The IAB's Top 8 Digital U.S. Universities
The latest annual ranking of U.S. universities by U.S. News & World Report came out on Tuesday, and while I’m personally pleased with how some higher learning institutions performed (Go Tigers!), I’m a bit dismayed that none of the top 10 has much of a reputation for their Digital Marketing or Advertising programs. In fact, only one school in the top 20 offers an undergraduate major with a digital focus.
Why does any of this matter? Because there’s a growing disconnect between the needs of the market and the available resources at universities. Marketing and Advertising— digital marketing, in particular, and digital advertising—are driving the mobile and digital revolutions which have created billions of dollars in equity value and hundreds of thousands of jobs. While academic programs struggle to incorporate current trends into a semester-long course, IAB member companies express exasperation at finding qualified college graduates to fill entry-level positions.
The timing is right for all of this to change. Struggling under mountains of college debt, students (and parents) want assurances that their degrees will lead to careers, not just jobs. Colleges face their own financial crises and as the competition for students increases, every institute of higher education—from community colleges to state universities to liberal arts colleges—will recognize that there are worse academic sins than preparing students for life and work after the classroom.
The IAB Digital University Study
Digital advertising and marketing aren’t the only sectors of the economy that are growing, of course. But they might be the most underrepresented among university programs. IAB recently commissioned a study of current offerings of undergraduate programs in advertising, marketing, and digital media studies at recognized U.S. institutions. Choosing “best” of anything is clearly subjective, and so we chose our criteria carefully. We looked at five requirements for colleges to satisfy in order to make our list:
1. The university is nationally and internationally recognized in various disciplines
2. The university offers undergraduate degrees in advertising, marketing, media studies, or business
3. The advertising program includes an emphasis in interactive advertising, digital media, or at least offers several courses with a focus on interactive and social media advertising
4. The marketing program allows for elective courses outside the business school
5. The university offers courses in digital media design that are available to non-art majors
Location, while not a primary factor, was also taken into consideration. Programs in New York and California received additional attention.
The following programs, in no particular order, show the most promise in addressing the five factors (the U.S. News & World national rankings are listed in parentheses after each university):
- University of Texas at Austin - BA in Advertising with an emphasis in Media Studies (#52)
- New York University - BBA in Marketing or BS in Media, Culture and Communication (#32)
- Syracuse University - BA in Advertising (#62)
- University of California at Berkeley - BA in Media Studies (#20)
- Southern Methodist University - BA in Advertising with Media Emphasis (#60)
The following programs have established and recognized interactive advertising programs but may not meet other requirements.
- Michigan State University - BA in Advertising with an emphasis in Management and Media (#73)
- University of Washington - Master of Communications in Digital Media (#52)
- University of Michigan, Dearborn - BBA in Digital Marketing (#36 Regional Ranking)
There’s a lot here to consider. The digital industry needs more top schools to introduce relevant digital courses and majors. IAB, as an industry leader, need to become actively involved in the programs that are being offered and figure out a way to enhance their reputation.
And here’s why: In order for the digital economy to continue to flourish, the current and next generation of post-secondary students must be prepared for interactive advertising careers. On-the-job training can only go so far and can be much more efficient if new employees have the requisite skills and knowledge before entering the workforce.
IAB is committed to professionalizing the digital advertising workforce of the 21st century, creating accredited credentials that set industry-wide standards of knowledge and expertise. We started in 2012 with the Digital Media Sales Certification program and have certified nearly a thousand sales professionals in little more than a year. Now, this week, we launched the Digital Ad Operations Certification program, the first-ever certification for digital ad ops professionals at ad agencies, digital publishers, trading desks, demand and supply-side platforms, exchanges and brands. We will continue our efforts in 2014, introducing new certification programs wherever the marketplace deems necessary.
But education, training and workforce development need to occur further upstream. Private industry—the digital employers who represent the greatest need for a trained and capable workforce—must make its need for qualified graduates known to colleges and universities, and to partner with these institutions, providing scholarships, endowing chairs, funding programs, and joining faculties. IAB sees a major role for itself in helping to make these partnerships possible. Look for further developments in 2014.
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