Marketing is the complex function of attracting consumers to a specific brand, product or service. Multiple online programs can help busy marketing professionals sharpen and expand their skills in this area. Courses are delivered either in real-time or in a convenient asynchronous format. Opportunities range from courses and certification programs to advanced degrees. To apply to a certificate or a bachelor's degree program, prospective students need only a high school diploma or GED, while applicants to graduate-level programs need to hold a bachelor's degree.
Some opportunities offer traditional college credits while others are set up as continuing education programs or simply provide an online resource. Providers include not-for-profit public and private colleges and universities, for-profit trade schools and institutions, corporate training programs for employees, professional associations and the government. While some of these schools offer programs entirely online, others provide hybrid programs that include a practicum and internship.
Marketing Manager Options
Distance learning students in an online marketing training program or course typically log into a virtual classroom containing lectures or lessons, assignments and assessments. Classmates and instructors can communicate using course discussion boards, chat rooms or other tools. Many marketing training programs are offered in a totally online format; however, some programs -- particularly those leading to college degrees -- may require practicums or internships.
Unlike many continuing education programs, for-college credit degree programs and certificates have strict admission standards for prospective students. A bachelor's degree student, for example, typically must have a high school diploma or GED and, in some online programs, some previously earned undergraduate credits. Applicants to a master's degree or graduate certificate programs must have a bachelor's degree; business or marketing work experience may be required as well.
The OpenCourseWare movement provides opportunities for individuals who want to learn but do not need college credits. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (M.I.T.) Sloan School of Management offers materials from its MBA program online as self-paced non-credit freeware. This includes the marketing sequence. The M.I.T. OpenCourseWare program offers some resources specifically targeted to marketers; available coursework includes:
- Marketing management
- Strategic marketing measurement
- Marketing strategy
- Entrepreneurial marketing
The U.S. Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov) operates a virtual campus called the Small Business Training Network that offers free self-paced 30-minute business courses. Students interested in online marketing training can choose among subjects like strategic marketing, winning customers and marketing for small business.
In-house Corporate Training
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), many employers offer continuing education opportunities to employees. These may include subsidized tuition for approved coursework, in-house training by staff trainers, or contracts with an outside vendor of corporate training services.
The American Marketing Association (www.marketingpower.com) provides professional development opportunities for current and future marketers. Training opportunities through the eMarketing Association (www.emarketingassociation.com) focus on skills especially applicable to digital marketing. Both organizations offer courses and certificate programs. Enrollment usually requires paid membership. Student memberships are available.
Some coursework is offered at the beginner level, suitable for undergrads. At the other end of the spectrum, complex topics and seminars offer practitioner-focused approaches to cutting-edge trends, as opposed to more academic and theoretical methods. Certification programs typically require successful completion of a course and acceptable scores on a comprehensive examination.
For-Profit Training Institutions
For-profit trade or career schools and other postsecondary training programs offer a wide range of online marketing program options to interested students. The U.S. Department of Education (www.ed.gov) recommends confirming that specific schools are accredited by agencies recognized by the Department and that programs qualify graduates for certification by state and federal agencies, if applicable.
Private for-profit institutions may offer certificates, career diplomas or even degrees in marketing through online learning. These may take just a few months up to a couple of years to complete, depending on the program level. Online marketing programs at private distance learning schools are often for undergraduate students and provide foundational knowledge and skills in the field. Studies may include the following:
- Business writing
- Marketing principles
- Business math
- Market research
- Trade promotions
- Strategic planning
Not-for-Profit Private and Public Colleges and Universities
Online academic opportunities are available in marketing at every level from certificate through Ph.D. Virtual coursework is now available at many traditional, campus-based institutions. Some programs may be completed entirely online, while others require a mix of virtual and on-campus coursework. Prospective students interested in short-term commitment or in developing a specific, targeted skill set can choose from a range of seminars, courses and certificate programs.
Marketing instruction from traditional postsecondary institutions will include a mix of theory and practicum, because traditional postsecondary schools place high value on liberal education and comprehensive understanding of complex systems. Most introductory marketing programs follow a commonly prescribed format of core marketing courses, with marketing selected by the student as an area of concentration. Typical introductory marketing courses might cover topics such as:
- Quantitative methods
- Market research skills
- Promotional methods
- Digital services
- Global marketing
Students who pursue online graduate studies may find more emphasis on managerial functions as well advanced skills in marketing. Graduate-level distance learners may get to choose a specialization, such as social media marketing, or a set of electives along with their core coursework in order to complete a program that suits their career needs. Master's program online coursework could include the following:
- Marketing communications
- Brand development
- Direct marketing
- Public relations
- Ethical and legal issues in marketing
There are many online training programs available to aspiring marketing managers, and they are offered through a wide variety of institutions. Depending on students' educational background and career goals, they can enroll in non-credit courses, certificate programs or undergraduate and graduate degree programs, which offer different levels of coursework and areas of focus.