So you want to work in the world of marketing without a marketing degree? We get it. We did the same. You can definitely get your foot in the door with a few important skills and tips.
Do I need a marketing degree to work in marketing? You don’t not need a marketing degree to work in marketing. Marketing certifications like Google Analytics, Google Adwords, Facebook Blueprint, and Hubspot can help make you more competitive. Also, computer programming skills in data analytics such Python, SQL, or Java are more than enough to position you for a marketing role.
There are plenty of marketing roles that you are most likely already qualified for. Let’s find out how to break into the marketing field and make yourself more competitive without a marketing degree.
Do I need a marketing degree to land a job in marketing?
You do not require a marketing degree to land a marketing job. This is a fact. And the reason is because the landscape of marketing is changing faster than the traditional higher-education institutions can keep up.
A typical brick and mortar college will decide on curriculum a year in advance. If you are lucky, the book you are using is published this year and written last year. If you are even luckier, your professor is currently working in digital marketing and at least has a clue what the real-world is doing.
In other fields of study that rarely change, this probably works fine. In fields like digital marketing where changes happen faster than the wind blows, it matters A LOT.
To make matter worse, most of the marketing textbooks aren’t written for a 2020 marketer. They are big on theory and small on technical skills. You’ll most likely need to learn these skills on your own.
You might see hints of digital skillsets sprinkled in the classroom, but the application is completely absent from the curriculum. You can’t just talk about Google advertising and assume you “know” Google advertising. If you aren’t running ads, managing a budget, studying search engine updates, analyzing marketing temperatures and keyword analysis, bidding, and setting pixel analytics—you aren’t learning—you are just studying.
We aren’t saying this to dissuade your from pursuing a marketing degree. Quite the contrary. What we are saying is you will need to take matter into your own hands. Before you graduate, ensure that you are getting experiences with pay per click advertising, managing ad budgets, writing web content, creating WordPress sites, placing pixels, managing small social accounts, learning campaign automation flows, and writing email autoresponder sequences. These are just some of the skills you’ll be required to know.
The truth is many people with completely different degrees are learning the skills on their own my trying to start their own business. If I had a dime for every ClickFunnel customer out there trying to learn digital marketing for the first time I’d be a wealthy man.
And hey, I’ve got nothing against click funnels. It’s awesome. But the reality is that people from all educational backgrounds are learning digital marketing skills on their own to manage their own businesses—and they will be more prepared that most marketing majors.
Our suggestion: If you have your heart set on going to college to study marketing, opt for a seriously good technical writing school or a highly technical program which emphasizes data and programming skills.
Technical skills to elevate your marketing education:
- Scripting (Python, Bash, etc)
- SQL (data analytics)
- Advanced excel
- CMS management (WordPress, Drupal, Django)
- UI/UX design
Is a marketing degree still valuable to employers?
A marketing degree is sort of valuable, but mostly not. Look, I’m not beating up on marketing majors—it’s a fine degree. But if you’ve been in marketing and business departments, you’ll quickly learn that your education is far from job-ready.
Sure, you get some marketing “know how”, but the truth is you’ll soon find out that the marketing textbooks you read were ancient and you should have been spending 75% of your time in the computer science department learning data analytics.
That’s right, marketing is digital baby, get used to it. 20 years ago you could get away with having a decent marketing degree for a solid in-state school and land a sort-of marketing job. You weren’t really doing marketing work, but they called it marketing. And life was good.
If you were lucky you might have helped in the content creation of billboards, radio, internet banners, commercials, and simple blogs. But even then, you probably weren’t doing the marketing—as a newbie.
Fast forward to today and the world of marketing and the world of analytics are merging. Some call it “digital marketing,” but we’ll just call it marketing because that’s what the field has become. Data scientists are taking marketing positions and basic college marketing majors with no technical backgrounds aren’t getting hired.
Higher Educational Issues
College is a good thing. Education is a good thing. I love education. Big fan. But the cost of education and the return on your investment is questionable. It wasn’t 30 years ago, but it is today. I wont go down this rabbit hole too far, but just stick with me for a second.
The majority of new marketing graduates will earn somewhere between 30k and 40k per year upon graduation. Valuepenguin.com reported that the average cost of public in-state college tuition is $20,770 ($80k for four year degree). The average cost of private in-state college tuition is $46,770 ($180k for four year degree). 🤦
$40k still sounding good with a small mortgage of a school loan you’ve amassed? Are you sure that the school who is about to teach you marketing is competent enough to teach you digital marketing? You better think again.
A marketing degree will do one thing for you: get you an interview. And this counts for a lot. With the fancy new job posting algorithms, you might not even get your foot in the door without checking that box. But, a college degree in general will check that box. It doesn’t have to be marketing.
Ranting aside, the main point is marketing degrees probably won’t prepare you for even entry-level marketing jobs. Take this job posting for an entry-level marketing specialist as an example:
Do you notice how the Bachelor degree requirement didn’t say “Marketing Degree?” It didn’t matter. What mattered was all the other skills that ACTUALLY matter. Because marketing isn’t about billboards and radio theory, it’s about data, scalability, A/B testing, replication, audience analysis, content positioning, and technical skillsets.
Can 1-3 years search experience even qualify as entry level? So confused.
Anyhow, this illustrates my point well. While the Bachelor degree is a requirement, a “marketing degree” isn’t required. What is required though is a bunch of digital skills that pay the bills.
What kind of marketing jobs can I get without a marketing degree?
If you look at the marketing skills we bulleted above, those skills will land you plenty of job opportunities. The fact is that there isn’t enough digital marketing talent with quality technical skills. If you can find a way to level up and increase your technical skills, you’ll be well on your way.
