Digital Marketing Degree vs Bootcamp vs Certificate

Erin RuppErin Rupp | 12 minute read | April 19, 2022
Digital Marketing Degree vs Bootcamp vs Certificate

In this article

If you want to pursue a career in digital marketing, but don’t know whether you should pursue a marketing degree, an online bootcamp, or a certificate, you’ve come to the right place. 

In this post, we’ll cover the differences between digital marketing degrees, bootcamps, and certificates; the pros and cons of each; factors to consider such as cost, curriculum, and learning method; and what type of program best suits your career goals. We’ll also offer program recommendations, tips on how to choose between courses, and advice on how to get started.

Is There a Difference Between a Digital Marketing Degree, Bootcamp, and Certificate?

There are many differences between the three. Some of those differences include, but are not limited to: cost, time commitment, curriculum, and return on investment.

These three types of programs are tailored for different students. Marketing degrees are typically designed to be multidisciplinary so that students—many of whom come straight from high school—receive a well-rounded education in areas beyond marketing. Bootcamps and certificates are usually designed for people looking to retrain in a new discipline or further their education.

For further reading, learn more about digital marketing here.

Understanding Your Options

Many digital marketers have succeeded with the help of digital marketing courses. Learn more about what each course entails below. 

What Is a Digital Marketing Degree?

A digital marketing degree is a four-year course offered by a university and is usually taught in-person, on campus, on a full-time basis. Offering a well-rounded educational experience, marketing degrees teach marketing principles, business communication, and digital marketing strategies. Students develop both a theoretical understanding of marketing and can take electives where they’ll receive training in practical marketing skills such as customer relationship management, customer engagement, search engine marketing, outbound marketing, and social media marketing. 

What Is a Digital Marketing Bootcamp?

Bootcamps last from a month to a year, and are often taught remotely (although some schools offer on-campus instruction) with asynchronous scheduling. Designed to offer an expedient, comprehensive education in a specific field (i.e., Springboard’s 8-week Digital Marketing program), bootcamps usually cover technical and soft skills, offer career-planning assistance, and prepare graduates for the workforce. 

What Is a Digital Marketing Certificate?

Digital marketing certificates are subject-specific courses on topics such as programmatic advertising and email marketing campaigns. Some courses are designed without prerequisites, while others are intended to build upon previous experience. For example, those who are already working in marketing might choose to complete the Google Ads Editor or Google AdWords Certification program to bolster their knowledge of these tools. Newcomers looking for a career change might take a broader course in digital marketing to help them get a foot in the door. 

Digital Marketing Degree vs. Bootcamp vs. Certificate: How To Choose

Digital Marketing Degree vs Bootcamp vs Certificate: How to choose
Source: Dribbble | Julia Hanke

Just because a program is long and comprehensive doesn’t mean it will be the best fit. When choosing a course, it’s important to consider the type of educational experience you want, your budget, available time, learning style, and whether the course offerings will help you reach your career goals. 

Cost

Cost is one of the biggest factors to consider when choosing a course. The cost difference between a certificate and a marketing degree can be up to tens of thousands of dollars. 

Digital Marketing Degree Cost

The cost of a digital marketing degree will vary depending on where you choose to study, the school, and whether you are required to pay additional fees associated with campus housing and meal plans. In the United States, a year’s tuition for a marketing degree ranges from $38,000-58,000

Marketing Bootcamp Cost

Marketing bootcamps can cost nothing—as is the case with self-directed massive open online courses—or cost up to $10,000 for courses that offer instructor guidance, one-on-one mentorship, career assistance, and job search assistance. 

Digital Marketing Certificate Cost

Like bootcamps, there is a range of prices for digital marketing certificates. Some tool-specific courses—such as the Google Ads Search Certification or the Facebook certification—can be completed in less than four hours, and are free. 

Time Commitment

digital marketing degree vs bootcamp: Time Commitment

The amount of time you’re willing and able to commit is another important factor to consider when choosing a course.

Digital Marketing Degree Time Commitment

Most digital marketing degrees require a four-year, full-time commitment. Master’s programs typically require at least a one-year, full-time commitment. 

Marketing Bootcamp Time Commitment

Marketing bootcamps can range from a few weeks to a year, although many are offered on a part-time basis and taught remotely, which means that students have more flexibility than those in degree programs.

