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How to Become a Digital Marketer

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Digital Marketer Career Snapshot

  • What you'll do: Promote a brand or company to bring in revenue
  • Where you'll work: For a company or an agency
  • Degree you'll need: Associate or bachelor's degree in a business, data, humanities, or a liberal arts field
  • Median annual salary: $63,920

What is a Digital Marketing? 

Digital marketing, in simple terms, refers to any marketing done on a digital channel to promote a company's brand and sell its products or services to consumers. These channels include email, social media, company websites, mobile, and display advertising. 

In this Article

7 Steps to Become a Digital Marketer

To become a digital marketer, you'll want to earn a degree, complete an internship, and build your network. These steps can help you get started.

Find the right school.

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Students may have a long checklist of things they want from a school, but these considerations should rank near the top when you're researching digital marketing programs.

Accreditation: An accredited program ensures you are getting an education that has met quality standards set by an educational accrediting agency. You'll need to attend an accredited program and school to qualify for financial aid.

Online programs: If you'll need a flexible learning schedule, there are many marketing degrees you can complete online. This is a great option for those with part-time or full-time jobs or family responsibilities to juggle. It can also allow you to enroll in a program that isn't nearby—even across the nation—if that's your choice.

What to look for: Marketing is a program within a school's business department, and sometimes a communications department. If possible, choose a program that offers a concentration or specialty in digital marketing. Programs that include an internship are also worth looking into because that experience could weigh heavily in your favor as you look for your first full-time role after graduation.

Choose a degree.

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To start your career, you can earn a two-year associate degree in marketing. This could be a good choice if you want to enter the job market as soon as possible or if you don't have the finances for a four-year degree right out of the gate.

However, you'll likely need a bachelor's degree to become a digital marketing manager. A four-year degree will give you a deeper education about a broader array of topics associated with digital marketing.

Gain admissions to a school.

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Admission requirements can vary by program and degree, but expect at least some of the following:

• A GED or high school diploma

• Prior coursework in economics, business, statistics, or journalism could be recommended but generally not required

• A specific GPA; for instance, a four-year business program may require a GPA of 3.0

• SAT or ACT exam scores for a four-year program

Earn your degree.

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Here's an idea of what to expect from a two-year and four-year degree as you choose your education pathway.

Associate Degree

An associate degree in marketing is a two-year program that will give you a solid overview of marketing and general business administration. If you decide later to continue on to a bachelor's degree, you may be able to roll all or most of your credits over.

Coursework for an associate degree will cover marketing basics, such as:

Introduction to business: an overview of business ethics, management, and economics
 
Advertising essentials: an introduction to advertising methods

Introduction to marketing: a look at how producers promote and sell goods to consumers

Digital analytics: instruction in how to use digital tools to measure the success of your marketing efforts

Web design: an overview of effective web design and website architecture

Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree in marketing will give you a deeper education with broader coursework in areas such as finance and accounting. You'll most likely take classes in: 

Digital analytics: a look at how to track the performance and effectiveness of your marketing efforts

Digital advertising: a dive into the different types of online advertising

Mobile marketing: how to use marketing strategies to reach consumers on mobile devices

SEO marketing: the fundamentals of search engine optimization and how it relates to search engine marketing, known as SEM
 
Applied marketing: how to effectively market a product to a targeted audience

Business leadership: how to create a leadership style to fit different business organizations 

Business law: an overview of how laws and policy shape the way business is done 

No matter which degree you choose, you'll want to complete an internship to gain real-world experience. It's a resume boost and will help you make connections with professionals who may help you land your first position.

Depending on your interests or ambitions, you might pursue an internship writing content for a company's social media accounts, doing research for a company's brand strategy, or working with an SEO team.

Find your first job and gain experience.

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One of the best ways to find your first job after graduating is to tap into your network. If you worked closely with a professor in school, developed a close relationship with a mentor, or completed an internship, reach out to your contacts to see if anyone needs digital marketing support. 

PR associate, paid search associate, junior content writer, and social media associate are all solid entry-level digital marketing roles to pursue.

Pursue a certification.

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Since digital marketing is a broad field, it's common for marketers to specialize in one area. Aleks Merkovich, an SEO expert and digital marketer, explains: "Some people choose to specialize in search engine optimization, email marketing, paid search, paid social, and video, just to name a few."
There are many specialty certifications for digital marketing. Earning one can show your commitment and passion to a specialty and demonstrate deep knowledge in the area, potentially helping you stand out in a field of job candidates.

Here are three of the most popular certifications, according to Merkovich: 

Inbound Marketing

Who Grants It: HubSpot

Who It's For: Marketers who want to have a deeper understanding of attracting customers, known as inbound marketing, and its core concepts.

Requirements: Watch 24 videos and successfully complete seven quizzes.

Test format: There is no final exam for this certification, but be prepared to answer questions between videos.

Test prep resources: No test prep is necessary but familiarity with basic marketing concepts and terms is helpful. 
 
