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A Marketer's Guide to IAB Certifications editorial staff editorial staff

Show employers and clients your expertise in online advertising sales and marketing.

  • The IAB provides multiple certification programs for those who want to demonstrate their knowledge in the field of digital marketing.
  • The Interactive Advertising Bureau offers four professional certification programs for media sales, ad ops, data solutions and media buying. IAB certifications are available through online and in-person testing appointments. Certifications have prerequisites that include relevant work experience.
  • Available certifications through IAB include digital media sales, digital ad operations, digital data solutions, and digital media buying and planning.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is a think-tank organization that conducts studies and sets standards revolving around digital marketing and online advertising. The group consists of committees of industry experts and has a membership of more than 650 media and technology companies. It is widely considered a global authority on all things pertaining to online marketing and advertising.

In 2012, the organization introduced the IAB Professional Certification program. There are four different tracks that can earn professionals a certification: Digital Media Sales, Digital Ad Operations, Digital Data Solutions, and Digital Media Buying and Planning. The program is an exam-based credential that represents your knowledge in the field and can be proudly displayed on a resume. The IAB says it has received more than 8,500 applicants for certifications, the most popular being the digital media sales certification for professionals who work in online advertising sales.

Could you benefit from IAB certification?

The IAB professional certification was developed by digital media experts for the purposes of creating a standard credential that would help employers identify if prospective employees were knowledgeable enough in digital media and advertising.

With more media migrating to the internet, it's no longer enough to have a college degree and some job experience. The IAB certification is the only standard credential you can earn that reflects that you know how to apply your advertising and marketing expertise in an online environment.

Digital media sales

Those with an IAB digital media sales certification are likely to be knowledgeable in the digital advertising ecosystem – selling digital media, managing online advertising campaigns and analyzing campaign performances. This certification can not only make you more attractive to employers but also establish credibility and trust with potential buyers and clients. The certification is exclusive to the digital media sales industry and can be done in-person or online. Five modules are included within the prep course from IAB to help you pass the exam.

Digital ad operations

The digital ad operations certification covers how to execute and manage live, digital campaigns, as well as managing client and partner relationships. The IAB certification is made for professionals working at digital advertising agencies, trading firms, desktop publishers, and brand operations. The IAB program is the first certification ever recognized within the digital advertising industry, according to the organization.

Digital data solutions

The digital data solutions certification tests your knowledge of data policies, managing data supply, creating products and developing client data solutions. To be eligible for the certification program, you must have a minimum of two years of professional data management experience. Prep courses and online or in-person examinations are offered for the IAB digital data solutions certification.

Digital media buying and planning

Digital media buying and planning covers expertise for media buyers in managing campaigns and creating strategies and plans. This program was accredited specifically for media and marketing professionals. Campaign and media strategies are covered within the prep course and examination. 

The IAB itself offers special benefits to certification holders, such as discounts to its events and further education courses.

How do pursue IAB certification?

To be eligible, you must have two years of work experience in digital media sales. If you don't meet that requirement, there are a few other options for qualifying, including one year in digital media sales with two years in digital media non-sales and 15 hours of continuing education in digital media. An undergraduate or graduate degree in digital marketing with one year of work experience in general sales or media is also acceptable.

The exam and certification cost $500 for IAB members and $600 for nonmembers. The organization also offers packages for exam preparation and training. If you are an individual seeking this certification, be aware that companies will sometimes pay for the exam costs if they recognize the value of having people on staff with IAB certifications. Some companies require their staff to be certified as soon as they're qualified, including Google, Bloomberg, AOL and Time Inc.

After you apply for the certification and are accepted, you'll schedule to take the exam at one of the designated testing centers, which are located in most major cities. The exam itself consists of 100 multiple-choice questions pertaining to the certification you applied for. If you pass, you'll receive your certification within four weeks.

The certification itself is valid for two years. To qualify for a recertification, you must either earn 24 continuing education credits from an accepted institution or take the certification exam. The exam is updated with new questions every six months. There is also a recertification fee of $175 for IAB members and $225 for nonmembers.

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