Careers in digital marketing are hot stuff right now. Not only does the field offer a wide range of creative opportunities, it’s also constantly expanding into new industries and technology areas. These factors have resulted in a need for diverse skill sets, personality types, and professional backgrounds in the sector.
Don’t take our word for it, though. According to the reputable market research company Global Industry Analysts Inc., the global market value for digital marketing is projected to reach $860.8 billion by 2026. That’s up from a measly (!) $530.9 billion in 2022, translating to many new jobs and plenty of fresh opportunities. While this bodes well for digital marketing as an industry, what about individuals climbing the career ladder? In short: if you haven’t worked in the sector before, are you a good fit for a career in digital marketing? Where can I learn how to become a digital marketer?
In this post, we’ll explore this question deeper, diving in to answer the following:
- What is digital marketing?
- What kinds of digital marketing jobs are there?
- What skills and experience do you need to work in digital marketing?
- Is digital marketing a good industry to go into?
- How to become a digital marketer: practical tips
- Summary and next steps
Ready to find out if you’re a good fit for a career in digital marketing? Let’s go.
1. What is digital marketing?
In its simplest form, digital marketing describes any type of marketing that takes place online. Due to the breadth of available digital channels, brands use digital marketing to connect with their audiences in various ways, and for various reasons. They might use it to raise brand awareness, establish their authority as an industry leader, or simply promote their wares. The key to digital marketing is targeting different audiences with tailored messaging.
Common digital marketing channels you might come across include: blogs, websites, social media, email campaigns, online advertising, videos (and other multimedia), and search engine marketing. In reality, though, most marketing campaigns aren’t limited to a single channel, but instead will intersect several of them (what we call ‘multichannel marketing’).
Unlike traditional (offline) marketing techniques, one huge benefit of digital marketing is the ability to measure the finer details of customer engagement. How many people clicked the link in an email? How long did they linger on your website? How many people shared a social media post (and with whom)? How many clicks led to product purchases?
Armed with this data, brands can tweak their digital marketing strategies to drive even more customers towards a chosen action. As you can probably tell, digital marketing is a potentially powerful tool and a vital part of any modern organization’s broader sales and marketing strategy.
2. What kinds of digital marketing jobs are there?
We’ll cut to the chase—there is no shortage of digital marketing job opportunities! Regardless of the sector, product, or service, there’s a massive array of digital marketing jobs, crossing various functions. Which one is right for you will depend on your specific skill set and interests. Rest assured, though—whatever your background, there will be a digital marketing role out there suited to your needs, skills, and career objectives.
While we can’t possibly cover all the different digital marketing positions available, here’s a handful worth considering.
A common saying in digital marketing is that ‘content is king’. If that’s true, content strategy is pretty important, too! A content strategist’s role is to devise and deliver plans that simultaneously meet an organization’s business objectives while serving the needs of its customers. Content strategists work on everything from written copy to video, graphics, and podcasts. They’ll often carry out audits of existing content, too, and tend to work well with several disciplines, including copywriters, web designers, and AV professionals.
Social media manager
Creating and maintaining an effective presence on social media is often a key goal of digital marketing. A social media manager, therefore, takes charge of a brand’s online presence. They will produce and disseminate targeted content, analyze data, oversee customer service, and work with wider digital marketing teams to deliver high-impact social media campaigns.
Digital marketing analyst
Today’s digital marketers all require some working knowledge of data analysis. However, the ubiquity of data in our interconnected world has led to the emergence of a relatively new position: the digital marketing analyst. Sometimes working alone, others as part of a team, a digital marketing analyst’s role is to keep everyone’s feet on the ground with data-driven insights. When creative ideas are flying, they will keep focused on the figures. With a highly analytical mindset, digital marketing analysts cut through the fluff, organizing and analyzing data to tell wider teams what’s working and what’s not.