What if I don’t have technical marketing skills?
Okay, I hear you. You want to get into marketing now and don’t have time to learn SQL or Python. There are plenty of marketing position opportunities for people without highly technical backgrounds.
In terms of non-technical marketing jobs, you could look for relationship management, communication specialist, social media coordinator, or marketing-sales. Many marketing firms place a high emphasis on selling their marketing services. If you are already in sales, this might be a great opportunity for you to get your foot in the door.
Another avenue to apply as a marketing assistant. Sometimes you’ll be required to come in with some digital skills, but most of the time you will be working on client management services (making sure clients are happy). This is another great “foot in the door” opportunity.
As you can see by this job posting, the marketing assistant position is more of a client position with business/people skills. If you have those, you are probably qualified for other positions like this one.
When it comes to finding marketing jobs without a marketing degree, you have to understand three central concepts: you are either working in creative (artsy work), digital (tech side), or client side (relationship). The best way to get in the door if you aren’t a gifted digital artist or have digital technical skills is to search for client relationship roles within digital marketing firms.
What skills are the most valuable to an employer?
If you are asking today (2019), it would be social media management, email creation, funnel building, search engine optimization, and CMS management. But, these in demand skills will soon be the assumed skill set. New-age digital marketing skills will soon be the old dog on the block.
This isn’t a prediction, it’s a fact. Indeed returns around 11,000 results for email automation and about 67,000 results for Python developers. Social Media Manger returns 35,000 results while SQL programmers return 113k results. It’s already changing.
We aren’t saying that everyone needs to go out and become a computer programmer in marketing. But what we are suggesting is that you begin to get comfortable with digital marketing in a digital age. Writing is still important. Graphic design is still important. Social media is still very relevant. But digital marketing is changing and it’s changing rapidly in favor of coding.
Where do I start to become a better marketer?
Awesome question…if I do say so myself. You want to get better at marketing and you’ve come to right place. First, I’d identify a skillset that you feel might be attractive to you and the market. This article has already identified a dozen or more skills you could learn right now and become more marketable.
We’d recommend starting with a specific course on a specific skillset. Here a few that are great in different marketing niches:
- Copywriting: The Kopywriting Course or this cheap book
- FB Ads: Facebook Ads That Convert
- Digital Business Creation: B-School
- Python: Udemy Python Bootcamp
- Search Engine Optimization: Clickminded
- Site Growth: This amazing free blog
- Google ads: PPC Mastery Course
- UI design: Sketch course
- Growth hacking: Secret Sauce School
- SQL: SQL for Marketers
Any of these will work well. Some are more expensive than others, but I’ve had experience with all of them. The content will be top notch and probably lead you down a rabbit hole to your next educational experience. That is the way this digital marketing thing works. You learn one skill and then you find out about another one you need to level up.
Is there an affordable marketing degree available?
If you are set on getting a marketing degree, I understand your position completely. While I don’t believe you need a marketing degree to break into the field, it can certainly get your foot in the door by checking the box.
If you don’t have champagne taste and simply want to check the box, then Fort Hays State University has an insanely affordable virtual bachelors degree. It’s a Bachelors in Business Administration with a Major in Marketing. Sounds fancy!
Darn right it’s fancy and it’s a good school. I went here for both my bachelors and masters. I was able to graduate while holding down a full time job, three kids, and a two hour commute. That was less about my grit and more about the school’s easy-going environment.
Sometimes work bogged me down and kids were sick and all my professors were cool as a cucumber. They get it. The school isn’t overly demanding like a top-tier state school or ivy league school. If you are an adult learner, they are very accommodating.
The last I checked, bachelor degrees were $218 per credit hour. If you had to take every single college class (120 hours), it would set you back $26,000 for the whole degree. Yah, not per year—the WHOLE degree.
And if you already have some college completed, it’ll be far cheaper (sweeeeet). Transferring in credits is super easy.
They also provide a few other bachelors degrees that might be even more appealing in this ever-changing digital landscape:
- Mobile and Web Application Development (Information Technology)
- Business Education (public teaching certified–not a bad backup plan)
- Computer Science
- Technology Leadership
- Organizational Leadership
If you already have a bachelors degree, you could always take on their Masters of Business Administration (MBA) at $400 per credit hour ($12k for degree). However, I think it’s overkill for marketing positions (personal opinion and experience). Today’s entry-level marketers are more data and creative driven and less driven by the hoity-toity executive positions.
Suggestion: If you are going back to school for Marketing, I applaud you. I also encourage you to complete certifications on the side.
As you saw in the job posting above, bachelors degrees are but one desirable qualification of many qualifications that marketing firms and employers look for.
What marketing certification is best for entry-level marketers? This is a common question and one not easily answered. It really depends on your preferences in the marketing world. If you are driven towards social interactions, I would complete the Facebook Blueprint Certification. It also has ads education included and it looks great.
If you are someone who is more driven by analytics, I would get Google Analytics Certified. You essentially sign up as a Google Partner and then you can complete their other certification programs as well like Google Adwords
Lastly, if you are more of a marketing liaison for sales kinda-person, you might be interested in the Hubspot Certification or Salesforce Certifications. They are the top two Client Management softwares.
What kind of jobs can I get with a marketing degree? There are many jobs a makreting degree qualifies you for in the marketing industry.
- ads manager
- client management specialist
- creative copywriter
- funnel builder
- creative content specialist
- graphic designer
- email architect
- Analytics expert
The marketing degree gets you in the door and you sub-specialties lands you the job. More sub-specialties will land you better jobs. And technical marketing skills, land you the best jobs.
Consider reading the section above “Where do I start to become a better marketer?”.