2023 Best Online PhD in Digital Marketing [Doctorate Guide]

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A PhD in Digital Marketing online program can give you the opportunity to specialize in business research. A PhD is also one of the highest educational qualifications that you can get in the field.

Best Online PhD in Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is an innovative and future-ready field, and it’s already essential for many businesses. In a digital marketing PhD program, you can work toward becoming a domain expert and get firsthand experience with research.

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With the growing number of distance learning options, it’s now more convenient than ever to earn this lucrative doctorate.

PhD in Digital Marketing Online Programs

PhD in Digital Marketing

PhD in Digital Marketing programs are focused on creating scholars and knowledgeable experts who can help the industry move forward with original research. You can be trained to use your data analysis skills to solve marketing challenges.

Digital marketing is a quickly evolving field that relies on the latest technology.

It spans many of the modern tools and strategies currently used by companies to reach their target audiences, including social media, email, search engines, websites, and analytics.

As a digital marketing PhD student, you’ll likely choose a specific research question and build your expertise around that area. Doctorate programs in digital marketing typically emphasize econometrics, statistical analysis, and experimental research. You’ll likely take classes on marketing theories and applications as well.

During the second half of your PhD program, you’ll probably spend most of your time working on a dissertation that can be published in an academic journal.

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Most programs will provide opportunities to learn how to critically analyze current papers on digital marketing and will have experienced faculty members with similar research expertise that can help guide you.

Different programs offer different concentrations, but here are some of the most common research areas:

  • Consumer culture
  • International marketing
  • Product development
  • Marketing innovation
  • Social media sentiment
  • Online advertising

To create an original research paper, you can study advanced models in marketing along with special topics. You can also practice using mathematical and economics tools to get insights from data.

Because of the focus on independent research, digital marketing PhD programs often include seminars and customizable classes along with plenty of time to work on your own.

Most graduates with a PhD in Digital Marketing become professors who conduct university research. Since data analysis expertise is highly sought after, others become market research consultants. Some take on strategic, executive-level roles instead, where they can apply what they’ve learned in a business setting. 

Digital Marketing Careers & Salaries

Digital Marketing Careers & Salaries

With the specialized skills that you can develop through a digital marketing PhD program, you can pursue careers in both the public and private sectors.

The most common career track for PhD graduates is academia, where they often teach marketing or business classes in colleges and universities. Because a PhD in Marketing is research-intensive, graduates are often well-equipped to conduct research alongside teaching.

For those who prefer to work for private companies, management roles in marketing and sales are often possible.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are the yearly median salaries of some of the advanced careers related to digital marketing. 

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Chief Executives $179,520
Marketing Managers $135,030
Sales Managers
Advertising and Promotions Managers $127,150
Training and Development Managers
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers $119,860
General and Operations Managers $97,970
Business Teachers, Postsecondary $94,360
Market Research Analysts $63,920
Public Relations Specialists $62,800

These are only the median salaries for each job. Actual salaries can vary based on location, your field of expertise, and many other factors. Still, the main career tracks—management, academia, and data analysis—may lead to high-paying roles down the road.

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Outside of academia, professionals with a PhD in Marketing may become market research analysts or data analysts. Marketing is one of the fastest-growing fields today, with roles in diverse industries, such as management consulting, technology, and healthcare.

Digital Marketing PhD Curriculum & Courses

Digital Marketing PhD

Online doctorate in digital marketing programs usually involve a lot of independent study, and classes vary based on the school, but you’ll likely take classes similar to the following:

  • Microeconomic Theory: This course explores how individuals and organizations interact in different market structures, utilizing game theory to make predictions for decision-making.
  • Econometrics: Going beyond economic theory, this course discusses how to make forecasts and draw cause-and-effect relationships through data analysis tools.
  • Statistical Analysis: This course lays the groundwork for more advanced research classes by covering statistical methods for gathering and analyzing data.
  • Qualitative Research: This class can give you the opportunity to have hands-on practice with qualitative research methods—such as one-on-one interviews, focus groups, and observation—and learn how to write reports about your findings.
  • Industrial Organization: This course gives an overview of how organizations function realistically and how they influence each other when it comes to advertising, product placement, and other marketing dynamics.
  • Marketing Management: This class delves into how to launch and implement marketing strategies across an entire organization, including tracking analytics, developing a brand, and maintaining customer relationships.
  • Advanced Marketing Theory: This course delves into traditional and modern marketing models that are backed by research. You’ll likely need to read a wide range of academic papers and give your own critical analysis.
  • Quantitative Research: This course aims to teach how to apply the statistical and econometric tools learned in other courses in order to design your own experiments.
  • Consumer Behavior: The core of marketing lies in getting to know your consumers’ motivations, goals, and pain points and then adapting to these for effective brand positioning.
  • Social Psychology: This class examines how people behave in a social environment and what factors influence their behavior.

