If you've recently started to consider a career change to community management, chances are you've come up with more questions than answers.
Due to the relatively new need for community management positions, the various roles and responsibilities have gone largely undefined. However, if you have plans to embark on a career in this rapidly growing field, there are certain factors and details you'll need to know to make your plans.
Luckily, our friends at The Community Roundtable conducted an in-depth survey on the "role, compensation and career path of the community professional" to help answer some of the biggest questions surrounding community management careers. Some of their preliminary results have been released in an infographic you can download here.
Today, we're interpreting some of their findings alongside those unanswered questions to help you better prepare for a career in community management.
Though "community manager" is often used as a catchall term for jobs in community management, there are actually three key roles:
These three positions have different priorities, make different salaries, and require different levels of experience.
The survey found that community professionals who work with internal, employee-facing communities tend to earn more than those who work with externally-facing customer communities. Here's the average yearly salary breakdown by role:
As you can see, there's also a substantial increase between the three common roles, which likely takes experience and priorities into consideration.
While the average years of total work experience for all three community management roles were comparable (a minimum of just over 10 for managers and a maximum of nearly 16.5 for directors), the most significant experience difference was found in the years specific to working in community management.
Community managers averaged just four years in both external and internal community management, while directors boasted over seven in each. Strategists fell in between, with just under seven years devoted to external community management work and an average of just four and a half for internal.
Another telling statistic: directors and strategists reported devoting a larger percentage of their total work experience to the community management field. Both roles averaged nearly 50 percent for external community management, while managers were only 30 percent for both external and internal.
All three roles showed some crossover between the different positions, but the survey showed a noticeable increase in business and strategic skills as seniority increases. Here are the top three priorities reported by each role:
As you can see, the roles vary significantly, which further highlights the need for differentiating between titles.
Many remote workers will be pleased to know that the survey did not show working remotely in any of the three roles hindered career progression.
However, working remotely isn't very common for managers and strategists, as only 24 percent of the professionals surveyed reported working remotely. Directors of community, on the other hand, were 71 percent more likely to work remotely, suggesting their advanced skills allows for more flexibility.
By and large, the most common type of work environment for a job in community management is corporate. While some survey respondents reported working for agencies or on a freelance basis, the large majority work in corporations. Strategists appear to have the most variety, with only 62 percent working in a corporate environment and nearly 25 percent working for an agency.
So, just how are these professionals finding their positions? Unfortunately, most community management roles don't follow the traditional hiring process. Only 27 percent of community professionals reported finding their position through your standard job posting.
The most common response from those surveyed when asked how they found their current job (at 39 percent) was being approached by or introduced to a hiring manager or team, suggesting that networking is a crucial skill for those looking to break into community management.
However, it would appear that taking initiative could pay off: 20 percent of community professionals achieved their current position by taking it upon themselves to define their new role.
Thanks to The Community Roundtable, we now have a much clearer picture of how community management careers function in the real world. By breaking down community professionals into three main roles, we get a better understanding of how experience and priorities affect salary and career trajectory.
One thing's for sure: we imagine we'll be hearing a lot more about online community professionals in the coming years as more organizations embrace the growing need to connect with their customers and members online.