Core to any digital marketing strategy is skilled copywriters who can produce highly engaging content for everything from blog posts to scripts, email campaigns, product landing pages, and more. While good digital marketing copywriters need a broad knowledge of the field, their real skill is as a wordsmith. The best copywriters have an intuitive feel for tone of voice, messaging, and what language appeals to different audiences. They’re also highly organized, often working to tight deadlines and working closely with SEO teams to ensure they incorporate appropriate keywords into their copy.
Want to learn more about the art of copywriting? Read our guide!
Search engine optimization (SEO) specialist
One of the most in-demand skills in digital marketing is SEO. This helps organizations boost their search engine rankings. Because there are many different (and often changing) aspects of SEO, entire digital marketing agencies are dedicated to this role. From keyword research to link building and optimizing the back-end of websites, SEO specialists are creative and analytical, working with copywriters, web developers, and content strategists to ensure websites are readable for both humans and search engine algorithms.
Email marketing specialist
With over 300 billion emails sent every day, it’s hardly rocket science that many brands want to target this key digital channel. One of the first digital marketing techniques to emerge, email has stood the test of time against newer channels such as social media, video, and podcasts. An email marketing specialist’s job is to create compelling campaigns that stand out against the background noise of our inboxes, compelling customers to action. While this may involve writing copy, the majority of an email specialist’s role is strategic, building customer profiles and diving into data to figure out what works. They’ll then devise a stand-out campaign that digital designers and copywriters will bring to life.
We went into detail on some of these jobs in this article.
3. What skills and experience do you need to work in digital marketing?
Although we have an idea of what digital marketing involves, you may still be figuring out whether or not you’re a good fit for a career in this field. In this section, we’ll explore some characteristics common to all digital marketing roles, regardless of specialism.
If you don’t tick off everything on this list, don’t worry! With even a handful of these traits, you could still be a brilliant fit for the field.
An ability to communicate with various stakeholders and disciplines is vital for any digital marketing role. You’ll need to communicate with external clients, c-suite personnel, digital designers, copywriters, web developers, data analysts, and more. While good communication means adapting your style to others’ needs, it also means being open and transparent. It’s not just about convincing people that your approach is correct but being honest about what you don’t know and seeking help when necessary.
Critical thinking is vital to digital marketing—it helps you cut through unnecessary detail to focus on the best solution to a problem. In a position that involves many stakeholders bringing different perspectives and agendas, this will keep your projects, campaigns, and strategies on track. Whether you’re analyzing customer data, deciding between creative approaches, or responding to negative PR, analytical thinking will always serve you well.
A head for figures
The best digital marketers are good number-crunchers. This might mean being able to do quick sums in your head, don’t worry if math is not your strong point. Having a good head for figures is more about your ability to manage budgets, analyze data, and review metrics and key performance indicators (such as website traffic or email response rates). And, of course, you’ll always have an eye on the bottom line and return on investment.
Getting the best from your teams, and targeting audiences in ways that meet their needs involves careful, active listening. Active listening means more than listening to someone’s words. Pay close attention to body language and tone of voice, too. Often people say one thing when they mean another. This goes for internal teams but also your customers. For instance, a customer might complain about the quality of a product when it was the customer service that upset them. Careful listening will help you spot these subtle differences, allowing you to solve problems more effectively.
It might sound obvious, but if you’re hoping to be a good fit for digital marketing, you’ll need a solid understanding of general marketing theory, as well as specific digital marketing techniques. The former includes understanding the difference between a marketing funnel and a digital marketing funnel, or what the key content types are. The latter includes understanding digital marketing techniques like email marketing or the basics of SEO.
A love of technology
Digital marketing, unsurprisingly, relies on digital tech. And as we’re all aware, new tech is constantly emerging. If you find fresh technologies fascinating (rather than befuddling) and see their potential over their pitfalls, this will put you in great stead for a digital marketing career. You’ll be passionate about figuring out how to turn the latest tech trends to your advantage, and be great at spotting when the latest fads are just hot air and hype!