Digital Marketing Certificate Time Commitment

The time commitment required for digital marketing certificates can range from a few hours to several weeks, depending on the skills being taught and the comprehensiveness of the certificate.

ROI

When thinking about your return on investment, consider which course will help you accomplish your goals. For example, will the course let you work on real-world portfolio projects? Does it offer career services to support your job search? And does it prepare you for the job market with mentorship, mock interviews, and professional portfolio development?

Digital Marketing Degree ROI

While many entry-level digital marketing roles do not require candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree, some hiring managers continue to screen candidates based on whether they hold a degree in marketing or a relevant field. Because of this, a marketing degree can open more doors and be worth the investment. 

Marketing Bootcamp ROI

Compared to a college degree, bootcamps require a fraction of the time and cost, but have been shown to offer comparable results when it comes to compensation. Course Report found that the average salary of a coding bootcamp graduate is $70,698, compared to a degree graduate who can expect an average salary of $50,000-$106,000.

Digital Marketing Certificate ROI

Although they are usually cheaper and less time-consuming than other program types, certificates tend to focus on subtopics within a larger field. They can be a great starting point for complete beginners who want to get a taste of a marketing course, or for professionals who have some experience in marketing and are looking to upskill. 

Curriculum

The curriculum is another important factor to consider when choosing a course. If you already work in marketing, but are looking to upskill, then a multidisciplinary college degree curriculum will likely retread old ground. And if you’re a newcomer looking to get a comprehensive education, a certificate in a specific marketing tool or method will not meet your needs. 

Digital Marketing Degree Curriculum

A marketing degree curriculum usually covers marketing principles, business communication, and digital marketing strategies. Students can expect to learn campaign development, content marketing skills, how to work with digital advertising, and content strategy. You’ll also develop a foundational understanding of communication, user behavior, psychology, and marketing theory.

Marketing Bootcamp Curriculum

Digital marketing bootcamps are designed for workplace readiness. They prioritize practical skills, hands-on experience, relevant tools, and the newest technologies. In addition to giving you an overview of marketing principles, many bootcamps also cover digital marketing campaigns, strategies for improving conversion rates, content writing, campaign building, search engine optimization, and best practices for email marketing and SEO content. 

Digital Marketing Certificate Curriculum 

Digital marketing certificates tend to be narrowly focused, which can be great for professionals looking to learn new skills and tricks in the ever-evolving marketing industry. 

Learning Model

Source: Dribbble | Lily

Do you need in-person accountability, or do you prefer the flexibility of an online classroom? Are you a self-directed learner, or do you need the guidance of instructional staff? Degrees, bootcamps, and certificates all offer different learning models, so choose the one that best suits your learning style. 

Digital Marketing Degree Learning Model

Most digital marketing degrees are taught in-person, on-campus, and usually on a full-time basis. Some courses may be taught remotely, but classes tend to be synchronous, which means that students are expected to be participating at predetermined times. 

Marketing Bootcamp Learning Model

Bootcamps take many forms. Some offer in-person instruction, while others have little to no interaction with instructors or peers. Some of the most effective bootcamps offer the flexibility of remote, asynchronous classes while also including career planning assistance, continued one-on-one career coaching, mentorship, and opportunities to gain hands-on experience 

Digital Marketing Certificate Learning Model

Like bootcamps, digital marketing certificates can vary widely depending on the school, the cost of the program, and the subject. Most certificates offer the option of remote, asynchronous learning. 

Career Outlook 

digital marketing degree vs bootcamp: Career Outlook 

Perhaps the most important consideration to make when choosing a course is whether it will lead to the career you want. 

Digital Marketing Degree Outlook

A digital marketing degree can lead to many career opportunities. It’s a highly versatile degree that teaches transferable skills which are valued in other sectors such as communications, project management, design, and sales. 

Marketing Bootcamp Outlook

Bootcamps usually follow a comprehensive training model that teaches the skills that are most relevant to the current workforce. The best courses offer career services, job placement assistance, internship placement assistance, networking opportunities, and interview training. Some schools even offer a job guarantee

Digital Marketing Certificate Outlook

Comprehensive digital marketing certificates can help graduates land entry-level positions, while narrowly focused certificates can help marketers upskill, increase their earning potential, and broaden their opportunities. 

