Guide to Marketing Certifications

By
Max Freedman
,
business.com writer
| Updated
Apr 13, 2020
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These are some of the best marketing certifications available in 2020.

With the right credentials, you can advance your career in the marketing industry. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of certifications for marketing professionals. We compiled this guide of reputable marketing certifications to make it easier for you to boost your skills and advance your career. We chose these courses to present you with the highest-regarded universities offering marketing certificates, the free paths for learning how to use today's most important digital marketing skills, and the professional marketing organizations most trusted in today's economy.

What is the purpose of a marketing certificate?

A marketing certificate can be useful if you feel you need more formal training in marketing skills, such as media marketing, search engine optimization, email marketing, customer development, market research and strategic brand management. The courses you take to obtain a marketing certificate can also familiarize you with marketing tools, including social media platforms, Google Ads, Hootsuite, HubSpot and other web analytics tools. Certificate courses cater to longtime professional marketers and total newcomers alike and can be taken at a university, through specialized online institutions such as Hootsuite Academy, or from leading marketing associations.

Which certifications are in demand?

The most in-demand certifications are in digital marketing. Among the most demanded certifications are those in HubSpot email and inbound marketing, Google Ads and Analytics, and social media marketing. You can find out more about these digital marketing certificates below.

Should you obtain a certification in digital marketing?

Although this question has no single objective answer and may vary by person, there are certain factors you should consider when deciding whether to obtain a certification in digital marketing. If you plan to expand your business's online presence, a digital marketing certification will likely be relevant to your work. Additionally, if you need to learn specific digital marketing tools such as Hootsuite, Google Ads and HubSpot email marketing, pursuing a digital marketing certification can help to familiarize you with these platforms on your own schedule, often for far less money than undergraduate college courses cost. However, if your business requires minimal or just basic use of internet platforms for marketing purposes, a certification in digital marketing might not be for you.

How do you become a certified marketing professional?

You don't need a certification to work in marketing, but if you want one, there are many ways to become a certified marketing professional. You can take a series of courses at a university, online programs through marketing platforms and companies, or special in-person classes hosted by industry organizations and associations of longtime professional marketers. Learn more about each of these certification types below.

Certifications from accredited universities

Marketing certifications are in high demand, and many accredited universities and colleges are responding to that demand. Some university certifications are intended for seasoned marketing professionals, while others are meant as a steppingstone for people changing careers or recent college graduates entering the workforce. Whether you're a longtime marketer or transitioning into the field, having a well-regarded university's name on your resume can boost your professional standing.

Ivy League schools like Cornell (eCornell) and Harvard (Extension School) offer comprehensive continuing education programs that allow students to earn certificates in areas like marketing strategy and marketing management. Cornell's six-class program takes three months to complete and costs $3,600. The program is sold as "MBA-level strategic marketing training" and geared toward professionals looking to level up. Harvard's program includes four graduate credit classes (which can be applied to a degree), takes 1.5 years to complete on average and costs about $10,800.

Other colleges with reputable marketing certifications include Duke UniversityMITBaruch College, the University of IllinoisUC Berkeley, the University of Notre DameGeorgetown University, the University of Georgia and Oregon State University, to name a few. Programs at schools like these vary drastically in price, duration, medium (online or in person) and focus. Most certification programs cost $2,000 to $5,000, but some go up to $15,000.

Before you enroll in a certification program at an accredited university, make sure you understand what you're purchasing. Some programs are a week or less in length and do not offer college credits, while other programs in the same price range span months and count for college credit.

Certifications for specific digital marketing skills

Certifications for specific programs or services can bolster your resume and help keep you current in the constantly evolving world of digital marketing. The certificates for many specific skills are free or low-cost.

The type of certification that will be valuable for your career depends largely on the area of marketing you work in and your agency or company. Here are a few of the most popular and reputable skill-based certifications for marketing professionals:

Certifications from industry organizations and associations

It pays to be discerning about certifications from independent marketing associations. Many organizations that offer certificates are for-profit education companies that don't operate as industry touchstones, while others are legitimate professional organizations that offer valuable certifications. Other marketers who keep up with industry affairs will take note if you've obtained a certification from the below organizations in particular.  

American Marketing Association

The American Marketing Association is one of the most established professional marketing organizations in the country. In addition to hosting educational networking events and disseminating industry information through its publications and partnerships, it offers the American Marketing Association Professional Certified Marketer program.

The AMA's certification program has four tracks: Digital Marketing, Marketing Management, Sales Management, and Content Marketing. All programs begin with an overview of the skills required for the certification and a free practice exam.

  • Digital Marketing: The digital marketing track is an AMA-approved learning path from LinkedIn Learning, which consists of videos and tutorials. After that, you take a 120-question multiple-choice exam. You must earn 80% or higher on the exam to pass the certification. The digital marketing program costs $249 for AMA members and $349 for nonmembers.

  • Marketing Management: The marketing management track comes with a free handbook and the AMA Marketing Management Study Package ($99 for members, $149 for nonmembers). The exam for the certification costs an additional $99 for members or $299 for nonmembers.   

  • Sales Management: Through the AMA website, you can review the topics you need to know to pass the Sales Management track's free practice exam. The certification costs $249 for AMA members and $349 for nonmembers.

  • Content Marketing: Just as with the Sales Management track, you can access all the topics you need to know for this course on the AMA website and then take a free practice exam. The prices are the same too: $249 for AMA members and $349 for nonmembers.

To maintain your certification in either area of study, the AMA requires you to earn 30 continuing education units (CEUs) every three years, with a minimum of 10 units per year, and to recertify every three years. CEUs are determined by the AMA and may include attending events, webcasts, virtual conferences and training sessions. 

Interactive Advertising Bureau

The Interactive Advertising Bureau counts more than 650 media and technology companies among its members and offers four certification programs: Digital Media Sales, Digital Ad Operations, Digital Data Solutions, and Digital Media Buying and Planning. Members and nonmembers may pursue certification through IAB, but fees are higher for nonmembers.

IAB requires certified marketing professionals to recertify within 9-24 months of their initial certification. Staying certified may entail logging CEUs or retaking the certification exam. Most of IAB's exam and training packages cost $699 for members and $899 for nonmembers, but some of the certifications have specific eligibility requirements, so read the guidelines carefully before choosing a program.

4A's

Founded in 1917, 4A's is one of the oldest and largest professional marketing organizations in the U.S. It serves 740 member agencies across 1,400 offices, and its Benefits division insures more than 164,000 marketing agency professionals. 4A's offers a variety of learning and development programs, including webinars, workshops, lectures and multiday networking events. The main certification it offers is the IPA Foundation Certificate, in partnership with its sister organization in the U.K., the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising.

The IPA Foundation certification program consists of 35 hours of online coursework and is recommended for recent college graduates and professionals who are new to the marketing industry. 4A's certification costs $600 for members and $850 for nonmembers.

Mona Bushnell contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.

Max Freedman
Max Freedman
Max Freedman is a freelance writer who covers best business practices for business.com and culture for publications including The A.V. Club, MTV, Paste, FLOOD, and Bandcamp. He lives in Philly and doesn't miss his native New York.
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