Highly organized and detail-focused
Digital marketing is often a curious combination of fast-paced decision-making and perfectionist planning. You’ll be good at self-management, prioritizing what needs to be done, and honing in on necessary facts and figures when they require your attention at short notice. While you’ll no doubt be happy strategizing with spreadsheets, you’ll be just as content letting everything drop to handle an emergency such as a social media storm or a customer service issue.
Strategic and competitive
Going hand-in-hand with organizational skills, the best digital marketers are great strategic thinkers. While creativity is essential, the main thing is to keep an eye on your objectives. Is a campaign going as planned? Or is it going over budget? Are you meeting your KPIs? Balancing winning campaigns with flexible strategies will help keep you ahead of competitors.
There’s no place for the phrase ‘but that’s how we’ve always done it’ in digital marketing. If you like busting conventions, mixing things up, and learning new stuff, you’ll do well in the field. Attendance at industry events, staying updated on the latest digital trends, reading magazines and blogs, and keeping an eye on competitor products and services are all prerequisites for digital marketing experts.
Team working and leadership
With such an array of different skill sets required for digital marketing, nobody can work alone. More often than not, digital marketers have to pull together multidisciplinary teams to deliver high-impact campaigns that offer real value. This not only requires excellent teamwork, motivation, and morale, but persuasive project management, leading teams to get the best out of them.
Do you have any of these traits? If not, what can you do to cultivate them? At this point, the main thing is to be fascinated by the field and willing to hone the employability skills you need to make strides. But before we get to that, what about the industry as a whole?
4. Is digital marketing a good industry to go into?
We may be biased, but we think digital marketing is a great industry. It’s a great outlet for creativity, and offers plenty of career progression, competitive salaries, and much more. But don’t take our word for it—here’s some of the latest data on the state of the industry.
Global digital advertising spend is set to increase by 68%
While digital advertising spend doesn’t reflect the state of the entire digital marketing industry, it’s a positive signifier. In 2021, global digital advertising spend was estimated at $521 billion. By 2026, that’s projected to grow to $876 billion—an increase of 68%. This spending doesn’t sit alone, either. It requires new hires, telling us clearly that companies are taking digital marketing ever more seriously as time goes by.
Video and media-rich content is driving digital marketing growth
If you love multimedia and want to bring your skills to digital marketing, you’re in luck. According to the Global Digital Marketing Market Outlook report by EMR, major drivers of market growth in the industry include an increase in online video and mobile advertising and increasing consumption of video advertisements. Other drivers include rising smartphone use and other factors. Regardless of the detail, the facts all point in one direction, and that’s up, up, up!
Digital marketing is expanding in all key global markets
Wherever in the world you are, digital marketing is a pretty safe career bet. According to market researcher ReportLinker, the digital marketing industry is growing in key geographic markets. This includes the U.S., China, Japan, Canada, and Europe (especially Germany). All this suggests that no matter where you’re located, there’ll be opportunities in digital marketing. With many other industries facing crises and unemployment at this time of global geopolitical upheaval, digital marketing is about as safe a bet as you can ask for. And if that’s not enough to convince you, we’re not sure what is!
5. How to become a digital marketer: Practical tips
Hopefully, we’ve convinced you that you’re a good fit for a career in digital marketing. So, next question: where do I learn how to become a digital marketer?
How to become a digital marketer: learn the skills
Before you can land a digital marketing role, you have to build your skills. Exposing yourself to different techniques will help you thrive in the industry. More importantly, it’ll help you determine which areas interest you the most—the first step towards choosing a specialism. You don’t have to specialize, of course. But many people do choose to.
We recommend starting by researching different marketing theories and techniques, from social media marketing to digital tools. There are also many free online courses available. While the quality of these courses varies, it’s a safe bet you’ll find something to upskill you in the basics. For instance, check out this list of free SEO courses for beginners. Do a little digging and you’ll find many more in a similar vein, for everything from affiliate marketing to email marketing and more.