Google Analytics Certification
 
Who Grants It: Google 

Who It's For: Marketers who want to learn the basics of setting up a Google Analytics account and using it to effectively measure site traffic, audience data, and conversions.
 
Requirements: Watch six video modules for a total of about 100 minutes of training.  

Test format: There is no test, but there is a pre- and post-survey to customize and improve your learning experience. 

Test prep resources: Prior experience with Google Analytics is helpful but not required.
 
Google Ads Search Certification 

Who Grants It: Google
 
Who It's For: Marketers who want to develop successful ad campaigns through Google. 

Requirements: No prior coursework or experience is necessary, but you will need to be familiar with Google's ad platform to pass the test. 

Test Format: A 75-minute timed assessment based on 50 questions. You need to score 80% or higher to earn certification. 

Test Prep Resources: Google provides 145 minutes of video material to help you learn more about the concepts covered on the test. You can also take a free knowledge check assessment before starting your exam to confirm your preparedness. 

Advance your career.

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While an advanced degree, such as an MBA in marketing or a certification, certainly won't hurt your digital marketing career, it isn't necessary to move into a leadership position, Merkovich says.

"Earning a certification for a software program, like Google Analytics, can be helpful, but mostly for your own learning and development rather than your resume," he says. "The digital landscape changes so frequently that on-the-job experience is what matters most."

Advancing to a manager level in digital marketing usually takes a minimum of five years of work experience. For director or vice president positions, this number can be seven and 10 plus years, respectively. 

To advance, you'll likely need strong foundational knowledge in marketing plus a specialty. For example, a social media associate can eventually advance to a social media director position by building up seven years of social media experience and general knowledge of other digital marketing platforms.

A digital marketer supports sales and larger business initiatives by marketing a product or service through digital channels. They may be responsible for a wide variety of tasks, such as creating awareness of a company's brand, generating website traffic, and increasing consumer leads and purchases. 

A digital marketer supports sales and larger business initiatives by marketing a product or service through digital channels.

Roles and Responsibilities

Digital marketing is a broad field with many specializations. Some overlap, so your exact role might depend on the company you work for. Larger companies have more employees who have specialties or even subspecialties, while at smaller companies marketing professionals may have a hand in more than one role.

Here are some common specialties you'll find in the job market.

Social media marketing

Social media marketers promote a company's products by posting text, photos, video, and other content across social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and LinkedIn. Whether quirky, serious, or authoritative, this content reflects a company's brand. Depending on how broad or narrow their role is, a social medial marketer may also interact with customers and potential customers, or use analytics to track the performance of their work.

Content writing

Content writers are responsible for writing compelling content across one or more digital channels. This can include blog posts, marketing landing pages, product descriptions, how-to pieces, and customer testimonials. Content can have many purposes: to build trust and authority with an audience, provide expert information, persuade a customer to take an action or buy a product, and even entertain.

Content management

Content managers supervise the creation of marketing content, including written material, video, and podcasts, and oversee a calendar that determines when all content is rolled out across a company's marketing platforms. This requires making sure that content creators meet deadlines and create content that's consistent in its messaging to consumers. Content managers also track the performance of content by several measurements, including sales and customer engagement, and come up with strategies to improve performance.

SEO and Organic marketing

These marketers use research and analysis to track a company website's ranking by search engines. An SEO marketer's goal is to get a website to appear at or near the top of a page when a person searches for products or services on a search engine such as Google. By making a website more discoverable on a search engine, SEO marketers increase a company's chances of capturing potential customers.

Email marketing

Email marketers create emails to connect with one or more of a company's audiences. Emails may contain written content or videos that introduce new products or services and tell customers about sales. Some emails are part of "nurturing campaigns," which are designed to tell potential customers about your products over time and persuade them to buy them. An important part of this job is building robust email lists to reach a large audience.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Digital Marketer?

The time it takes to become a digital marketer depends on whether you earn an associate or bachelor's degree. This means you can launch your career in two to five years.

Skills for a Successful Digital Marketer

Digital marketing is an exciting field that's constantly evolving along with technology. To thrive, digital marketers should aim to be: 

Adaptable: Social platforms and search engines are constantly tweaking the algorithms they use to rank websites and content. These rankings can affect all aspects of a company's marketing, so you'll need to be nimble to switch strategies and tactics to adapt to changes.

Analytical: Digital marketers deal must know how to work with a variety of data and interpret it to assess and refine marketing campaigns.

Communicative: Your success in digital marketing hinges on your ability to effectively communicate something to your audience. This takes creativity and business acumen.

Design-oriented: Product, graphic, and user experience design go hand-in-hand with digital marketing, so design is an essential part of a digital market's perpsective.

Tech-savvy: Digital marketers need to master the ins and outs of the digital channels they work with daily and embrace new and evolving marketing platforms and tech tools. You may be adept at using one tool but change jobs and find that you'll need to learn new marketing software.

