What Does a Successful Digital Marketing Career Look Like?


Are you searching for a digital marketing career path that you can follow to establish yourself in the industry?

While there is no single way to find success as a digital marketer, we’ve noticed that most digital marketers go through a natural progression or series of steps as they move up in the industry.

If you’re just starting out in digital marketing, you should plan and expect to go through this process as well.

To help you find your way, we’ve plotted out a digital marketing career path that takes you from your first exposure to online marketing all the way to high-paying executive roles as a digital marketing professional.

Keep reading to learn how you can follow this digital marketing career path to break into the industry and find success in the world of online marketing.

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What Does Success Mean in Digital Marketing?

If you’re hoping for a successful career in digital marketing, you might start off by asking yourself: “What does success really mean to me?”

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This is especially true if you’re planning on climbing the corporate ladder. You’re going to face a lot of challenges, and more than a little bit of stress – will it all be worth it when you achieve your goal?

Being successful in digital marketing doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a CMO or a Vice President – it means using digital marketing to find a lifestyle and balance that makes you happy. Some people choose to become a marketing executive, while others love the freedom of working as a freelance marketer: the choice is up to you.

With that said, here are the eight stages of a successful digital marketing career path that you can follow to progress through the industry and find the role that’s best for you.

Eight Stages of a Digital Marketing Career Path


Overview: As you begin your career in digital marketing, the first thing you’ll need to focus on is education. That doesn’t mean you necessarily need a college degree, but you will need to start learning as much as you can if you want to be successful. Many digital marketers get started by reading free resources online, checking out digital marketing blogs and podcasts, or purchasing a digital marketing course.

Sample Job Titles: None! At this point, you’re still learning.

Average Salary:  N/A

Experience Needed: Some basic skills using computers and software are all it takes to start your digital marketing education online.

Key Skills & Attributes: Curiosity, dedication, vision, and passion for digital marketing


Overview: Once you’ve developed some knowledge about digital marketing, the next step is to put that knowledge into action by creating your first campaigns. Almost all digital marketers get started in the industry by experimenting with their own campaigns and finding small successes that encourage them to push forward.

Sample Job Titles: None yet – but the practical skills you gain through experimentation will prepare you for your first jobs in digital marketing. 

Average Salary: 0 – $10,000+  

At this point, learning quickly is more important than earning a lot of money through digital marketing experiments, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a lot of success here.

Experience Needed: Some basic knowledge in digital marketing is all it takes to start running your own campaigns – but the more you know, the more likely it is that you’ll find some early success that motivates you to keep going. Always keep learning!

Key Skills & Attributes: Patience, initiative, analytical and reflective skills

Freelance Digital Marketing

Overview: Once you have honed your digital marketing skills by experimenting with your own campaigns, you can start taking on freelance work in your areas of expertise.

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As a freelancer, you’ll make your own schedule and work from home while providing marketing services to other businesses or marketing agencies. Freelancing is a great way to earn a living with a flexible schedule or gain experience as you move forward in your digital marketing career.

Sample Job Titles: Freelance marketer, freelance marketing consultant, freelance PPC/SEO expert

Average Salary: Your average salary will depend on your ability to capture high-quality clients and build service relationships with them over time. You can work as much or as little as you like and earn accordingly.

Experience Needed: When you’re searching for freelance work, employers will want to see evidence of your past project success. Be prepared to show a portfolio of your past marketing efforts that demonstrates your knowledge and skills.

Key Skills & Attributes: Diligence, organization, and communication with clients

Entry-Level Digital Marketing Roles

Overview: Once you’ve gained experience as a freelancer, you might consider transitioning to an entry-level digital marketing role. You could also skip freelancing and go straight from building your own experimental campaigns to a job at a marketing agency or with an in-house marketing team.

There are two general “types” of entry-level marketing roles: generalist and specialist roles. Generalist roles like “Marketing Associate” or “Marketing Coordinator” require a broad skill set and a range of different tasks, while specialist roles like “Social Media Specialist” or “PPC Specialist” have a more narrow focus that encourages marketers to specialize in a specific marketing channel.