Pros of a Digital Marketing Degree vs. Bootcamp vs. Certificate 

It can be difficult to choose between a digital marketing degree, a bootcamp, or a certificate because there are many upsides to each. 

Digital Marketing Degree Pros

Digital marketing degrees offer the most in-depth education, with coverage of marketing theory, practical skills, and concepts. A degree program also offers professional networking opportunities, internship opportunities, and electives that allow students to broaden their education beyond marketing. 

Marketing Bootcamp Pros

Bootcamps typically require a shorter time commitment and come at a lower cost while still teaching core digital marketing skills such as customer relationship management, email marketing, social media marketing, project management, and campaign development. Depending on the course, there may be schedule flexibility, mentorship, professional networking opportunities, and capstone projects where students can get real-world experience. 

Digital Marketing Certificate Pros

Digital marketing certificates usually require the least amount of time, are the least costly, and are a great way for newcomers to get a taste of the profession before enrolling in longer and costlier courses. They also allow digital marketers to take a targeted approach to upskilling. For example, a marketer might want to bolster their social media marketing skills by taking a certificate course on social networks. 

Cons of a Digital Marketing Degree vs. Bootcamps vs. Certificate

Now that you’ve heard some of the upsides to degrees, bootcamps, and certificates, here are some of the trade-offs: 

Digital Marketing Degree Cons

Degree programs typically require a years-long commitment, are expensive, lack flexibility, and are not ideal for those simply looking to learn a single skill. 

Marketing Bootcamp Cons

Although many bootcamps offer an intensive and focused education, some students may struggle with the lack of in-person accountability. Self-directed, remote learning isn’t for everyone. 

Digital Marketing Certificate Cons

Digital marketing certificates have their limits: most tools-based certificates are self-directed and do not offer instructional support; introductory courses are not as thorough as bootcamps and degree programs; many certificates require prerequisite knowledge. 

Marketing Degree vs. Bootcamp vs. Certificate: Which One Fits Your Goals?

Marketing Degree vs. Bootcamp vs. Certificate: Which One Fits Your Goals?

Now that you know the key differences between marketing degrees, bootcamps, and certificates, here’s how to choose the right course to meet your career goals. 

Consider a Digital Marketing Degree If…

You want a multidisciplinary approach to education, a strong foundational understanding of marketing theories and principles, to develop an array of transferable skills that will be useful outside of marketing, and if you have the time and resources to devote to a multi-year course. 

Consider a Digital Marketing Bootcamp If…

You know what kind of career you want, you know what kind of skills you need to learn, you want hands-on training with digital marketing best practices, and you want career coaching and professional networking opportunities. 

Consider a Digital Marketing Certificate If…

You want a taste of what it would be like to work as a digital marketer, you’re looking to upskill, or you have a skills gap you want to fill. 

Top Digital Marketing Degrees

Top Digital Marketing Degrees

If you’re interested in pursuing a degree in digital marketing, here are three highly regarded options. 

HEC Paris

Duration: 2 years

Cost: € 28,750 (around $32,000)

Learning mode: On-campus, an hour outside of Paris. Non-EU students require a visa. 

Suitable for: Those with a bachelor’s degree and those with professional marketing experience looking to advance their careers.

Key offers: Ranked as the top marketing degree in the world, with international business partnerships (such as L’Oreal, Proctor and Gamble, Google) and in-house research. 

Columbia University

Duration: 1 year

Cost: $105,000

Learning mode: On-campus in New York City.

Suitable for: Those with a bachelor’s degree from any background. 

Key offers: Prepares graduates for careers as analytical marketers who can work with data analytics. 

Masters in Digital Marketing at Harbour.Space University

Duration: 1 year (also available as a 3-year undergraduate program)

Cost: € 22,900 (around $25,000)

Learning mode: On-campus in Barcelona, Spain, and Bangkok, Thailand.

Suitable for: Bachelor’s degree holders from all backgrounds are welcome to apply.

Key offers: Taught by industry professionals. 

Top Digital Marketing Bootcamps

If you’re interested in pursuing a digital marketing bootcamp, here are some options that offer flexibility and in-depth instruction. 

Thinkful Digital Marketing Bootcamp

Duration: 3 months

Cost: $4,900

Learning mode: Remote and self-paced.

Suitable for: Anyone interested in learning digital marketing skills.

Key offers: Part-time program.