Where You'll Work

Most digital marketers work in one of two places: 

  • At an agency: A marketing agency handles marketing for many companies, commonly known as "clients." At an agency, you could work on a marketing campaign for one brand, or for several simultaneously.
  • In-house: Instead of hiring an agency or external contractor, some companies have their own marketing department or team. This is especially true of midsize and larger companies, but even they sometimes contract out part of their marketing workload.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of employers. For example, working at an agency will give you experience across a wide variety of industries or accounts, but the typical workload might be heftier as a result.

Working in-house for a single company, on the other hand, will restrict you to working for a single brand and possibly limit your marketing expertise, but you may find a better work-life balance.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), market research analysts and marketing specialists earn a median annual salary of $63,920. Here are median annual salaries for your state.

Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists

National data

Median Salary: $63,920

Projected job growth: 19%

10th Percentile: $37,570

25th Percentile: $48,400

75th Percentile: $97,600

90th Percentile: $128,320

Projected job growth: 19%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alaska $62,620 $38,360 $104,450
Alabama $51,440 $29,990 $100,510
Arkansas $62,220 $31,270 $127,820
Arizona $60,360 $30,830 $105,800
California $77,050 $42,560 $155,880
Colorado $76,450 $38,740 $129,010
Connecticut $63,970 $39,130 $121,900
District of Columbia $78,870 $48,370 $131,140
Delaware $80,920 $48,670 $131,920
Florida $60,950 $34,070 $120,890
Georgia $62,010 $33,280 $125,870
Hawaii $60,360 $29,920 $100,620
Iowa $61,180 $37,060 $100,970
Idaho $49,410 $29,500 $100,690
Illinois $61,970 $37,680 $103,230
Indiana $58,090 $30,100 $103,230
Kansas $60,110 $30,030 $102,660
Kentucky $54,820 $34,150 $100,060
Louisiana $49,560 $31,310 $96,040
Massachusetts $76,220 $37,910 $129,880
Maryland $62,610 $31,910 $103,480
Maine $74,060 $47,500 $100,880
Michigan $62,320 $37,930 $108,470
Minnesota $76,920 $46,350 $128,590
Missouri $59,800 $31,810 $123,980
Mississippi $49,250 $28,900 $95,750
Montana $55,490 $35,930 $97,630
North Carolina $62,100 $37,930 $122,620
North Dakota $60,740 $37,120 $80,920
Nebraska $58,280 $30,690 $95,760
New Hampshire $63,460 $38,970 $124,550
New Jersey $79,360 $48,220 $130,120
New Mexico $48,880 $30,030 $80,510
Nevada $60,740 $36,900 $95,750
New York $78,870 $47,640 $131,920
Ohio $61,460 $36,730 $104,330
Oklahoma $49,750 $29,690 $100,060
Oregon $63,430 $43,030 $130,120
Pennsylvania $62,140 $37,780 $104,170
Rhode Island $63,240 $29,920 $125,250
South Carolina $58,420 $33,010 $101,320
South Dakota $60,130 $37,970 $95,620
Tennessee $60,330 $31,370 $102,260
Texas $62,320 $31,040 $124,730
Utah $60,360 $29,850 $100,140
Virginia $64,950 $37,970 $129,570
Vermont $60,980 $38,360 $97,700
Washington $79,670 $43,360 $153,590
Wisconsin $60,740 $36,960 $100,060
West Virginia $46,320 $23,750 $79,470
Wyoming $54,490 $30,460 $100,620

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

The BLS doesn't break out digital marketers specifically, and your annual salary may also be influenced by several factors: 

  • Your experience
  • Where your company is based
  • Where you live 

"Demand in marketing fuels a need for content, meaning good writers, designers, videographers, and other creatives with marketing skills are in even higher demand," Merkovich says.

He adds that there may be pockets of particularly high need in the industry: "Companies are spending more than ever now on organic marketing/search engine optimization. Depending on your industry/product, channels like social media might be the most in-demand."  

The BLS predicts that marketing positions will grow 19 percent during the decade 2021 to 2031, which is a much faster rate than for most fields.

Professional Resources

Networking and professional development are hugely important for advancing your digital marketing career. Many jobs in the digital marketing world crop up through professional networks, and it's vital to invest time in learning more about the latest strategies and trends in the industry.

Here are some powerful resources you can take advantage of:

HubSpot Academy: HubSpot has created dozens of online courses to help marketers hone their skillsets. Their Inbound Marketing certification course has become a standard across the marketing industry. 

The Later blog: A social media marketing blog at the forefront of covering trends in the industry.

Superpath Slack community: Superpath's free Slack community brings together more than 7,000 digital marketers to talk shop and network.  

Perpetual Traffic podcast: Hosted by two digital marketing experts, this podcast dissects strategies for bringing more traffic to websites using organic social media posts, paid ads, and content marketing. 


emily polner

Written and reported by:

Mimi Polner

Contributing Writer

aleks merkovich

With professional insights from:

Aleks Merkovich

SEO Expert and Digital Marketer and Consultant

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