Sample Job Titles: Marketing coordinator, marketing associate, SEO/PPC/CRO specialist, social media specialist, marketing analyst, account executive, account strategist

Salary: $50,000+

Experience Needed: Some proven digital marketing experience, course certifications, and project success should be enough to qualify you for a range of entry-level digital marketing roles.

Key Skills & Attributes: Drive for results, flexibility, and teamwork

Senior-Level Digital Marketing Roles

Overview: Once you’ve spent some time in an entry-level role, you may need to transition into a more senior role to keep developing your marketing skills.

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In a senior-level role, you may work with more complex or specialized clients, participate in more client and internal meetings, spend more time on strategic campaign development, and provide leadership to other team members with your specialty.

Sample Job Titles: Senior PPC Specialist, Senior SEO Specialist, Digital Marketing Strategist,

Salary: $60,000+

Experience Needed: 1-2 years in an entry-level digital marketing role

Key Skills & Attributes: Deep subject-area expertise, leadership, campaign analytics & optimization

Management Roles in Digital Marketing

Overview: After a few years of experience in a senior-level digital marketing role, you should have developed the skills and experience to start managing your own team. In a management role, you might oversee a team of specialists working on a specific channel, or a versatile team with various skill sets that complement each other.

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Sample Job Titles: Digital Marketing Manager, SEO Manager, PPC Manager, Brand Manager

Salary: $80,000+

Experience Needed: 3-5 years in a senior-level digital marketing role

Key Skills & Attributes: Project management skills, team leadership, delegating tasks

Director Roles in Digital Marketing

Overview: After 3-5 years in a digital marketing management role, you might consider moving up to a more strategic role as a digital marketing director.

A director of digital marketing is responsible for efficiently allocating resources between working teams according to the mission, vision, and objectives of the business. While managers are involved in day-to-day collaboration with team members and project delivery, directors spend more of their time planning, developing, and communicating the overall marketing strategy for their organizations.

Sample Job Titles: Director of Marketing, Director of SEO, Director of PPC

Salary: $100,000+

Experience Needed: 3-5 years in a management-level digital marketing role

Key Skills & Attributes: Strategic campaign design, communication, task delegation, market research and analysis

Executive Roles in Digital Marketing

Overview: Executive roles in digital marketing have the best compensation and the most prestigious job titles, but they can also come with high expectations and high stress.

Still, if you’re determined to make the biggest possible impact in your career, an executive role in digital marketing could be right for you. You’ll be responsible for working with the executive team, setting the overall marketing strategy and budgets for your organization, and establishing strategic objectives and performance goals that get everyone working toward a common cause.

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You’ll also need to attend client meetings and build strong relationships with your best customers to grow revenue and reduce attrition. Market research, competitive analysis, marketing analytics, negotiation, and networking skills are also of vital importance for digital marketers operating at the executive level.

Sample Job Titles: Vice President of Marketing, VP of Digital Marketing, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)

Salary: $135,000+

Experienced Needed: 3-5 years in a director-level digital marketing role

Key Skills & Attributes: Time management, market research, critical thinking and problem-solving, communication skills, strategic planning

How to Start Your Digital Marketing Career Path

Looking for the fastest way to get started on your digital marketing career path?

Our digital marketing courses at Directive Institute could be the solution you’re looking for. We’ve taken our experiences from years of marketing success and created courses on four digital marketing disciplines that every aspiring digital marketing professional should master:

Each course delivers a proven process that you can apply immediately to enhance marketing results for your own business or hit the ground running as a new hire in an entry-level marketing role.

Get Started with Four Free Lessons

Garrett Mehrguth is the CEO and co-founder of Directive Consulting – a global search marketing agency headquartered in Southern California specializing in comprehensive search marketing campaigns for B2B and enterprise companies.

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