The modern business economy relies heavily on digital marketing, so the need for knowledgeable, qualified digital marketers is correspondingly strong. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job prospects for market research analysts, including digital marketers, will grow by 19% from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the national average across all occupations of just 7%. In fact, BLS anticipates more than 90,000 new positions to open in the field by 2024.
Part of this growth can be attributed to the fact that not all institutions of higher education have kept pace with the marketing industry’s rapid evolution, leaving employers searching for qualified applicants. Among those universities and schools that have adapted their offerings to address the digital marketing skills gap, however, today’s students and working professionals can find much to augment their employability. Online coursework and certificate programs in digital marketing provide an increasingly viable alternative to traditional degree programs.
When deciding on an online program, the first step is to research its accreditation. The best accredited programs have been evaluated and deemed academically sound by either the U.S. Department of Education or one of the six regional accreditation agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Education, including the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). Although the six regional accrediting bodies are the most trusted, the U.S. Department of Education does recognize other accrediting institutions, such as the Distance Education and Training Council. The U.S. Department of Education’s website provides an accreditation database for further research when considering an online program.
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The benefits of an accredited online program are many. They remove geographical constraints, centralize learning resources and allow asynchronous instruction and learning. Often, the self-pacing inherent to online coursework results in stronger overall learning outcomes. While those who prefer verbal to written self-expression may struggle with the online environment, those who prefer the written word – or simply want to hone their professional and academic writing skills – are well-served in an online environment.
Along the same lines, students who prefer face-to-face interactions with professors and peers may feel stymied by online classroom. On the other hand, the demographic diversity of the average online cohort has ongoing social value, while most programs use integrated communications platforms, including in-course email systems, live chat features and discussion groups, to support a variety of communication and learning styles. Online learning technologies are necessarily dynamic and creative, enhancing educational value and aligning the classroom more closely with the modern business environment. Technology, of course, is fallible, which can be a frustration for online students. Basic trouble-shooting skills and familiarity with their school’s tech support systems are musts for online learners.
Like online education in general, certificate programs accommodate the primary concerns of adult students, working professionals and anyone interested in boosting his or her immediate employability. Designed to build expertise in a specialized area, certification programs prepare students for their direct professional application. Certificates are therefore often more specific in nature than degrees, conferring distinct and recognizable professional competencies. (For instance, a digital marketing certificate speaks to a more clearly defined skill set than a bachelor’s degree in marketing.) Degrees take significantly longer to complete than most certificates, while the latter are a powerful supplement to a resume that already includes an undergraduate degree. Anyone looking to enter or advance a career as a digital marketer would benefit from exploring online certificate programs in this burgeoning field.