How much should you get paid as a community professional?
What should your title be?
What does your future as a community professional look like? What can you aspire to?
These are all questions that get asked constantly but there hasn’t really been a clear answer until recently. Fortunately, as community has grown into its own discipline and department in companies, there has been more and more consistency around what the career path looks like for a community professional.
Recently we discussed how to get started of advance your career in the community industry. Hopefully through this article, you’ll get a much clearer idea of what their future could look like as they gain years of experience. I also hope this will help companies better understand who they need to hire and what that specific role might look like.
This article is backed by hundreds of conversations I’ve had with companies and community professionals that I interact with on a daily basis through CMX as well as data from research done by The Community Roundtable.
These definitely aren’t hard and fast rules be they can serve as solid points of reference to orient you initially.
Of course, salaries depend on the person, the location, company size, funding, and many other factors. Responsibilities greatly vary from company to company, and sometimes people use completely different titles (for example, VC’s often use the title Platform Manager, which is usually the equivalent of a Community Manager or Director of Community).
So with that context, let’s dig in to what the different positions of a community professional might look like as they progress in their companies and through their careers.
1. Community Intern
Years of experience: 0-1
Salary: minimum wage
- Posting questions and starting conversations in the community
- Responding to customer emails
- Creating content for newsletters and blogs
- Helping to get everything together for events
This is the very entry-level role for a new community professional, usually a college student, someone just out of college, or someone completely new to the industry with no relevant experience. They have no experience, so don’t expect them to know how to put together a community strategy. They should be great communicators, energetic, and should be someone that would actually be a member of the community. Hire for this role if you just need someone to execute on the strategy that you set forth. They’ll likely need a good amount of handholding.
2. Community Manager
Years of community experience: 1-4
- Building and managing online communities while driving conversations and engagement
- Working on community strategy with the CEO or managers
- Managing and creating email campaigns and editorial content
- Managing customer relationships and responding to inbound emails
- Sending gifts and thank you’s to customers
- Organizing and hosting community events
- Reporting on community metrics
The Community Manager isn’t brand new to the role, but they don’t have a ton of experience coming in. They likely have a good idea of what a community strategy looks like but will need help to put a strong strategy together.
They won’t get overwhelmed as easily as a community intern and should be better at managing the multiple responsibilities they’ll take on.
They’ll be able to report on metrics but may not be able to develop the initial strategy for tracking the right community success metrics.
Keep in mind there can be a pretty wide spectrum of people who define themselves as a “Community Manager”. There can be a significant difference between someone who has one year of experience and someone with four years of experience, even if they use the same title.
3. Director of Community
Years of experience: 4-7.5
- Everything that the Community Manager does
- Developing the community strategy from the ground up
- Hiring and managing a community team
- Contributing insight that drives the direction of the business
- Integrating the community into the culture of the business
- Representing the voice of the community in product decisions
The Director of Community has been in the community industry for enough time that they’ll be able to put together the community strategy from the ground up with very little handholding. They’ll likely have a core role in the company, contributing to the direction of the business as a whole and baking community into the culture and communication of the company.
This is a person who’s capable of building a small community team. They’ll be forward thinking about how to scale the community strategy. As they build the community team, they may do less of the hands on community building and take on more of a managerial role, overseeing the community direction on a holistic level and helping the members of the team execute on their responsibilities.
They’ll likely have a better grasp of community metrics and how to set up reporting systems that tie community to the company’s goals.
4. VP of Community
Years of experience: 7.5-12
- Many of the Director of Community responsibilities
- Less hands-on community management and more team and strategy management
- Scaling a community strategy to new cities and countries
- Building a community team and/or leveraging volunteer programs to scale the community
- Be a leader with strong influence over the direction of the business
The VP of Community is a true leader in the company. They have a deep understanding of community and business strategy.
They’ve likely built and are managing a full community team and are capable of scaling a community strategy as the business grows.
The VP of Community probably won’t be doing much day to day community management and will be focused more on big community systems, scaling community, managing the team, and driving the direction of the business based on the community.
They can set metrics and reporting systems for themselves as well as for the entire community team.
5. Chief Community Officer
Years of experience: 13+
- Oversee all community operations across multiple community departments
- Make decisions around the community centric part of the product or business
- Optionally hold a board seat
- Hire and structure community teams as the company grows
The Chief Community Officer is the very top of the community career path. This person is often either a founder, a super early hire that grew into the role, or someone with over 13 years of experience now working at an established company.
In line with the COO, CFO, CTO, CMO and CEO, this person is responsible for the success of the business as a whole and has the power to make decisions around its direction.
There’s a multi-level community team with many team members that they’re responsible for. There’s a good chance that community is a core part of this business, perhaps the product is community centric.
Are You Ready to Move Up?
As you read through these descriptions, you should ask yourself if you’re ready for the next step in your career. If not, what skills do you need to learn to get you there? How can you become a stronger community professional? What projects should you initiate or have a hand in? How can you leverage your connection with the community to move up in your career?
In the coming years, we expect to see the number of VPs of Community and Chief Community Officers increase dramatically. We also expect to see a rise in salaries overall. How can you be a part of this movement? How can you become a leader in it?
Don’t miss CMX Summit coming up soon, the single best place to learn from the best in the community industry.