A master’s in digital marketing for as little as $31 or close to $85k

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A master’s in digital marketing costs up to $84,086. The alternative costs as little as $31.

A survey of universities in the US offering master’s degrees in digital marketing has revealed that attending graduate school can be up to 10 times less profitable and 3 times slower than self-learning online.

Cost comparison

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In contrast, it costs as little $31 and as much as $4,859 to enroll in an unaccredited online course on digital marketing, start a website, pay for all the tools and budget necessary to run digital campaigns. Compared with attending graduate school, learning digital marketing with an unaccredited course and starting a website is:

  • 10 times more profitable, with a return on investment of 521% three years after getting a digital marketing job - compared to a return of 53% from a digital marketing degree.
  • 4 times cheaper , with a total cost (including opportunity cost) of $20,752 in the worst-case scenario - versus a total cost of $84,086 for attending graduate school.
  • 3 times faster , assuming 6 months of self-learning and growing a website full time - instead of the average of 19 months it takes to complete a master’s in digital marketing.

ROI comparison

Commentary on master's in digital marketing

Tommy Griffith, the founder of ClickMinded, maintains that the quality of unaccredited courses can compete with the best graduate schools: “ our instructors are not academics—they are digital marketing experts and practitioners from companies like Airbnb, Lyft, and TechStars. You can rarely get access to that kind of talent in a graduate school environment ”.

Kian Paras, a student of ClickMinded, claims “ these courses have helped me get several remote jobs to pay off debt. I currently work remotely for 3 businesses in North America ”.

Griffith’s prediction is that this trend will continue to grow and expand to other areas: “ attending graduate school for digital marketing and many other topics doesn’t make financial sense anymore - there are many options available that are far better, faster, and cheaper ”.

Tuition for digital marketing degrees in the US cost an average of $33,890 and take 19 months to complete. Considering the median yearly income, the real cost goes up to $84,086.

Moreover, with an average entry-level digital marketing salary of $42,946 per year, it will take graduates up to 23 months to break even on their investment in an ideal scenario (without loan interest payments and using 100% of their salary to pay back the cost of the degree).

Going to school (getting a digital marketing degree)
Stat Value Source Comments
Median yearly income US (2017) $31,786 https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-average-income-in-usa-family-household-history-3306189
Average degree cost $33,890 calculation
Median degree cost $33,528 calculation
Average duration 19 calculation
Median duration 18 calculation
Total cost (tuition + salary lost) $84,086 calculation assuming no loans interest payments
Entry level digital marketing salary (specialist, analyst) $42,946 https://digitalmarketinginstitute.com/en-eu/blog/whats-the-future-of-digital-marketing-salaries
Net salary increase $11,160 calculation
ROI (1 year after graduating) -49% calculation
ROI (2 years after graduating) 2% calculation assuming no increase in salary
ROI (3 years after graduating) 53% calculation assuming no increase in salary
Break-even point (months) 23 calculation after finishing the degree

