How Much Do Digital Marketing Managers Earn?
March 10, 2021
The answer depends on whom you ask. Most sources agree, however, that getting a master's degree in digital marketing isn't the way to boost your income in this role.
Digital marketing hasn't totally replaced traditional marketing, but it has definitely overtaken it. According to Lyfe Marketing:
- Sixty percent of marketers across industries are investing more time and resources into digital channels
- Half believe digital marketing has the edge over traditional marketing
- More than 80 percent of consumers research products online before making a purchase
Digital marketing enjoys multiple advantages. It can be a lot cheaper than traditional advertising, for one. It also allows brands to interact with customers directly. It's dynamic and can be delivered to devices people have with them every waking moment. It results in a higher level of engagement; audiences connect with digital marketing in a way that they can't with a print ad or a billboard. And, perhaps best of all, the results of digital marketing are highly trackable.
You might assume that, because digital marketing is more prominent than ever before, professionals in the field are making a lot of money. Some are, but the surprising fact is that digital marketers tend to make less than other marketing professionals. This is true even for digital marketing managers, who oversee sophisticated campaigns on multiple channels—for numerous clients if they work in a digital marketing agency. It's not entirely clear why that's the case. This article explores some factors that determine how digital marketer salaries are set and what aspiring digital marketers can do to improve their pay.
In this article, we'll answer the question "how much does a digital marketing manager earn?" and cover the following topics:
- Do marketing jobs pay well?
- What is a digital marketing manager?
- What does a digital marketing manager do?
- What education do digital marketing managers need?
- How much does a digital marketing manager make?
- What's the typical advancement path for digital marketing managers?
- What factors affect digital marketing managers' salaries?
- Is this one of the highest-paid marketing jobs?
Do marketing jobs pay well?
Some can fund a relatively lavish lifestyle; others pay barely enough to cover the cost of living in cities like New York. Salary.com reports that marketing jobs can pay anywhere from $40,000 to $284,000 per year. That's a huge range, and while traditional marketing managers can make well over six figures, it's much rarer for digital marketing manager salaries to hit $100,000. And, the road from digital marketing specialist to digital marketing manager can be a long one. There are still plenty of businesses that treat digital marketing as an afterthought, which may be why salaries for digital marketers are often (but not always) lower than those of traditional marketers.
What is a digital marketing manager?
Digital marketing managers are the professionals in charge of all marketing activities that take place on various online channels (e.g., websites, social media accounts, email, blogs). These channels are used to:
- Boost brand awareness
- Drive traffic to a website
- Acquire leads
- Increase sales
- Inspire brand loyalty
Whereas traditional marketing initiatives can't always be correlated to sales or other metrics, digital marketing campaigns are highly trackable—and that means digital marketing managers are held to higher standards of accountability. They have to understand human behavior and psychology just like traditional marketers, but they also need to have a solid grasp of analytics. Proving ROI using hard facts is part of every digital marketing manager's job.
What does a digital marketing manager do?
Digital marketing managers develop and oversee all types of online marketing strategies and initiatives. It's ultimately their responsibility to ensure that digital campaigns run smoothly and get results. On any given day, a digital marketing manager might:
- Manage a digital marketing staff of SEO specialists, email marketing specialists, social media specialists, and SEM specialists
- Develop goal-driven short- and long-term digital marketing strategies
- Create digital strategies designed to optimize the user experience across channels
- Use marketing analytics tools to monitor site traffic and visitor behavior
- Measure the performance of all digital marketing campaigns
- Identify and test new digital communications platforms and tools
- Identify conversion points and user funnels
- Oversee email marketing, social media management, and digital advertising campaigns
- Oversee the development and optimization of website content
- Track click-through rates and consumers' browsing and purchasing behavior
- Identify consumer behavior and traffic trends and insights
- Create display and search advertising campaigns
- Plan, launch, and measure conversion tests
- Create reports for stakeholders in all departments
- Collaborate with colleagues at all levels of an organization
- Evaluate emerging digital marketing technologies
Every employer has different expectations for the people in this role, and pay can vary accordingly. You might be paid more or less depending on how long your list of responsibilities is at a company.
What education do digital marketing managers need?
Most employers look for digital marketing managers who have at least a bachelor's degree in marketing, business, communications, web design, graphic design, or a related field. While bachelor's and master's degree programs in digital marketing exist, most traditional marketing programs now dive pretty deep into digital concepts. Don't feel as though you have to choose a BS in Digital Marketing program or one of the many master's degree in digital marketing programs if you want to advance in this career.
Digital marketing was once a highly specialized, cutting-edge field, but now it's an essential element of marketing, period. A bachelor's degree in marketing—with or without a digital marketing concentration or minor—may open more doors than a more specialized degree.
