Certification Programs for Jobs in Social Media - dummies

Certification Programs for Jobs in Social Media

By Brooks Briz, David Rose

Your social media education is a direct trade‐off between your time and money. You can spend money to attend a class or you can spend time researching. Degree and certificate programs get attention, but they aren’t required in the current job market. You may consider other educational opportunities if the costs associated with a formal degree program are too high.

Self‐guided learning is a realistic option if you have the discipline and commitment required to further your knowledge.

Practicing your skills on social media and learning from your mistakes and successes is the best way to improve.

Potential employers care much more about proven results and applied knowledge than degrees. However, if you can bring results and education to the table, and a candidate you’re competing with brings one or the other, then you’ll have a significant advantage.

Always focus on certifications and education that are mentioned in the descriptions of the jobs that you’ll be applying for.

Ask employers if an accreditation would benefit you. See if the company is willing to pay for a degree or if it reimburses you for tuition.

If you’re considering a social media certification program, consider the following factors:

  • What’s the return on investment with this accreditation or education? For example, if you spend $10,000 on an online course, are you guaranteed being worth that much more?

  • What’s the time commitment for each social media educational system? If you can’t set aside the time necessary to complete the requirements, don’t pursue this avenue.

  • Does the social media educational service have connections within the social media job space? Many networks have strong relationships with employers of social media professionals and offer exclusive or preferential opportunities for their members.

    A great question to ask before you enroll in a program is whether the service has a job board full of opportunities that appeal to you. The best way to find out is by investigating the jobs yourself and judging whether they appeal to you.

  • Which do you have more of to spare: time or money? Are you willing to use your time scouring the web, and or would you rather make a capital expenditure now for the convenience of a well‐organized education?

  • What types of relationships can you create with the program organizers, teachers, alumni, and other students? Typically, social media professionals are helpful and generous; plus, the more people you know, the better it is for your long‐term success.

Hootsuite University

Hootsuite is the premiere software that allows professionals to view, manage, and automate social media participation. Hootsuite created two learning platforms:


  • Social media education. The course is geared toward entrepreneurs, employers, and business managers. You get comprehensive training on how to use the Hootsuite software, various courses, and a lecture series that offers over 40 webinars. It’s a little over $20 monthly to access this course.

  • Hootsuite certification. This program is geared toward marketing agencies, social media consultants, and full‐time social media professionals. The program offers a variety of social media exams and a certification badge for your website and social profiles. You can try for certification anytime, but Hootsuite recommends that you go learn from all of their social media education materials before attempting to get certified.

You pay a monthly subscription to learn how to use Hootsuite’s software, so keep that in mind if you’re also attending Hootsuite University. You can cancel your Hootsuite University subscription at any time but then you won’t have access to the Hootsuite University network, job boards, and internal networking possibilities.

Ultimately, Hootsuite provides an affordable, recognizable option for social media beginners or novices.


National Institute for Social Media (NISM)

The National Institute for Social Media (NISM) is a strong way to show off your social media knowledge. It’s important to clearly communicate your goals to NISM about whether their return on investment will parallel the type of career you’re after.

NISMonline.org, has partnered with the Assessment Systems Corporation (ASC) and has developed an internal committee of social media subject matters called the NISM Industry Advisory Committee (IAC).

NISM offers a social media strategist exam that costs $295, plus a $65‐to‐$85 proctoring fee. The exam covers the following topics:

  • Social media strategic planning

  • Social media compliance and governance

  • Social media project and campaign management

  • Social media marketing

  • Community management

  • Research and analysis


To take (some people say sit for instead) the NISM exam, you must apply and be accepted to the program. To apply, you need one of the following:

  • An Associate Degree (64 credit hours) in business, marketing, computer science, communications, or other type of educational discipline

  • Two years of practical business experience related to social media

After you get approved, use the self‐study bundles, the NISM online course, or the in‐person course (which is offered at colleges across the United States). All the options include a voucher for the NISM exam, except for the standard self‐study bundle.

Overall, the NISM social media certification is an extremely strong program. Consider these factors before pulling the trigger on this program:

  • NISM is the most expensive social media training product on the market. Its price tag starts at over $1,000.

  • You have to renew your NISM certification every three years.

  • The NISM certification price pales in comparison to the price of most social media conferences. They range anywhere from hundreds of dollars to $10,000 just for admission to some of the big shows.