A survey conducted by MarketingProfs found that 7 in 10 executives at large companies and agencies said their digital marketing teams are strong in some areas but mediocre or weak in others; 21% said their employees are mediocre or weak across all areas.

The most cost effective solution for businesses is to upskill their workforce through a government funded apprenticeship programme, which is designed and developed by selected groups of industry experts and organisations, also known in further education as ‘trailblazer groups’.

Like all apprenticeship standards, digital marketer level 3 is a practical, skills-based apprenticeship standard that is designed to teach apprentices all the latest digital marketing techniques and campaign-building strategies, which are distinct from those taught on its ‘sister’ standards; marketing assistant level 3, marketing executive level 4 and marketing manager level 6.

While it really goes without saying that skills providers should seek to deliver the most role-relevant/industry aligned content that apprentices can apply instantly in the workplace, this is not always the case.

Many providers simply know that it’s a profitable programme and don’t sufficiently understand digital marketing as a subject and industry. Hence, in terms of learning content, they assume that one-size-fits-all roles, which is often far from reality. For example, trainers have often complained to me that the Google Analytics vendor qualification, albeit free, is too easy or unrelated to the role of a particular apprentice and it is often at the discretion of the EPAO as to whether course equivalents are permitted.

Digital marketing career paths

The digital marketing industry is full of diverse opportunities for ambitious, creative- and technical minded professionals.

According to multiple sources, the demand for skills in digital marketing and analytics has been rising sharply since the onset of the pandemic in 2019, with 8 of the top 10 most sought after skills relating to more strategic and account based marketing (ABM) expertise.

Where will these opportunities take aspiring digital marketers? What does a typical digital marketing career path look like?

The answer is more complex than you would expect. While a “digital marketer” can be broadly defined as a professional who works to promote brands and products through digital channels, the arc of a digital marketer’s career often depends on where they choose to specialise.

According to a report by The Economist, key skills that digital marketing professionals should focus on include engagement and technology, strategy and analytics. But, before selecting a particular pathway, a skills provider should be familiar with the different career routes in digital marketing, and how they fit with the learner’s and employer’s current situation and growth plans. Trends such as the “no code movement” should also be taken into account.

Here are some questions to consider (and ask apprentices):

  • Do you want to freelance or join an agency?
  • Would you class your skills as more technical or creative?
  • Would you prefer to be front and centre interacting with customers, or in the back office?
  • How well do you work with numbers?
  • Do you have any business experience yet (freelancing and “side-hustling” counts nowadays – particularly in creative & digital media)?
  • How ‘deep’ are your technical skills? Or do the words ‘coding’ and ‘analytics’ turn you off?
  • Have you heard of the term ‘analytics’ and what can you tell me about it?

Many skills do overlap, however, so having a solid foundation in multiple areas of digital marketing can increase an apprentice’s desirability as a job candidate because a digital marketer will work in a team but have responsibility for certain aspects of a campaign. And, usually, the bigger the marketing department, the more siloed the job description tends to become.

Of course, if the apprentice is planning to go into a leadership role, then they’ll need to become more “t-shaped” later on.

Getting on the right track

Fortunately, there are different specialties or “tracks” you can offer as a skills provider on the digital marketer level 3 standard: Standard, Social Media and SEO. Each pathway has their own focus – while also covering the other areas more broadly – and will help an apprentice to develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to define, design, build and implement campaigns across a variety of online, digital and social media platforms.

At level 3, the digital marketer standard is most suitable for those at the beginning of their career, be that new to work entirely or looking to upskill or reskill into one of the fastest growing industries in the world.

On completion of the programme, the apprentice will also have achieved accredited qualifications and will be able to apply for a place on the independent Register of IT Technicians and join the Chartered Institute for Marketing (CIM) as an Affiliate (Professional) member.

In my experience, programmes which offer masterclasses and workshops built in partnership with digital marketing industry experts tend to be of the best quality and the most engaging for learners. +24 Academy provides a great example of this approach to learning content design.