You can find some of the best bachelor's-level marketing programs at:
- Indiana University - Bloomington
- New York University
- Saint Joseph's University
- University of California - Berkeley
- University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
- University of Pennsylvania
- The University of Texas at Austin
If you're looking at advanced degree programs because you're hoping you'll earn more with one on your resume, we're sorry to have to be the bearer of bad news. You probably won't make that much more money with a Master of Science in Marketing (more on this below). Unless you're getting a free ride and really feel like going back to school, you're probably better off collecting years of experience than degrees.
How much does a digital marketing manager earn?
Ask five sources "How much does a digital marketing manager earn?" and you'll probably get five different answers. Salary.com reports that the average digital marketing manager salary is $101,499, but according to PayScale, it's actually $65,879. ZipRecruiter thinks you'll make closer to $71,000. Which site is most accurate? There's no way to say; the data on these sites is crowdsourced and, accordingly, is useful but not determinative. The best way to find out how much you can make as a digital marketing manager is to look at job listings for digital marketing managers in your area. This is also a good way to find out what qualifications employers are actually looking for.
What's the typical advancement path for digital marketing managers?
As your first step on the path to digital marketing manager, you'll need to choose whether to apply for agency or for in-house positions. There are a lot more in-house positions available at any given time, but you might earn more at an agency, where you'll eventually handle multiple accounts. If you plan to go the agency route, you may spend the early years of your career in specialization areas like search engine optimization, PPC, social media, or content marketing. Work in as many digital marketing specializations as possible, because having experience in different areas will make you a more attractive applicant when you're applying for management-level positions.
Once you've landed that first job in digital marketing, advancement will be a matter of working your way up. Education may help—you'll need a bachelor's degree—but be wary of investing in a digital marketing degree or MBA in digital marketing. There are lots of opinions online about whether a master's in digital marketing is worth it, but the consensus seems to be no. You'll probably learn more by doing than by getting a degree or taking course after course. There's no reason not to apply for jobs that you're mostly qualified for. You might advance faster than you expect to if you're bold about submitting applications.
The digital marketing career progression typically starts at digital marketing professional or specialist and ends at head of digital marketing or digital marketing director. In between those roles, you'll work in positions like SEO specialist, SEM specialist, content marketer, email marketing specialist, digital marketing executive, digital marketing coordinator, digital marketing account manager, and digital marketing manager.
What factors affect digital marketing managers' salaries?
Salaries in digital marketing are driven by the same factors that impact pay across industries.
- Experience: The more experience you have, the more money you're going to make. Don't assume, however, that the years you've racked up in digital marketing will give you a big salary boost. Employers want to see quantifiable wins—especially in digital marketing, an extremely trackable discipline.
- Skills: Of all the skills that PayScale lists as influencing how much a digital marketer makes, it's telling that the top skill is traditional strategic marketing. Being an SEO, SEM, and data analysis expert will definitely help you land a job. However, you might get paid more if you have traditional marketing experience and skills like copywriting on your resume.
- Location: Digital marketing managers in urban locales with a higher cost of living are typically paid more. Before you say yes to that big city offer, however, consider that fewer dollars may go further in a smaller city or rural area.
- Employer: You'll probably make more money working for a large marketing agency that offers traditional and digital advertising than for a small digital marketing firm. You'll make the most money working for a large technology, research, or pharmaceutical firm.
- Title: When you're job hunting, look at listings for traditional marketing managers. They make more, and you may be fully qualified to step into that role now that digital marketing and traditional advertising are so closely linked.
What you won't see here is education. Salary.com tracks pay for digital marketing managers with bachelor's degrees and digital marketing managers with master's degrees, and the difference is roughly $1,000.
Is this one of the highest-paid marketing jobs?
Glassdoor says yes, but it's worth noting that it bases that assertion on user-reported salaries that range from $48,000 to $103,000. Some digital marketing managers may be making bank, but others are getting paid a lot less while bringing the same knowledge and skills to the table.
The fact that there are digital marketers with years of experience and advanced degrees out there making less than entry-level programmers may be a shock to marketers, but it's not that surprising. A lot of C-level executives rose through the ranks when marketing was an entirely different discipline, and as a result, they distrust digital marketing. Additionally, consumers are becoming more media-savvy and wary of digital marketing, so campaigns need to be bigger and more creative. Companies that do all their traditional advertising in-house may rely on outside agencies to handle the majority of their digital campaigns.
If one of your career goals is to make as much money as possible, think about how you'll market yourself and where you'll work. Digital advertising agencies will probably pay better than other types of employers. And while digital marketing may be your passion, you may get paid a lot more if you don't go all-in on digital—especially when it comes to your degree.
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