As a community manger for the new online Master in Public Health program at GW my responsibilities span many facets of communication including public relations, advertising, marketing, sales and even customer service. This isn’t unique to me. Many of my colleagues do the same and have been teaching themselves the ropes over the past five to ten years (the profession is 15-20 years old, after all), but more and more frequently, there are a lot of online educational resources for CMs cropping up.
These range from low-quality “Top Five Tips” listicles to trade associations with members-only learning resources, but one thing that budding community managers might not be aware of yet is that there are now top-ranked universities lending their support to this exciting field by offering high-quality education programs in online community management.
If you are looking for some educational options for CMs, check out some of the below opportunities that span from undergrad to grad school and beyond.
Higher Education Institutions
USC Annenberg: Online Communities grad school track
USC Annenberg believes that “Online communities are the future of our economic, political and social lives,” and to that end, they are offering an online community track for communications graduate students. The program puts select students through an intensive year of training in the management, production, development, use and power of online communities. The program is $5,892 per course, with an estimated $150 to $200 needed for books and supplies, and a $35 orientation fee. The full-time program requires a year to complete, and class sizes are around 15 students.
Central Michigan University: Undergraduate Certificate in Social Media
For those looking for something less formal than a postgrad degree in community management, CMU’s certificate might be the career-booster or resume-builder you’ve been looking for. Their certificate is something that both degree-seekers can work towards as well as something for those who just want to add to their list of professional accomplishments. While not specifically focused on community management, it does give a good baseline education in social media strategies and goes into “the history, development, benefits and cultural impact of social media.” This could be perfect for those who are looking for job advancement without investing tons of money and time. The program is $362 per credit hour and requires 12 hours of core courses and three hours of electives. It is open to CMU undergrads and non-degree-seeking students alike.
Syracuse University: Certificate in Information Innovation
This is another non-degree program that is more tightly focused than a general social media certification. The Information Innovation certificate program dives into the more technical and analytical side of social and community management. The course track is very technical, with courses like “Metadata,” “Data Admin. Concepts and Database Mgmt” and “Creating, Managing and Preserving Digital Assets.” The highlight here is the course taught by Kelly Lux (@Kellylux) & TCM’s own Jenn Pedde (@JPedde) called “Innovation in Advanced Topics: Social Media & Community Management” (or #CMGRClass for short), as well as creative courses like “Social Media in the Enterprise.” Tuition at Syracuse University School of Information Studies, which offers the Certificate in Information Innovation, is $1,294 per graduate credit hour & $703 per undergraduate credit hour, and each of the courses mentioned above is three credits.
University of Florida: Social Media Master of Arts in Mass Communications
The University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications has begun offering a social media specialization certification and online master’s degree in social media that is geared towards working professionals. It is a non-thesis program and is conducted entirely online. The focused coursework means that a degree can be earned in as little as 18 months. The course is meant for those who are already actively engaged in the world of social media and “explores the theories that explain digital media communications and examines the strategic uses of social media in advertising, marketing, public relations, journalism, writing, and politics.” Tuition for off-campus graduate students at the University of Florida is $29,130 for the 2013-14 academic year.
Associations & Organizations Offering Community Courses/Training
There are also a few non-university courses that can provide very a competent education in social media and community management. These courses can provide excellent networking within the world of social media and community management, but you won’t receive an accredited degree. This could be perfect for working professionals already in the space who are past their undergraduate prime and aren’t ready to commit to a graduate degree.
Word Of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA): Community Management on Demand
A partnership with the Community Roundtable has enabled WOMMA to bring this focused certification program in either community management or community strategy. Their partnership with the Community Roundtable was formed out of a desire to help build standardized processes, training and job descriptions in this rapidly growing and changing field. Both WOMMA and the Community Roundtable are highly respected organizations, and this certification track is a big step in the right direction for the field as a whole. Certainly, if you’re in the industry, having these certifications on your resume are worthy of respect and will help immensely with job advancement or career searches. Courses are $350 for WOMMA members and $495 for non-members.
IndyHall: Master Class in Community Building
If you’re looking for something more informal and taught by people with real-world success stories, the community builder class from IndyHall might be up your alley. IndyHall is a successful co-working space/business incubator in Philadelphia, and its demonstrated success in community building is now available as a five-week online course. While not from a university and not specifically technical, this is a more wide-ranging look at the skills and strategies needed to get people banding together around a common goal, one of the foundations for community building. For more information, register on IndyHall’s website.
(Editor’s Note: We’ve recently had Alex Hilman as one of our #CMStories and you can hear more about his perspective on community here).
The above options are not the only way to gain experience in community management. One of the best ways to start out is by just doing. Finding a mentor in the space who can help you advance your skillset might be better than any formal education – you decide! Or start moderating your own community on platforms like Ning, Google+ Communities, or Facebook Groups on a subject you’re passionate about.