The three possible pathways

  • Digital Marketer L3 (Standard Pathway)

The standard pathway is a balance between the social media and SEO pathways, which provides an insight into digital marketing as a whole with a blended focus.

As apprentice will usually be part of a marketing team and report into a marketing or IT manager, working to briefs and instructions which are focussed on driving customer acquisition, as well as engaging with and retaining existing customers. Over time, s/he will take on increased responsibilities and may begin to lead on certain aspects of plans or campaigns during this programme.

Common job titles later on may be Digital Marketing Assistant, Digital Marketing Executive, Digital Marketing Coordinator, Campaign Executive, Social Media Executive, Content Coordinator, Email Marketing Assistant, SEO Executive, Analytics Executive, Digital Marketing Technologist, or similar depending on the company.

Explore this excellent guide on defining digital marketing job titles.

Example programme layout: 

Months 1-4 Months 5-7 Months 7-15
Programme introduction & expectations Marketing principles masterclasses Marketing principles revision & examination BCS Level 3 in Marketing Principles Principles of coding masterclasses Principles of coding revision & examination BCS Level 3 in Principles of Coding Google Analytics IQ Certification Plan and execute three digital marketing campaigns Evaluation of campaigns & portfolio evidence Preparation for End Point Assessment (EPA)
  • Digital Marketer L3 (Social Media Pathway)

The social media pathway uses the standard as its base, ensuring all digital marketing topics are covered, alongside specific social media workshops that will give you an insight into social platforms, analytics, listening tools and visual sharing. This gives you the ultimate digital marketing programme, with a social media edge. And will help you develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to define, design, build and implement digital campaigns across a variety of online and social media platforms.

Common job titles in social media may be “Social Media Marketing Assistant”, “Social Media Strategist”, “Social Media Executive”, “Community Coordinator”, “Campaign Executive”, “Social Media Content Coordinator”, “Community Manager”, or similar.

Explore this detailed guide to job titles within social media marketing.

Example programme layout: 

Months 1-4  Months 5-7  Months 7-15
Programme induction/bootcamp Marketing principles masterclasses Marketing principles revision & examination BCS Level 3 in Marketing Principles Principles of coding masterclasses Principles of coding revision & examination CIW Social Media Strategist Certification & Examination Google Analytics IQ Certification Facebook, HubSpot & Twitter Digital Marketing Certified Plan & execute three social media marketing campaigns Evaluation of campaigns & portfolio evidence Preparation for your End Point Assessment (EPA)
  • Digital Marketer L3 (SEO pathway)

The search engine optimisation (SEO) pathway uses the standard as it’s base, ensuring all digital marketing topics are covered, alongside specific SEO workshops that will give you an insight into search engines, search analytics and link building. This gives you the ultimate digital marketing programme, with an SEO edge. (Psst. it’s no secret in the digital industry that SEO professionals who can code often earn a lot more than those who cannot!)

Common job titles for apprentices at the end of this pathway may contain the terms “Senior SEO manager”, “Head of SEO”, “SEO content writer”, “SEO account manager” and “Marketing manager SEO”, and “SEO digital marketing”.

Example programme layout: 

Months 1-4 Months 5-7 Months 7-15
Programme induction/bootcamp Marketing principles masterclasses Marketing principles revision and examination BCS Level 3 in Marketing Principles Principles of coding masterclasses Principles of coding revision & examination BCS Level 3 in Principles of Coding CIW Site Development Associate Google Analytics IQ Certification (beginner, advanced & power users) Plan & execute three SEO campaigns Evaluation of campaigns & portfolio evidence Preparation for End Point Assessment (EPA)

The examples are based on BCS (British Computer Society) syllabi but would look similar for those of other awarding bodies and end-point assessment organisations that deliver digital marketer level 3.

Explore this detailed guide to SEO career paths.

Employers may also find this SEO job market report useful.

From concept to launch, if you need advice on module content or help with designing a bespoke assessment plan, which reflects your learners’ needs as well as their long term career goals – or even if you’re simply unsure which track could benefit your learner(s) and organisation, reach out here.