Finally, it might be worth thinking about investing in a digital marketing bootcamp. While free courses are great for getting a taster, certified programs are usually more rigorous and often designed with job support to give your digital marketing career the kickstart it needs.
How to become a digital marketer: build an online presence and portfolio
You’ll need to prove your worth to potential employers by exhibiting a solid online presence and personal brand. Don’t worry, though—this doesn’t mean signing up to every social media platform under the sun, or sharing all the intimate details of your personal life! Instead, target the platforms you know best and build a following amongst specific users.
For instance, you could consider starting a blog, YouTube channel (check out the CareerFoundry YouTube channel for some inspiration!), or podcast on a topic that interests you.
If you want to work in a specific industry, be savvy about this: select a topic that targets a similar audience. If you want to work in the cosmetics industry, for example, it could be a beauty blog. Since there is no shortage of beauty blogs out there, try to find a ‘hook’ that helps you stand out. To illustrate, check out this popular beauty blogger who suffers from the skin condition rosacea. By finding her niche, she’s not only raising awareness of this lesser-known condition, but has built a loyal following as an influencer.
This is just one example, of course, but it shows that by optimizing your content to the right audience, you can soon build a niche but powerful following. The main thing is to find your topic and target it ruthlessly! As you conduct your online journey, create a professional portfolio to track your progress. How did you optimize your website for SEO? How did you build your social media following? Share your journey with potential employers as evidence of your hard work.
How to become a digital marketer: network
Networking with other professionals is essential for a field as diverse and reliant on skills-sharing as digital marketing. If you use social media, start by targeting others on a similar path to you. If you publish a cooking blog, for example, reach out to other cooking bloggers who might want to connect or even collaborate. You never know what opportunities this might lead to.
A more traditional approach, online at least, is to use business networking sites like LinkedIn or Xing to find professional contacts in your industry. These don’t just need to be digital marketing professionals. These days, the long arm of digital marketing reaches into almost every job role in some way, meaning that connecting with old colleagues or friends from college can also be helpful. You never know where a lead or helpful piece of advice might come from!
Finally, it’s worth attending face-to-face events and conferences, too. If this isn’t feasible, try online seminars or meetups. Networking doesn’t need to be scary; it’s just humans talking to other humans and seeing what they have in common. We all do this every day, so don’t be apprehensive about it (but do take business cards with you!)
How to become a digital marketer: get a mentor
While networking is a powerful business tool, it can take time for your efforts to pay off. Meanwhile, finding an official mentor can help speed up the process of finding a digital marketing job. This mentor could be a professional already working in the field who knows you, and is willing to support you as you launch your digital marketing career. Or it might be someone you have approached directly.
Finally, if you choose to invest in a digital marketing training program, many of these offer mentoring from experienced industry professionals as part of the fee. Before signing up, ensure you’ve found a course with one-to-one mentoring. It’s a huge help to have someone there ready to answer any questions you might have as they occur in real-time.
One of the reasons student love studying with CareerFoundry is our dual mentorship model, in which every student gets paired up with a mentor and a tutor that will work with them for the duration of the program. These people are seasoned industry professionals, working directly with students to inspire them with personalized feedback and guidance as they make their way through the curriculum.
6. Next steps
In this post, we’ve answered the question: am I a good fit for a career in digital marketing? We’ve explored what digital marketing involves and the different kinds of digital marketing jobs available, from social media manager to SEO specialist.
We’ve also looked at the core skills and experience you’ll need to work in digital marketing and offered some practical tips on how to become a digital marketer.
As we’ve seen, digital marketing doesn’t require just one set of skills—almost anyone can find a way into this exciting, creative, diverse, and growing field.
To learn more about your future career in digital marketing, sign up for this free, 5-day Intro to Digital Marketing short course. Alternatively, demystify the topic by reading the following introductory guides: