These days, people with a knack for communicating the benefits of a product or service are finding new ways to launch fun and lucrative careers in the field of online marketing. Given the bad rap marketers get—particularly the online sort—now’s a better time than ever for young and innovative online marketers to begin learning how to change the way things are done for the better.
This guide will help you understand what an education in online marketing might be like, as well as several important things you should consider when attempting to launch a career in the field.
Part I. The Online Marketing Industry
Before proceeding, take a moment to throw out all preconceived notions you may have about online marketing and allow this guide to show you that the industry isn’t as diabolical as you think. Unfortunately for many of the good guys in the industry, certain rogue marketers have managed to create the perception that online marketing promotes nothing but a bunch of spam, pop-up windows and dreaded spyware. While these are all valid concerns when it comes to online marketing, by taking the right steps to educate yourself in the field, you are helping to ensure that many of these amateur annoyances will become a thing of the past.
An Overview of Careers in Online Marketing
- SEO Strategist: This role is perhaps one of the most important roles within the field of online marketing. SEO, which stands for “Search Engine Optimization,” is all but necessary to ensure that your product or service gets marketed to the right people via search engines. If search engines can be considered to be online marketplaces of infinite scope, then SEO strategists are the impresarios that are finding new and innovative ways to attract your attention while browsing this marketplace.
- Social Media Strategist: Similar to SEO strategists, social media strategists look to social media outlets, such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter to market products or services to social media users. Unlike SEO, however, social media marketing can get a bit touchy, given the fact that you will be directly marketing to followers and/or the associates of your followers. Therefore, learning how to take a balanced approach when it comes to utilizing social media for marketing is key to attracting and retaining customers for your organization or client.
- PPC Analyst: PPC, or “Pay Per Click,” stands as one of the most renowned marketing innovations of the internet era. Championed over a decade ago by a little-known company named Google, the advent of PPC marketing not only helped the search engine become one of the most successful businesses in the world, but also revolutionized the way products and services are marketed via the internet. Becoming a PPC analyst requires a strong sense of how to directly market to a customer in a way that is both alluring and unobtrusive. Keep in mind, if people don’t click on the ad, chances are you won’t get paid!
- Online Copywriter: If creativity, and above all, writing are two of your strong points, then a career in online copywriting might be the perfect fit for you. In addition to having a keen understanding and appreciation of marketing language, online copywriters must be especially aware of how written information is presented to consumers over the internet. More specific to marketing on social media hubs, such as Twitter, online copywriters must also know how to write concise copy about a product or service, often in 250 characters or less!
- Account Manager: After spending some time proving yourself in the online marketing industry, managing actual accounts could end up being the lucrative marketing career you’ve been looking for. Marketing account managers are usually independent self-starters who know a thing or two about how to market effectively across several different product and service categories. While you may not be tapped to be an account manager right out of college, with hard work and success in the field, becoming one can be an excellent future career goal.
Salary and Career Outlook
Because the scope of “online marketing” can be so broad, it is hard to pinpoint an exact salary you can expect in the field. This can be beneficial, however, as it allows for more room to experiment with roles within the industry before sticking to a career path that makes the best sense for you.
Most SEO strategists for the online marketing industry are currently making between $30,000 and $60,000 a year according to this article by Search Engine Watch. The pay range for PPC Analysts is similar, according to Payscale.com. For more information on the differences between these two important roles within the online marketing industry, The Marketing Pill hosts an excellent comparative article on the two career paths.
As a much larger percentage of the world turns to the internet for just about everything they need or want—from news and communication to shopping and entertainment—now is the best time to consider online marketing as a career.
With each day that passes, consumers are becoming more savvy online and are starting to expect more from those of us who market to them online (which often means less, but more effective, marketing). The newest generation of online marketers will have quite a challenge balancing visibility with the privacy demands of internet users, but those who do succeed will have much to look forward to in the industry.
Part II. Top Programs for Online Marketing
Unlike many other professions, launching a career in online marketing does not require the completion of a specific program or degree in order for you to be successful. In fact, having a degree in English, Communications, or even Computer Science can give you the education and skills needed for success in the industry.
That said, having some educational background in marketing never hurts. Below is a selection of top programs throughout the United States that offer an excellent education in the field of online marketing. Some courses can even be taken for free!
UC Berkeley Extension (Berkeley, CA and Online)
- Accreditation: As a part of the main university’s consortium of schools, departments and colleges, UC Berkeley Extension is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
- Specialized Degrees: Unlike its parent university, which offers a full-time MBA program in marketing through the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley Extension offers a certificate in marketing that requires much less of an investment of both time and money.
- Industry Perception: Both UC Berkeley and the Haas School of Business are considered to be top schools in the nation, with the latter being ranked #7 this year among all schools of business by U.S. News and World Report. The certificate in marketing program offered by UC Berkeley Extension is overseen by academic leaders from both schools, ensuring that you’ll be receiving only the highest quality education in the field.
- Cost: Because the program for a certificate in marketing is much less intense than its MBA counterpart, tuition for taking the four required courses at UC Berkeley Extension is estimated at $4,500, in addition to registration fees and the cost of course materials.
- Financial Aid: While extension programs are not applicable for standard financial aid packages administered by the university itself, UC Berkeley Extension does work with a list of approved lenders to help you afford your education. Unfortunately, this assistance does not apply to online programs.
