A young professional interested in pursuing a career in Internet marketing recently got in touch with me via LinkedIn and asked if he could interview me for a government grant he was applying for.

If you’re curious about the online marketing industry – and what it takes to break into it and succeed – here are my answers to the questions he asked:

1. What skills and personal qualities are necessary for this job?

To succeed in the field of Internet marketing, you should have excellent communication skills, strong technological aptitude, and a healthy sense of curiosity. You should also be a good writer and researcher, have strong critical thinking skills, and be able to adapt to a rapidly evolving industry.

2. What training is and/or certification is required?

Personally, I think on-the-job training with a reputable company is the best way to accelerate your career — but it might be hard to get a job like that without some sort of training or certification to show the hiring manager.

As a potential employer, depending on what specific type of online marketing help I need, I would look for someone who has a background in something like journalism, communications, and/or computer technology. If they have a diploma or some sort of certification proving that they know the fundamentals of search engine optimization and/or web design and/or marketing or copywriting fundamentals, even better.

But real-world experience is what I’d value most highly.

3. In your opinion, what is the future employment outlook in this area?

Excellent! All businesses, organizations, artists, and entrepreneurs have a message they want to share with the world — which means they need someone on their team who knows how to effectively use digital channels to get their message out.

On top of that, the field of Internet marketing is becoming increasingly specialized: there are people who focus only on search engine optimization, or social media, or content marketing strategy. Or they focus on a specific industry, such as tech, retail, real estate, etc. Those who stay on top of industry developments and can anticipate emerging trends will find their knowledge and skill set in high demand.

4. What changes do you foresee as being the most dramatic in this field in the next several years?

The two biggest changes will be the continued trend of increasingly buyer-focused omni-channel marketing, and the increased adoption of Big Data technology by companies large and small.

These developments are going to have several impacts:

  1. The companies are going to need to learn how to implement this technology effectively to collect data that’s actually meaningful
  2. They’re going to need knowledgeable data analysts who can extract meaningful insight from the data and use it to create effective strategy around it
  3. They’re going to need a marketing team that can implement the strategy to offer increasingly customer-centric inbound marketing opportunities across all channels, online and off

5. How is the current economy affecting this industry?

I would say it’s making it even more essential to the success of companies large and small. In a tough economy, the companies that spend MORE on marketing and execute more daring strategies that set themselves apart from their competitors are the ones that tend to succeed.

Also, more companies are realizing that online marketing is more cost-effective than traditional newspaper, TV, and radio advertising, so as they look at their advertising budgets, they are diverting more of their resources to their online marketing initiatives.

6. What is the entry-level position? b) What is the wage range?

It depends what aspect of online marketing you choose to pursue. You could enter as a junior copywriter or content developer. You could be brought in as someone who knows search engine optimization – or as an email marketer, marketing data analyst, and so on. On average I would say that a full-time entry-level position with a medium-to-large sized organization would be anywhere from $35,000 – $45,000/year and it could climb to $120,000/year and higher at the senior management level.

7. Is there any additional information I need to know about this occupation?

I think that general “Jack of All Trades” online marketers will appeal more to small businesses that like the idea of one person taking care of all their online marketing needs.

Larger organizations, on the other hand, will most likely seek out individuals with more specialized skill sets, so if you want to be hired by a larger organization you might want to focus your research and energy primarily on one specific area: e.g., search engine optimization, Google Adwords, link-building, social media marketing, content marketing, data analysis, or marketing software expertise.

One other way to specialize is to focus on online marketing for a particular industry – such as technology, real estate, retail, restaurants, start-ups, or B2B. Every industry has its unique needs and strategies that work best so if you could gain deep knowledge about them, you’ll find it easier to target your services to potential clients or employers.

Internet marketers – what do you think?

If you’re involved in online marketing in some capacity, what do you think of the answers above? Do you agree with them, or do you have a different perspective? I’d love to hear your thoughts!