Costs of going to college
University / College Cost Duration Source Notes
George Washington University $21,180 12 https://business.gwu.edu/prospective-students/graduate-certificate-admissions
certificate, 12 credits
West Virginia University $24,600 18 https://online.wvu.edu/programs/integrated-marketing-communications-m-s/ 30 credits
PACE University $46,980 18 https://www.pace.edu/lubin/ms-in-social-media-mobile-marketing
36 credits, $1,305/credit
NYU $65,547 24 https://www.sps.nyu.edu/homepage/academics/masters-degrees/ms-in-integrated-marketing.html
Masters in integrated marketing with digital marketing concentration
36 credits, 12 credits/semester, $21,849/semester
USC Annenberg $57,256 18 http://annenberg.usc.edu/school-communication/master-digital-social-media/admissions/curriculum
Master of Science in Digital Social Media
East Tenessee State University $25,416 24 https://www.etsu.edu/cbat/msdm/curriculum.php
36 credits, $706/credit
Southern New Hampshire University $22,572 15 https://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/masters/ms-in-marketing/digital-marketing 36 credits, $627/credit
Sacred Heart University $34,740 15 http://www.sacredheart.edu/academics/jackwelchcollegeofbusiness/graduateprogramscertificates/msindigitalmarketing/degreerequirements/
36 credits, $965/credit
University of Florida $17,441 16 https://onlinemasters.jou.ufl.edu/digital-strategy/ 36 credits
Full Sail University $28,000 16 https://www.fullsail.edu/resources/brochure-file/full-sail-catalog.pdf 37 credits, $757/credit
Concordia University $33,255 24 https://www.mbastudies.com/M.B.A-Digital-Marketing/USA/Concordia-University-Chicago/#description 51 credits
Rutgers $44,208 15 https://www.business.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/documents/factsheet-digital-marketing.pdf 12 courses, $3684/course
Montclair State University $33,800 26 http://onlinemba.montclair.edu/mba-digital-marketing/
30 credits
Emerson $40,832 16 https://www.emerson.edu/programs/digital-marketing-and-data-analytics-online-ma
32 credits, $1,276/credit
Messiah College $24,840 24 https://www.messiah.edu/grad-school/mba-digital-marketing 36 credits
Northern Illinois University $33,930 24 https://www.cob.niu.edu/academics/marketing/ms-digital-marketing/index.shtml 39 credits
Liberty University $20,340 24 https://www.liberty.edu/online/business/masters/marketing/digital-marketing-advertising/
36 credits, $565/credit
Brandeis $35,370 24 https://www.brandeis.edu/gps/future-students/learn-about-our-programs/digital-marketing.html
30 credits, $1,179/credit
Florida International University $31,500 10 https://business.fiu.edu/graduate/marketing/tuition.cfm 30 credits
St Edward's University $36,000 16 https://www.stedwards.edu/graduate/master-science-digital-marketing-and-analytics
30 credits, $1200/credit

Learning on your own (starting a website and taking online courses)
Stat Value Source Comments
Median yearly income US (2017) $31,786 https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-average-income-in-usa-family-household-history-3306189
Cost (tools + courses) $4,859
Total cost (tools + courses + salary lost) $20,752 absolute worst-case scenario (all paid tools)
Entry level digital marketing salary (specialist, analyst) $42,946 https://digitalmarketinginstitute.com/en-eu/blog/whats-the-future-of-digital-marketing-salaries
Net salary increase $11,160 calculation
ROI (1 year of work) 107% calculation
ROI (2 years of work) 314% calculation assuming no increase in salary
ROI (3 years of work) 521% calculation assuming no increase in salary
Break-even point (months) 6 calculation after 6 months of self-learning

Costs of starting a website, blog, or online business
Item Cost Source Notes
Self-learning $0-$1,000 Udemy, Coursera, ClickMinded, Udacity, YouTube, blogs, etc.
Self-learning duration 0-6 months N/A
Web hosting $31/year https://www.dreamhost.com/hosting/shared/ shared hosting, includes domain name
Self-hosted WordPress Site $0 N/A
Theme $0-60 https://themeforest.net/popular_item/by_category?category=wordpress
Email marketing software $0-$29/mo https://mailchimp.com/pricing/ , https://convertkit.com/pricing assuming <1000 subscribers
Social media marketing software $0 https://buffer.com/pricing/publish
Analytics software $0 https://marketingplatform.google.com/about/analytics/
SEO software $0-$99/mo https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/ , https://ads.google.com/home/tools/keyword-planner/, https://ahrefs.com/pricing
Content marketing software $0 https://www.google.com/docs/about/ , https://www.grammarly.com/
Project management software $0 https://asana.com/pricing
Running paid campaigns $3,000 assuming a $500/mo budget for 6 months

ClickMinded is a digital marketing training platform with over 22,000 students. It was founded by Tommy
Griffith, former SEO Manager from PayPal and Airbnb.

Contact : Tommy Griffith, [email protected]

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