How to Become a

SEO Specialist

The complete career guide to be a SEO Specialist: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $87,310
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 3.3%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Dependable Daily Workload
    Career Attribute

SEO specialists employ several techniques for improving placement/ranking of a website in search engine results. They are experts in search engine algorithms that review a site’s existing code and content to form a plan for improving search ranking and securing higher placements in search results.

Recommended Schools

What is a SEO Specialist?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in SEO specialist roles:

  • Review and analyze website existing code, initiatives, and content to form search engine optimization plans and make recommendations
  • Perform keyword research for optimization of current site pages and for future content planning
  • Secure incoming links from authoritative external sites to improve page rank and domain authority
  • Collaborate with content, development, and marketing teams to ensure code, content, and campaigns are ideally optimized for current search engine standards

A Day in the Life

SEO specialists are experts in search engine algorithms that understand exactly what popular search engines—like Google, Bing, and Yahoo—look at when determining how to rank search results for related user queries. Algorithms for popular search engines consider more than 200 factors when determining how to rank a page in search results, and SEO specialists understand how to cater a site’s code, content, and metadata to the factors that provide the biggest boost in a site’s rankings.

A significant portion of work for an SEO specialist is spent conducting research. Search algorithms frequently change, and SEO specialists stay on top of news related to those updates to adjust priorities as needed. They also spend a lot of time reviewing code, site architecture, navigation, and content to make note of needed changes and recommend improvements. Additionally, they spend some time conducting keyword research to optimize existing content and plan future content needs.

The role of SEO specialist is also highly collaborative because many of the recommendations made by the specialist impact work completed by other teams. For example, recommendations for changes to site code or architecture need to be implemented by development teams. Recommendations for changes to content need to run through writers, editors, and marketing teams. SEO specialists may also work with individuals outside of their own organization to engage in link-building activities.

Typical Work Schedule

SEO specialists that work for companies typically work normal business hours: Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, many SEO specialists are self-employed consultants. These individuals set their own hours and may need—or choose—to work evenings and/or weekends depending on workload.

Projected Job Growth

A strong digital presence has become a requirement for modern businesses, putting SEO specialists in high demand. The need for individuals to optimize search rankings is expected to see a very high rate of growth over the coming decade as businesses attempt to grow their visibility online.

Job Specializations

SEO specialists may focus generally on all factors that improve search ranking, or they may specialize in implementing, analyzing, and monitoring a specific aspect of SEO:

  • Local SEO specialists are experts in optimizing search results for businesses with physical locations. Their focus is on increasing the visibility of the websites they manage for area-specific or area-assumed search queries.
  • Technical SEO specialists generally have some experience as developers or knowledge of coding. They are responsible for reviewing a site’s code and making or implementing recommendations on best practices for coding a site to meet SEO guidelines.
  • SEM/PPC specialists are focused on optimizing paid search ads that appear in search results as a means of driving traffic to a website. These specialists use many of the best practices of SEO but are focused of driving paid rather than organic search traffic.

Typical Employers

Mid- to large-sized companies with significant web presences are dependent on SEO specialists for successful digital marketing, so jobs can be found with any number of employers in a variety of industries. Small businesses rarely employ in-house SEO specialists. Instead, they turn to independent contractors or agencies to perform incremental search optimization of their sites. For this reason, many SEO specialists also work for SEO/marketing agencies or as independent contractors.

Recommended Schools

How To Become a SEO Specialist

Most employers want to hire SEO specialists that hold bachelor’s degrees, though the type of degree earned is flexible. Individuals interested in focusing on technical SEO would do well to pursue a degree in web development, but general SEO specialists may choose to pursue degrees in writing, journalism, marketing, or business. Degrees or classes that focus on internet marketing—regardless of the discipline studied—can be useful for learning important concepts that form the basis for SEO strategies.

The most important qualification for securing a job as an SEO specialist is experience working in the field. This experience can be acquired in several ways. Individuals can work in internet marketing internships while pursuing a degree, can volunteer to perform SEO work for local businesses that cannot afford to hire consultants or agencies, or can simply create and optimize their own web properties that can be used to show experience and expertise in SEO tactics and provide examples of success.

Securing a certification in SEO can also make an SEO specialist more marketable to employers. SEO certification programs eliminate the need for individuals to engage in self-study for basic SEO concepts and provide students with a strong basis to work from to continue building knowledge and expertise.

SEO Specialist Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do SEO Specialist salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, SEO Specialist's can make an average annual salary of $87,310, or $42 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $64,550 or $31 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #108 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a SEO Specialist. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among SEO Specialists

  • 1.2%   Doctorate
  • 14.4%   Masters
  • 38.8%   Bachelors
  • 14.5%   Associates
  • 22.4%   College
  • 8.1%   High School
  • 0.7%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does SEO Specialist job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 7,800 jobs for a total of 240,800 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 3.3% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #506 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most SEO Specialists

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Federal government, excluding postal service 78,600 -7,600 -8%
Computer systems design and related services 27,800 5,900 6%
Management of companies and enterprises 12,400 600 1%

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