With its new Digital Marketing program, Minnesota State Community and Technical College becomes one of the few two-year colleges offering a degree that prepares students with the real-world skills for this booming specialty.

Beginning this fall, M State students can enroll in an associate degree program created with direction from industry experts in the region that provides hands-on experience in online marketing.

"Digital marketing is one of the biggest growth areas in business today," said M State marketing instructor Sherrie Holmquist, who describes the field as the convergence of marketing and technology. "The demand for skilled employees is far bigger than the supply right now."

At one point during the year she spent researching the degree, Holmquist said she counted more than 50 open positions for digital marketers in the Fargo Moorhead area alone.

To make sure the degree would provide the skills that industry needs, Holmquist and her colleagues enlisted an advisory board of FM area marketing experts, including Nathan Enderle, the e-commerce analytics leader at Scheels, and Brandon Cossette, a custom specialist at TRS Industries in Fargo and an M State graduate.

Cossette called the program "an opportunity for both new students and former students alike to get hands-on learning experiences, making them that much more valuable to employers."

When helping to develop the program, Cossette said the advisory team emphasized the need for students to learn to problem solve and be adaptable. "In digital marketing especially, problem solving and the ability to make adjustments and analyze are absolutely key to success," he said.

Like traditional marketing programs, M State's Digital Marketing degree will include the concepts of marketing, management and sales. That's where it will diverge, though, giving students hands-on experience in creating marketing strategies through digital channels, search engines, websites, social media, email, and mobile applications.