How to Become a Social Media Manager

Social media marketing is rapidly expanding in its influence. Learn how to become a social media manager and jumpstart your career.

portrait of James Mielke
by James Mielke

Published August 20, 2022

Edited by Amelia Buckley
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How to Become a Social Media Manager
Image Credit: kate_sept2004 / E+ / Getty Images


Social media plays a central role in marketing and advertising. As a result, the theoretical and technical skills specific to social media management influence the academic landscapes of disciplines like marketing and business. The skills that marketing professionals need increasingly relate to the world of social media. These professionals have a deep knowledge of social media platforms and analytics while demonstrating proficiency in design, communications, and customer service.

Social media managers lean on a unique skill set that builds upon foundational marketing, business, and communications disciplines. And while social media managers do not always need a degree to jumpstart their careers, various degrees can enhance career options and lead to expanded earning potential.

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Ready to start your journey?

What Does a Social Media Manager Do?

While specific job requirements can vary, social media managers tackle a wide variety of responsibilities. Whether marketing or building a business' online presence, these digital workers monitor and continuously evaluate public perception and proactively address any issues.

Social media managers are adept social networkers and know how to fully utilize multiple platforms. Daily responsibilities vary, but common tasks include scheduling posts, creating graphics, and monitoring traffic, reach, and engagement.

A relatively new career, some social media managers begin their jobs straight out of college, while others are career changers who want to enter this growing field.

Social Media Manager Responsibilities

  • Managing social media platforms. Some social media managers delegate work to their team, while others are responsible for posting and directly overseeing all elements of social platforms.
  • Enhancing client profiles to grow their number of followers and increase follower engagement.
  • Analyzing data and evaluating performance to compile metrics and report their findings.
  • Working with other marketing professionals and management to strategize future campaigns and content.

Social Media Management Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.

What Are the Steps to Become a Social Media Manager?

While there is no prescribed path to begin a social media management career, there are some steps individuals can take to make the process a bit easier. The following section highlights various steps you can take to jumpstart your social media career.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing or Communications

Whether students pursue a marketing degree or choose from standout communication degree programs, both academic tracks help students hone the skills needed to pursue a social media management career. Some schools may even offer targeted degrees for contemporary marketing fields like internet marketing.

When choosing a major, prospective students should recognize the difference between a marketing degree program and a communication program.

A marketing degree sits squarely in the business world and can include classes such as business law, microeconomics, and business communication. On the other hand, communication programs focus on the myriad ways people and organizations spread information.

In addition to core marketing or communication coursework, those hiring social media managers look for a number of hard and soft skills that effective professionals utilize on a daily basis. Common skills include project management, written communication, and the ability to work both independently and with a marketing team. Continue reading for some more career advice.

Step 2: Get an Entry-Level Social Media Management Job

After completing a marketing or communication degree, the next task is to find a job. While landing the right job after college is often challenging, securing a role as a social media specialist is a great way to build the foundational skills and credentials in the field of social media management.

Even before tackling an entry-level social media job, students can take advantage of resources in college that can both build skills and help develop a professional network. Internships, mentorships, and career bridge programs often play a critical role in the early years of professional development.

Step 3: Earn Your Master's Degree

Even though a master's degree is not necessarily a requirement for social media managers, many professionals use a graduate degree as a way to expand career options and enhance their earning potential.

That said, when deciding whether or not to go to graduate school, prospective students may want to consider grad school alternatives that may save them time and potentially reduce the need to go into debt.

If graduate school makes sense, popular academic options for future social media managers include master's programs in marketing and communication.

Learners also commonly pursue MBA programs with specializations in marketing, digital marketing, project management, and social media marketing. Often available as online options, these programs typically take between 18-36 months to complete.

Step 4: Get a Job as a Social Media Manager

After shoring up a resume with academic and professional experience, college grads are ready to leverage their skills and experiences into a social media manager role. When searching for social media manager positions, job hunters should take stock of their skills and how they align with job requirements.