Aside from these courses, a PhD in Digital Marketing will usually allow you to choose from several electives based on your research interests as well.

Admissions Requirements

PhD in Digital Marketing admissions

Most digital marketing PhD programs have the following admission requirements:

  • School transcripts. You’ll probably be asked to submit transcripts of all your previous undergraduate and graduate work.
  • GMAT or GRE scores. Some doctorate programs still ask for standardized test scores, but a growing number of schools no longer require them.
  • Recommendation letters. PhD programs generally favor academic references from former professors.
  • Personal statement. You’ll typically be asked to describe your career goals and research plans.
  • Resume. Admission officers may want to see if you’ve done any related work in your career.

Admissions for a PhD program tend to be stricter since it takes a lot of time and dedication to finish.


PhD in Digital Marketing accreditation

Since a PhD is the highest educational qualification that you can get, it’s essential to choose an accredited school with a high-quality program.

Regionally accredited schools meet up-to-date educational standards for their programs. Attending an accredited school is an eligibility factor for government financial aid as well. Employers may also favor degrees from accredited schools, especially if you’re planning to work at a university.

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The US Department of Education maintains a list of accredited schools across the US, so you can confirm a school’s accreditation status on their website.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

PhD in Digital Marketing financial aid

As an incoming PhD student, you have a number of financial aid options you can explore. You may want to start your financial aid search by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will determine your eligibility for government financial aid in the form of loans, grants, and work-study programs.

There are also opportunities for fellowships, which, if awarded, will allow you to focus on a specific field of research while getting your tuition fully paid. These are awarded on a merit basis, and a regular stipend may be included.

Another option would be to pursue graduate assistantships, where you can teach or help with a school’s research projects while you continue your studies. Assistantships can be beneficial since you can work for the school while increasing your research and teaching experience.

There are also private and public scholarships available for qualifying PhD students. These are usually merit-based as well.

Do You Need a Masters to Get a PhD in Digital Marketing?

PhD in Digital Marketing programs

It depends on the university, but many PhD programs accept students who only have an undergraduate degree.

The most standard track, though, is to earn your master’s and then apply for a PhD program. Still, it’s possible to skip your master’s and go straight to doctoral studies after earning your bachelor’s degree. This could potentially fast-track you by 1 to 2 years, but you’d also have less experience with research.

Depending on the program, if you’re applying with a bachelor’s, you may need a stronger application to help you stand out amongst applicants with master’s degrees.

If you do decide to earn a master’s, it may be worth noting that a number of universities offer an online masters in digital marketing, which may allow you to better balance your life responsibilities. Some also offerbaccelerated marketing degree options at the master’s level.

What Can You Do with a Doctoral Degree in Digital Marketing?

Doctoral Degree in Digital Marketing

A PhD in Digital Marketing can help you build a career in research, teaching, data analysis, and management. The academic field is the most popular destination for PhD graduates of digital marketing. They often work as professors who are active in research.

Some graduates opt to work in management, with roles such as chief executive and marketing manager.

Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many management jobs offer higher than average salaries. Graduates may also use their knowledge of statistics and data analysis to work for technology and research companies.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Doctorate in Digital Marketing Online?

Most digital marketing PhD programs take 3 to 5 years to complete if you’re studying full-time. On a part-time schedule, it will often take longer. Time to completion varies a lot from program to program. One factor that can change how long it takes is how many credits you’re required to complete.

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A dissertation requirement is another factor that can impact your timeline to graduation. Typically, the second half of a PhD program involves writing a dissertation, which is often the most time-consuming part. Without a dissertation requirement, you might be able to finish in 3 years with full-time study.

What’s the Difference between a DBA vs. PhD in Digital Marketing?

A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Digital Marketing has a different focus compared to a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA).

PhD in Digital Marketing DBA in Digital Marketing
  • Emphasizes theory and academic research
  • Aimed toward prospective professors, scholars, and senior researchers 
  • Typically requires a dissertation
  • Emphasizes applying what you’ve learned to businesses
  • Designed for prospective managers, consultants, and entrepreneurs
  • Often offered part-time so it’s easier to maintain work while studying 

A PhD in Digital Marketing is ultimately focused on how to publish research.

What’s the Difference between Digital Marketing vs. Social Media Marketing?

The terms “digital marketing” and “social media marketing” are often interchanged, but they’re not the same.

Digital Marketing Social Media Marketing
  • More comprehensive area of study
  • Includes email, social media, and search engine marketing, among others
  • Can include offline platforms, such as TV, electronic billboards, and SMS
  • A subset of digital marketing
  • Focuses specifically on social media platforms
  • Only available online

Social media marketing is only one component of digital marketing, which is much broader.

What’s the Difference between Internet Marketing vs. Digital Marketing Doctoral Programs?

Internet marketing and digital marketing doctoral programs have different areas of study. 