Boston University (Boston, MA and Online)
- Accreditation: Boston University has been accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) since 1929.
- Specialized Degrees: In addition to both a graduate and undergraduate program for marketing through its School of Management, Boston University offers an innovative master’s degree program in International Marketing that can be completed entirely online.
- Industry Perception: BU is as one of the largest private universities in the United States, and counts several Nobel Laureates, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, as some of its many notable alumni. The university’s School of Management alone has educated chairmen and CEOs who would go on to lead some of the world’s most successful companies.
- Cost: As a private business school, tuition at Boston University’s School of Management could cost you at least $42,400 per academic year as of 2013. This does not include other costly expenses such as room and board, books and other incidental costs.
- Financial Aid: Like most fully-accredited universities, BU offers several financial aid options for students, which include loans and grants from the Federal government, as well as a number of scholarships administered by the university upon acceptance.
City University of Seattle (Seattle, WA)
- Accreditation: The City University of Seattle is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
- Specialized Degrees: In addition to a bachelor’s degree in marketing that can be achieved both on-campus and online, City University of Seattle also offers a certificate program in social media, which is very relevant to any career in online marketing.
- Industry Perception: The City University of Seattle is known throughout the world as one of the best smaller-scale universities to earn a degree in business. The university has been given distinctions by both Forbes and Fast Company for its remarkable distance learning (online) programs.
- Cost: Like most other municipal universities, City University assesses tuition on a per-credit basis, as opposed to paying for an entire academic year upfront. For the undergraduate program at the School of Management, tuition can cost anywhere between $347 to $442 per credit for U.S. residents.
- Financial Aid: The City University of Seattle administers and accepts financial aid from a variety of sources, including government and private loans, as well as numerous scholarships and grants.
MIT OpenCourseWare (Online)
- Accreditation: MIT OpenCourseWare is curated and provided to the public by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
- Specialized Degrees: MIT OpenCourseWare offers several comprehensive courses in marketing through the Sloan School of Management, such as Marketing Management, Marketing Strategy and Entrepreneurial Marketing. Each course is taught by an actual MIT instructor, and are comprised of lectures, assignments and other materials from past academic years. While many of these courses can provide a great education in topics that directly relate to online marketing, MIT OpenCourseWare does not provide degrees at this time.
- Industry Perception: MIT OpenCourseWare is a relatively recent experiment by its host university in providing free and unlimited access to a selection of courses taught at the institution. MIT itself is considered by many to be one of the United States’ strongest universities in the field of technology and business.
- Cost: Free
Part III. Launching a Career in Online Marketing
Whether or not you end up achieving a degree or certificate in Marketing, or another related field, now is a great time to begin considering a career in online marketing. As newer and better forms of marketing over the internet begin to evolve, the demand for talented, tech savvy marketing professionals will only get stronger. Below are some tips and suggestions to help you market yourself to potential employers and/or clients in the field of online marketing.
Organizing Your Job Search
- Portfolios: As with any creative professional endeavor, having an up-to-date portfolio is all but required when beginning the search for your dream career. Creating a portfolio for a career in online marketing requires a bit of specialized know-how, given the fact that the field can be so broad. The Houston Chronicle hosts an excellent article that gives some great ideas on how to create an effective marketing portfolio online. Also, this portfolio example created by internet marketing professional, Michelle Chen, should give you an idea of what a great online marketing portfolio could look like.
- Cover Letters and Résumés: Aside from a robust portfolio that is highly representative of your skills in online marketing, having an outstanding cover letter and résumé is key to providing employers with a quick and concise view of your background in the field. Maintaining an up-to-date résumé that lists new experiences and accomplishments is particularly important for SEO strategists and PPC analysts, as much of what they do cannot be presented in a portfolio. SEO and social media expert Garth O’Brien provides some great advice on how to avoid common pitfalls when crafting an SEO resume. For more information on how to create a great cover letter, Resume Bucket hosts a sample cover letter that is specific to the field of online marketing.
- Personal Branding: There is perhaps no industry that values the importance of personal branding more than the marketing industry. Creating and maintaining a positive personal brand for yourself is often the first (and in many cases, the only) indicator of your value in the online marketing industry. As a budding online marketer, you must be extra careful about how you are perceived by others over the internet, which means that your own personal websites and social media pages should reflect the standards that employers or clients seek for their own marketing needs.
A Market Without Limits
Now is an exciting time to begin considering a possible career in online marketing as you prepare your college applications, or even if you’re beginning the hunt for a new career. Given the limitless scope of the online marketplace, not only are talented online marketers in demand, but are gravely needed in many cases to help businesses survive in the internet age.
The great thing about a career in online marketing is that much of what you need to know can be picked up on your own, or even by taking free courses online. Where degrees are concerned, spending an arm and a leg for an MBA doesn’t have to be your only option. Effective online marketers possess degrees across several disciplines, such as English or Computer Science.
In the end, if you have a special affinity for the internet, and take great pride in the persona you have created for yourself on blogs and through social media, you already have built an excellent foundation for yourself in the field of online marketing. By taking some time to research more about what a career in online marketing entails, chances are that you too will find tremendous success in the market without limits.