Some social media manager specializations include:

Step 5: Consider Continuing Education or Specialization

In addition to earning a degree that can jumpstart a social media manager career, those in the field can add to their professional toolbox through continuing education and specialization opportunities.

In addition to marketing graduate certificate programs, social media professionals can gain specialized skills in areas like leadership, accounting, design, and any number of tech-centric areas through certificate or bootcamp programs.

For social media managers interested in maxing out their academic credentials, a doctorate in marketing both builds upon existing skills and can also lead to teaching opportunities in higher education.

What to Know Before Becoming a Social Media Manager

Accreditation

Regardless of whether a student pursues an in-person or online degree, accreditation plays a vital role in certifying that a school meets the rigorous standards set by accrediting agencies. Both institutional and programmatic accreditation can ensure that schools provide standout academics, robust student support, and extensive career services. In short, accreditation means that students can feel confident that their investment is worth it.

Cost

When pursuing a social media manager career, the cost of college can vary dramatically between schools. When choosing a program, students should consider the true cost of college, including hidden costs that exist outside of tuition rates.

Prospective students concerned about pricey tuition rates should consider public institutions where they receive in-state tuition. Additionally, online programs often allow students to save money on travel and campus-based fees while providing the flexibility needed to continue working while keeping up with academic requirements.

Salary

Salaries for social media managers can vary, but those with specialized skills and ample experience tend to make the most. According to Payscale data from July 2022, the average salary for social media managers is $52,980 per year.

On the upper end of the spectrum, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that marketing managers earned a median salary of $135,030 annually in May 2021. Marketing managers in New York, New Jersey, and California earn the most.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Social Media Manager

What qualifications do you need to become a social media manager?

The qualifications needed to become a social media manager can vary. While more experienced professionals can lean on transferable skills from related industries, many learners entering the field complete a bachelor's degree in disciplines including marketing and communication.

Additionally, many professionals complete graduate degrees and certificate programs to enhance their skills and expand career opportunities.

Social media managers typically boast strong communication skills and a knack for navigating social media platforms. Additionally, these professionals have a solid understanding of analytics and traditional marketing practices.

What is the fastest way to become a social media manager?

Some social media managers with a deep knowledge of social media platforms can perform in these positions without a college degree.

That said, a bachelor's in marketing can provide students with a solid foundation of business and marketing knowledge that informs best practices. Students can complete a bachelor's degree in about four years, but accelerated degree programs can shorten this timeline to less than three years.

Those pursuing an online marketing degree can often meet requirements in fewer than four years. Online programs also have the added benefit of allowing degree-seekers the flexibility to complete academic requirements while keeping up with personal and professional obligations.

How do I become a social media manager without a degree?

Individuals without a degree can pursue a social media management career, but typically begin with entry-level positions such as a social media specialist. Additionally, those without a degree should have a deep knowledge of social media platforms along with a knack for design and other marketing practices.

Social media specialists keep up with various trends while demonstrating a working knowledge of analytics and statistics. These professionals also have strong communication and customer service skills.

Daily tasks for social media specialists include executing social media strategies, engaging with online communities, and keeping up with a content calendar.

Can I become a social media manager with an online degree?

Graduates from online marketing or communication programs receive the same diploma as someone attending in person. Just like on-campus programs, these degrees can offer students the foundational knowledge and technical and business skills that social media managers utilize on a daily basis.

In addition to a practical curriculum for future social media professionals, many online programs employ an asynchronous delivery where students complete coursework on their own time and at their own pace. This is an ideal academic option for working and adult students.

How much money can I make as a social media manager?

The earning potential for social media managers can vary based on experience, title, and location. Payscale reports that social media managers average about $53,000 per year, as of July 2022. The BLS reveals that marketing managers can earn more than $135,000 annually, as of May 2021.

Top-earning professionals typically have significant experience and take on leadership roles. Those interested in expanding career opportunities and earning potential can complete graduate programs in marketing and business.

Additionally, graduate certificate programs and professional certificate programs can enhance skills and lead to greater compensation.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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