Internet Marketing Digital Marketing
  • One component of digital marketing
  • Deals with online platforms, such as social media, email, and websites
  • More specialized area of study
  • Encompasses marketing on all digital platforms, including internet marketing
  • Also includes non-internet platforms, such as mobile phones and television
  • More popular as a term

There are slight differences, but digital marketing can cover both internet marketing and offline marketing.

Is a PhD in Digital Marketing Worth It?

Doctorate in Digital Marketing Degree

Yes, a PhD in Digital Marketing is worth it for many students. If you’re aiming for a career in academia, a PhD in Digital Marketing can help you qualify. It can also help prepare you for research-intensive industries, especially since you’ll be graduating with your own original research.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, postsecondary teachers are in demand and expected to see 12% job growth over the next ten years. The market research job sector is also growing much faster than average.

Outside of research and academia, your PhD degree can also be a sign to employers that you have a good work ethic and specialized knowledge. 

Universities Offering Online Doctorate in Digital Marketing Degree Program

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

California Baptist University

California Baptist University campus

California Baptist University offers a Doctor of Business Administration online program. This is a 56-unit program created for working adults. It can potentially be completed in as little as 3 years, including the dissertation. Classes are 8 weeks long and are taught by credentialed faculty with real-world business experience.

California Baptist University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

Concordia University – Chicago

Concordia University Chicago campus

Concordia University—Chicago offers a Doctorate in Business Administration that can be earned entirely online. It requires the completion of 60 credit hours and can potentially be completed in just 3 years.

Two specializations are available within the program: Innovation in Health Care Management and Strategic Leadership and Innovation.

Concordia University Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

George Fox University

George Fox University campus

George Fox University offers a Doctor of Business Administration. Concentrations are available in Accounting, Management, and Business Analytics. This is an online program that follows a cohort model. There are two required in-person sessions in Newberg, Oregon.

Students typically spend 3 years on coursework and 1 year completing a dissertation.

George Fox University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University campus

Grand Canyon University offers a Doctor of Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing (Quantitative Research). The program focuses on the collection and interpretation of numeric data to aid in making business decisions.

Courses include Digital Technology and Consumer Behavior, Economics for Business Decisions, Complexity of Marketing, and The History and Philosophy of Marketing.

Grand Canyon University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw State University campus

Kennesaw State University offers a PhD in Business Administration. The program is mostly online, but there is an in-person residency once a month. It is often useful for business professionals wishing to pursue academic positions.

Concentrations are available in Accounting, Information Systems, Management, and Marketing.

Kennesaw State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Liberty University

Liberty University campus

Liberty University offers a Doctor of Business Administration in Marketing. Courses are 8 weeks long and 100% online. Courses include Strategic Marketing Management, Marketing Promotions, Supply Chain Management, and Marketing Research.

The program requires the completion of 60 credit hours, and students usually finish in 3 years. It is designed to teach practical, real-world skills.

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

National University

National University campus

National University offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration with a specialization in Strategic Marketing. The program is designed to help prepare students for leadership roles in a variety of business settings. It requires the completion of 60 credit hours and can usually be completed in 3 to 4 years.

National University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Trident University International

Trident University International campus

Trident University International offers a Doctor of Business Administration that can be earned 100% online. The program covers how to make evidence-based decisions and strategically improve business processes and outcomes. It is designed to provide flexibility for adult students.

Students in the program are required to complete an applied doctoral study project rather than a dissertation.

Trident University International is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of the Cumberlands

University of the Cumberlands campus

The University of the Cumberlands offers an online program for a Doctor of Philosophy in Business. Students can choose a specialty in Accounting, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Healthcare Administration, Project Management, or Strategic Management.

Core courses include Advanced Managerial Accounting, Strategic Marketing: Research and Practice, and Corporate Finance: Fiscal Management in a Global Climate.

The University of the Cumberlands is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Walden University

Walden University campus

Walden University offers a Doctor of Business Administration in Marketing. The program covers key marketing concepts, including competitive intelligence, marketing channels, product development and commercialization, and consumer behavior. It also includes a capstone project.

Students have up to 8 years to finish the program.

Walden University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Getting Your PhD in Digital Marketing Online

PhD in Digital Marketing Online

A PhD is the highest education credential that you can get in the field of digital marketing. It can be a stepping stone for working in research and academia.

Earning your PhD in digital marketing can help you become an expert in the subject matter. PhD programs in this field typically provide extensive training in delving into research and analyzing digital marketing trends. 

Since completing a doctorate can take several years, one option is to get your PhD in Digital Marketing online. Online marketing degree programs often allow for more flexible and convenient scheduling, better enabling you to balance your studies with work and life responsibilities.

If you’re ready to set out on your doctoral journey, there are many accredited schools with diverse research interests that you can explore.

Ready to start your journey?
Ima has a Bachelor’s in Computer Science from Ateneo de Manila University, with a minor in Philosophy. She also participated in the Global Summer Program at Singapore Management University. Currently, she’s pursuing a graduate certificate in counseling.