General Assembly’s Digital Marketing Immersive

Duration: 3-6 months full-time/part-time

Cost: $3,950

Learning mode: On-campus in New York City and online.

Suitable for: Anyone interested in learning digital marketing skills.

Key offers: On-campus learning available.

BrainStation Online Digital Marketing Bootcamp

Duration: 3-6 months full-time/part-time

Cost: $15,000

Learning mode: Online or in-person in select cities.

Suitable for: Anyone interested in learning digital marketing skills.

Key offers: On-campus learning available.

Springboard Digital Marketing Professional Certificate

Duration: 8 weeks

Cost: $2,495

Learning mode: Online with flexible scheduling.

Suitable for: Anyone interested in learning digital marketing skills. 

Key offers: Offers one-on-one mentorship and hands-on experience with industry tools.

Top Digital Marketing Certificates

If you’re interested in completing a digital marketing certification, here are some low-cost and accessible certificate programs. 

Google Fundamentals of Digital Marketing Certification

Duration: 40 hours

Cost: Free

Learning mode: Online.

Suitable for: Anyone interested in learning the basics of digital marketing.

Key offerings: Covers everything from the basics of digital marketing to analytics and data insights.

Reliablesoft Digital Marketing Certification

Duration: Go at your own pace with 10 courses that cover 240 topics

Cost: $119 for the course bundle

Learning mode: Online and self-paced.

Suitable for: Anyone interested in learning digital marketing skills. 

Key offerings (USP): Certificates in subtopics (i.e., Keyword Research, Email marketing, etc.)

Harvard Digital Marketing Strategy Program

Duration: 5 days

Cost: $5,995

Learning mode: In-person.

Suitable for: Anyone interested in learning digital marketing skills.

Key offerings: In-person instruction with a peer group.

Skills To Build a Career in Digital Marketing

Skills To Build a Career in Digital Marketing

Digital marketers need both hard and soft skills in order to succeed. When signing up for a degree, bootcamp, or certificate program, consider what skills you need to learn and whether the course will help you fill in knowledge and skills gaps. 

Hard Skills

Digital marketing hard skills include:

  • Understanding search rankings and conversion funnels
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Search advertising and analytics
  • Social media advertising and analytics
  • Content optimization
  • Development of brand and advertising campaigns
  • Competitor analysis
  • Measuring campaign efficiency
  • Setting campaign objectives
  • Fluency with tools such as Taboola, Google Analytics, and Google AdWords 
  • Familiarity with email marketing tools such as MailChimp and Omnisend

Soft Skills

Digital marketing soft skills include:

  • Strong communication
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Customer engagement
  • Time management
  • Prioritization and organization skills
  • Project management
  • Collaboration
  • Attention to detail

How To Get Started

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Digital marketing degrees, bootcamps, and certificates like Springboard’s Digital Marketing Professional Certificate can be a great starting point for anyone interested in a digital marketing career. If you find yourself overwhelmed by choice, ask yourself the following questions to help you narrow down your options:

What Type of Career Do You Want, and How Large Is Your Skills Gap?

This will determine whether you will benefit from a program with a comprehensive curriculum, or if you simply need to learn a few new skills and tools.

How Much Time and Money Are You Able To Commit?

Source: Dribbble | Anna Magura

Degrees and online certificates can cost up to tens of thousands of dollars, with some programs requiring full-time attendance. Other courses, however, are self-paced and much less costly. 

Related Read: Is digital marketing hard to learn?

What Does the Course Promise?

It’s important to be realistic about what you can accomplish through a degree or certificate program. For example, if you enroll in a certificate in the Google AdWords course, but don’t have the fundamentals of marketing, then the certificate is unlikely to help you land a job in digital marketing.

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, look at reviews to get a sense of the course’s usefulness. Check for student outcomes reports. And, if in doubt, don’t be afraid to contact the school directly to ask questions.

Since you’re here…
Ready for a career in digital marketing? Our Digital Marketing Bootcamp promises fresh digital marketing skills and a professional certification in just a few months. Test our curriculum with this free digital marketing learning path, and check out our salary guide to see what you could be making.

Erin Rupp

About Erin Rupp

Erin Rupp is a productivity, design, and lifestyle writer. Her words have been featured on Springboard, Freedom, and BlissMark. When she isn't clicking-clacking her way through the day, she's writing snail mail, jamming to classic rock, and proudly sporting a writer's bump.