Marketing & Advertising

Online Master’s in Digital Marketing: Learn While You Earn

Online Master’s in Digital Marketing: Learn While You Earn
So, what should you do if you're passionate about digital marketing and want the career boost a master's degree can give you, but are worried about sacrificing income to go all-in on digital? Image from Unsplash
Christa Terry profile
Christa Terry July 21, 2020

How you earn your digital marketing master's is less important than the fact that you have one. Still, at the end of the day, your career trajectory may depend more on how you market yourself.

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Making the decision to go back to school for a master’s degree can be tough. Tuition can represent a huge financial investment. Stepping away from the workforce can be risky. And the value of a degree can be hard to pin down—especially when it comes to relatively new disciplines that evolve alongside the emergence of new technologies.

Digital marketing is certainly one of those, having only arisen over the past couple of decades. You can find as many people saying things like “I’m not even sure how a digital marketing degree would be relevant” as there are people saying things like “Digital marketing will be the most important skill in the future.”

The paradoxical reality is that both perspectives are, in part, spot on. Companies across sectors are already spending more on digital advertising than on traditional marketing, and it’s a safe bet that online and mobile marketing are here to stay. Even so, a lot of firms don’t take digital marketing seriously as its own animal. By extension, digital marketing master’s degree programs are sometimes seen as inferior to programs that take a comprehensive approach to marketing (and thus cover traditional as well as digital marketing).

So, what should you do if you’re passionate about digital marketing and want the career boost a master’s degree can give you, but are worried about sacrificing income to go all-in on digital? Online master’s in digital marketing programs offer a compromise. You can keep working while earning this degree in an online program, so you stay current while also learning best practices, connecting with industry leaders, and building a portfolio.

In this article about earning a master’s in digital marketing online, we cover:

  • What is a master’s in digital marketing?
  • Why do some students opt to pursue this degree online?
  • What do students in online master’s in digital marketing programs study?
  • Do online digital marketing master’s programs have internship requirements?
  • How much do online master’s in digital marketing programs cost?
  • Which schools have highly ranked online digital marketing master’s programs?
  • Are online master’s degrees as respected as those granted by traditional programs?
  • What can someone do to maximize the value of this degree?

What is a master’s in digital marketing?

Earning a master’s in digital marketing online doesn’t always mean pursuing a Master of Science (MS) in Digital Marketing. Because this academic pathway is so new, master’s degrees in digital marketing come in a lot of flavors. You might earn any one of the following degrees:

  • MS in Digital Communication
  • MS in Digital Innovation in Marketing
  • MS in Digital Marketing Communications
  • MS in Digital Marketing and Design
  • MS in Digital and Social Marketing
  • MS in Integrated Marketing Communications
  • MS in Mass Communication with a Digital Strategy concentration
  • MS in Social Media Marketing

There are also a handful of Master of Arts programs and even MBA programs focused on digital marketing.

Don’t get overwhelmed. The many different kinds of digital marketing degrees can be chalked up to the newness of this discipline. As online and mobile marketing grew in importance, colleges and universities scrambled to create programs and had to make choices about the focus of these new offerings. Some schools decided to create programs that emphasize specific technical areas of digital marketing, such as social media or analytics. Some are focused on creative elements of digital marketing, such as digital design or storytelling. Others dive more deeply into marketing management.

As you research colleges and universities that offer their master’s in digital marketing online, don’t rely on degree names. Reading descriptions and course lists carefully is the key to finding the online master’s in digital marketing program that will motivate you to log into class each day.

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Why do some students opt to pursue this degree online?

Your reasons for pursuing a master’s in digital marketing online will be your own, but in general, distance learners are looking for flexibility. Many students in online master’s degree programs are looking for a way to keep working while earning a degree, but that’s not the only reason to pursue a master’s in digital marketing online instead of on-campus.

Some students in online digital marketing master’s degree programs want to travel while studying. Others have personal commitments that would otherwise interfere with their ability to go to school. Some want to be able to take on multiple internships, launch a business, or pursue passion projects. And still others just don’t want to have to move to go to a good grad school.

Keep in mind, though, that online isn’t always synonymous with part-time. You can still burn out in an online marketing master’s program if you’re trying to hold down a full-time job and take care of family while pursuing a degree.

What do students in online master’s in digital marketing programs study?

