How to get into digital marketing

Rachel Swain, Editorial manager
January, 2022

New graduate-level careers in digital marketing are frequently appearing in marketing departments and agencies across the country making now a great time to enter this field

'There is no denying the impact that digital marketing has had on our society, it's now integrated into our everyday lives, has changed the ways in which we communicate and has had a profound impact on business practices,' says Helen Dargie, course leader of the MSc Digital Marketing at Robert Gordon University (RGU).

'The growth of interactive websites, mobile phones and social media has resulted in an understanding and knowledge gap for many businesses,' explains Andrew Morton, lecturer in marketing at Plymouth University.

Specialist roles are now common in areas including:

  • blogging
  • campaign metrics and research
  • communications and public relations (PR)
  • content marketing
  • copywriting
  • database management and analysis
  • email marketing
  • mobile marketing
  • pay-per-click (PPC)
  • search engine optimisation (SEO)
  • social media
  • web design and development.

To find out what roles are available, see jobs in marketing.

Wayne Barker, director of online marketing at Boom Online Marketing, says that this depth means many graduates initially experiment with several areas before developing expertise in one discipline.

'This is a fast-paced and ever-evolving field,' he explains. 'What works today might not work tomorrow; what is best practice now can change in a flicker.’

Develop your skills

Technical skills are incredibly important in the field; grasping online technologies - especially social media - is imperative, but desired attributes often vary according to each role.

'There is a recognised digital skills gap within industry with employers screaming out for graduates that have knowledge and understanding of digital skills and techniques, and individuals that possess these digital skills will have a competitive advantage in the marketplace,' explains Helen.

There are a number of key skills that are particularly useful when pursuing a career in the digital marketing field. It is important to possess both a creative and analytical mindset, and Helen explains how the digital marketing course at RGU provides students with a blend of these skills. 'For example, students gain experience of creative soft-skills such as digital strategy, content, social and email marketing and digital PR, while also learning a blend of technical skills such as search engine optimisation, Google Analytics, video production, Photoshop, web design and much more.'

Personal characteristics shouldn't be underestimated either. Great digital marketers are hard-working, experimental multitaskers that are always willing to learn. As such, the vocation is at the forefront of developments in customer loyalty and user experience. 'This requires learning new skills and, often, changing working structures,' explains Andrew.

Digital marketing roles also require impressive levels of dynamism, enthusiasm, flexibility and inquisition.

Do a digital marketing degree

Marketing degrees in the UK that include a digital component include:

  • BA Digital Marketing - Coventry University, University of Portsmouth and the University of Gloucestershire
  • BSc Digital Marketing - University of Chichester
  • BA Advertising and Digital Marketing - University of Greenwich
  • BA Advertising and Digital Marketing Communications - University of Northampton.

It's likely that qualifications will be accredited by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and one-year work placements are fairly common at Bachelors level.

There's typically a technical aspect to digital marketing courses, with work undertaken in computer labs, using marketing software, as well as media applications. Therefore, a creative flair for web design, multimedia production, digital graphic design or marketing communications may make tailored courses more closely matched to you than those with a general marketing or business slant.

However, don't worry if you're studying for (or have graduated with) an unrelated degree, as there are many marketing courses available to help you to pick up the latest digital marketing techniques - for instance, postgraduate degrees and online marketing diplomas.

Search all digital marketing courses.

Get marketing work experience

Work experience is important and can make you stand out from other graduates. While a marketing internship is a great way to gain experience, it’s also possible to build your skills in other ways as Wayne points out.

'Firstly, develop a good understanding of the industry,' he advises. 'Read blogs, keep up with current trends and best practices, and get a feel for how you might implement campaigns.

'Secondly, build something. Start a blog. Learn how to communicate online, so you then have something of substance to show interviewers.'

Wayne's latter tip is particularly important. There are many free and low-cost blogging tools available, and Andrew agrees that there's little excuse not to give it a go. 'If it's done well, the blog might convince a potential employer of your abilities,' he notes.

For tips on how to go about starting your own blog or making a website, see 5 tips for getting media work experience.

'You could also attend industry events and exhibitions,' adds Andrew. 'These often include a range of guest speakers and can be free. They're also a great opportunity to network with digital marketers.'

Find a job

It's typical for larger employers to run a formal marketing graduate scheme, with applications welcomed via their website. You'll also find the latest marketing apprenticeships can be accessed through GOV.UK.

However, many marketing jobs and internships are not widely advertised; instead, they're often published on social media, online job portals, or the websites of trade organisations like the CIM. It's therefore essential that your online profiles are frequently updated - see social media and job hunting for more information.

However, Andrew warns that social media must be treated with utmost professionalism. Many employers search the Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter profiles of potential candidates, meaning that all of your posts should portray you in a professional light.

'If graduates aren't careful, they may publish content on their social networks that deters potential employers or agents,' he explains. 'It's very important that students appreciate that, once content is published on the internet, it can be difficult to take down.

'There have been cases where graduates haven't been offered jobs because of certain messages that have been seen by the potential employer.'

When you do approach a company in such a creative field, especially if you're sending them a speculative application, ensure that you make yourself stand out from the crowd and let your personality come across.

Justin Blackhurst, global CEO at integrated agency Digital Next, advises students looking to get into the digital industry to be original and unique. 'Make your CV creative,' he recommends. 'When I left university, I made an application into a pop-up book and put it inside a golden envelope - who wouldn't open that?'

Being bold and going that extra mile can reap dividends for your fledgling digital marketing career. 'If you can, go into businesses in person, introduce yourself and make a good positive impression, asking for a chance to prove your worth,' concludes Justin.

Find out more

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