doing is another option for folks interested in careers in digital marketing. For instance, help a local non-profit with their digital marketing and you also fill a critical social role. Alternatively, choose a position with a company to learn digital marketing as you observe and support their digital team. On-the-job training is especially good for learning tools such as those used for marketing automation (like Hubspot and Salesforce) as well as the ins and outs of social media.
Starting your own digital marketing campaigns has the benefit of learning while doing, while simultaneously increasing your visibility to hiring managers. Developing a strong, engaged social presence goes a long way toward demonstrating your skills to prospective employers. Experiment with different digital marketing tactics and record what works best to improve your digital skills.
Frankly, learning digital marketing without practicing the theories doesn’t really create a skill. And, that’s a problem for many online courses, especially Google Academy and Hubspot, which are the ones I know best. The concepts of digital marketing, like those of marketing in general, sound super simple until you have to implement them. Most students can’t learn digital marketing skills just by watching videos, even if the videos span 10s of hours. So, if choosing a digital marketing certificate program, look for one that offers feedback, not just video training.
Learn from the masters
A large number of blogs revolve around digital marketing tactics and strategies. In addition, many leading digital marketing firms offer white papers and other training for would-be digital marketers. Regardless of anything else you do to gain digital marketing skills, reading posts from these experts is a must. Digital marketing changes at the drop of a hat, so get in the habit of reading from experts every day. Subscribe to their RSS feeds and make time to read through their posts every day.
Here are some experts to add to your daily reading list:
- Hausman Marketing Letter, of course. We publish every weekday.
- Buffer, for my money, these guys post the best, most detailed stuff on digital marketing you can find.
- MOZ, especially their Whiteboard Friday feature that keeps you current on SEO strategies.
- Occam’s Razor, written by a guy from Google Analytics, Avinash Kaushik who’s a really smart guy for analytics stuff.
- Business2Community, which is crowd-sourced information and content from a wide range of knowledgable digital marketing folks.
- Social Media Examiner, which offers a wide range of topics on digital marketing.
- Marketo, a marketing automation company, offers great stuff and often creates valuable ebooks and white papers worth reading.
Don’t believe everything you read from experts in digital marketing any more than you do in any other topic. Some so-called experts don’t share the good stuff because they fear losing clients while others write stuff that’s overly superficial. Still, other experts share tactics that haven’t worked in years or stuff that contradicts leading experts. Reader beware!
Look for articles detailing what’s working by offering examples or experimental results. At a minimum, look for writers who share content that cites other leading experts to show they do their own reading.
Join several Meetup groups
Most larger cities and many mid-sized ones host various Meetup groups for folks interested in digital marketing and related topics, such as digital analytics, SEO, and social media. Join several of these groups, then drop the ones that waste your time, adding new ones to replace the ones you drop.
Most groups follow a similar format by offering a speaker or several speakers with time allotted for networking to meet others interested in digital marketing. Of course, COVID reduced most groups to virtual meetings, which actually benefits those living outside of cities with their own Meetup groups devoted to digital marketing.
Find a mentor
Reach out through your contacts, either real or via sites like LinkedIn, to find someone willing to mentor you. Remember, mentoring isn’t a one-way street so think about how you can give back to your mentor. For instance, offer to help with their content marketing or social sharing. At a minimum, work hard to help your mentor reach new audiences by endorsing or recommending them or sharing their content with your own networks.
I hope I achieved my goals today and you came away with an appreciation for the opportunities for digital marketing professionals today and growth opportunities making this a great career choice into the future. The information should help you understand the skills necessary for this career and how to prepare for that career with a variety of options listed.
If you need more information, feel free to add questions in the comment section.
Good luck as you move toward your new career.
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