There is no consistency when it comes to the curriculum in digital marketing master’s degree programs, regardless of format. You’ll probably study some of the following subjects:

A great master’s in digital marketing program also includes coursework covering marketing strategy, customer analysis, digital storytelling, consumer behavior, and market intelligence. Some programs are more technical than others. At Yeshiva University, for example, students take core courses including:

  • Analytics Programming
  • Consumer Behavior and Customer Relationship Management
  • Marketing Management and Strategy
  • Marketing Research Methods
  • Predictive Analytics
  • Visual Design and Storytelling
  • Web Analytics and Search Engine Optimization

Even if you consider yourself a creative, don’t discount programs where programming, analytics, and data science are part of the curriculum. Digital marketing strategy development is becoming increasingly data analytics-driven. Having marketing analytics and coding chops can provide a distinct advantage over other job seekers after you graduate, whether you end up working at an agency doing market research or creating marketing campaigns for an e-commerce firm.

Do online digital marketing master’s programs have internship requirements?

Some online digital marketing master’s programs require students to complete one or more internships. Others have a capstone project course in the curriculum, and a few require students to complete both to graduate. These practical experiences can be challenging for online students to coordinate, but they’re worth it. When you connect with real-world companies, you can flex your digital marketing skills and tackle actual managerial issues in marketing or technical challenges related to audience identification and segmentation, branding, and meeting sales goals.

How much do online master’s in digital marketing programs cost?

It would be nice if online digital marketing master’s programs were priced at a discount, but they’re not. Earning a master’s in digital marketing online will almost always cost you as much as pursuing the same degree on-campus.

Exactly how much will depend on which program you choose. At one school, you’ll pay $500 per credit for online courses. At another, you might pay more than $1,000. On top of that, you’ll pay all the usual fees plus, in some cases, technology fees that only distance learners have to pay. All told, a digital marketing master’s degree will probably cost you somewhere between $15,000 and $30,000. That’s a big investment, but less expensive than tuition for the best MS in Marketing programs.

Why are digital marketing graduate degree programs cheaper? Probably because digital marketers don’t yet command the same level of respect as their conventionally trained peers.

Which schools have highly ranked online digital marketing master’s programs?

The list of colleges and universities that offer a master’s in digital marketing online is still relatively short. Currently, some of the best graduate-level digital marketing programs for distance learners can be found at:

Are online master’s degrees as respected as those granted by traditional programs?

Most hiring managers have no qualms bringing on new hires with online degrees on their CVs, which is a good thing considering that year-over-year growth of enrollment in online degree programs has outpaced growth in traditional programs. You’ll be in good company with your online degree, but you’ll get the most significant career boost if you choose a school that offers its digital master’s degree program on-campus, as well as online.

An online master’s in digital marketing from a well-regarded school will carry as much weight on your resume as the same degree earned on-campus. An online master’s in digital marketing from a no-name diploma factory will carry as much weight as a traditional degree from the same school, which is to say none at all. Choose your future alma mater wisely.

What can someone do to maximize the value of this degree?

Who you know and what you’ve done are more valuable than what you know in marketing. That’s doubly true when you specialize in online marketing. Many companies still aren’t convinced that internet marketing and mobile marketing need to be as carefully managed as traditional marketing, and so a master’s degree in digital marketing (whether earned online or on-campus) probably isn’t going to impress hiring managers the same way an MBA from one of the best business schools or a Master of Science in Marketing from a top school might.

Be prepared to schmooze your way to the top. You can start building your professional network early in your career by joining groups like the Digital Marketing Association and Internet Marketing Association.

Don’t stop there. Reach out to interesting people on LinkedIn and elsewhere. Elise Ingram of Hire Writers recommends putting on your listening ears: “Choose 1 to 10 influential people in the industry that you want to learn from, and start listening. Then slowly start reacting to what they say, in a genuine way. This can be through replies to their newsletters, comments on social or their blog post, anything. Be genuine and build up a relationship.”

Finally, remember that everything you’ve learned while pursuing a master’s in digital marketing online can be used to market yourself. Start a professional newsletter and interview industry bigwigs. Put your portfolio in front of more eyeballs with paid ads. Choose a niche like real estate or wedding planning, build up a client base, then turn that experience into case studies you can use to land bigger clients or senior positions at established firms. Always be thinking about quantifiable results. Manage yourself like one of the brands you want to manage, and it won’t be long before you find your way into the digital marketing director’s seat.

Questions or feedback? Email editor@noodle.com

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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