Is it worth it to earn a digital marketing degree or better to get hands-on experience? Check out the pros and cons of each career path.
So you want to be a digital marketer.
Whether you have aspirations to start a career in digital marketing or want to switch up your current career trajectory, your new career path requires education and experience.
What level of education is necessary to get a leg up in the marketing industry?
And is it worth investing in a digital marketing degree to catapult your career forward?
Understanding what employers are looking for now and how to plot the best path from where you’re starting out are key.
In this column, we’ll explore the pros and cons of getting a formal digital marketing degree.
Since 1960, the college enrollment rate among high school graduates has increased by a substantial 46.8%.
Additionally, 19.1% of Bachelor’s degrees and 11.6% of Associate’s degrees are in business (the field digital marketing degrees tend to be associated with).
It’s clear undergraduate degrees are continuing to grow in popularity, and business degrees are one of the most sought after by college students.
An undergraduate degree in marketing remains the traditional approach to launching a college student’s career.
It serves as the groundwork for building a strong educational foundation while having the credentials to back it up.
Your degree also serves as a notable addition to your resume to back up your previous work experience.
In fact, in today’s job market and job interviews, some employers require you have a degree to even apply for a role.
Having a four-year digital marketing degree opens the door to more potential job opportunities for those employers that require a formal degree.
Employers also recognize that although your degree may be specialized in digital marketing, you likely also have a breadth of business knowledge in different functional areas such as finance, accounting, search engine optimization, social media, and public relations.
Whereas having only a digital marketing certificate shows that you’re specialized in one area.
Your digital marketing educational experience will lead you to develop skills for understanding consumer behavior and tools to attract, convert, and retain customers.
It will also teach you to think critically about what motivates and drives customers to take action.
These demonstratable skills will be attractive to employers and can substitute equivalent formal marketing work experience.
A bachelor’s degree holder earns a median income of $2.8 million – 75% more than if they had only a high school diploma.
A master’s degree gives you even more of a competitive edge, earning a median of $3.2 million over their lifetimes, while those with doctoral degrees earn $4 million and professional degree holders earn $4.7 million.
Additionally, according to Bureau for Labor Statistics, the average expected weekly earnings for an employee with a bachelor’s degree on their resume are $1,173, significantly improving the average earnings of associate degree holders.
Their unemployment rate is also significantly lower, at 2.5%.
Based on these findings, the correlation between education and average salary earning potential is evident.
The pandemic shifted many economic and operational factors for many business verticals, including education.
Accelerated digital adoption and required virtual learning taught students that they could and would have to learn online.
A recent survey of high school students found that the likelihood of attending a four-year college dropped nearly 20% in less than a year – down to 53%, from 71%.
One-third of the same survey’s respondents said the pandemic’s financial impact made them less likely to attend a four-year college, and they are focusing more on career training and post-college employment.
While degrees were once a requirement for aspiring digital marketers, the pandemic derailed this way of thinking.
Digital marketing courses and receiving a digital marketing certification are quite literally within our fingertips.
Additionally, certificate courses offer a convenient learning program option for students who don’t have the time to attend in-person classes.
Digital marketing professionals in the making are now seeking out online options to reduce costs and save time while still receiving an education.
When considering whether a university degree is worthwhile, think about your long-term plan.
Breaking into the digital marketing industry as an entrepreneur wouldn’t require a college degree.
Instead, self-taught digital marketing training, mentorship, or other online digital marketing programs could be enough to build your own business.
Running your own digital marketing business can be lucrative, too.
In search, for example, founders are most likely to make over $200,000 per year, according to Search Engine Journal’s most recent State of SEO report.
However, if your dreams are to work 9-5 for a larger company, many require a formal marketing degree.
Without a degree, digital marketing talent recruiters at larger companies may not even look at your resume.
Whether you’d rather go the online digital marketing certificate route or the college degree route, neither is wrong.
Compared with attending graduate school, learning digital marketing with unaccredited digital marketing courses and starting a website is 10 times more profitable, with a return on investment of 521% three years after starting your digital marketing career compared to a return of 53% from a digital marketing degree.
Additionally, programs such as the Google Digital Marketing Certification are free of charge.
When looking for credible marketing and SEO certification programs, look for:
When competing for a job in the marketing field, having a certification enables you to stand out against others applying for the same job.
This designation will appear prominently on your resume and shows you’ve gone an extra step toward achieving your career aspirations.
In fact, according to Robert Half Technologies’ 2021 Salary Guide, an entry-level Marketing Manager with no certifications can expect to earn $67,000 per year.
On the other hand, a certified Marketing Manager earns approximately $116,500. The difference in earnings between the two is $43,000 per year.
There are cases to be made for pursuing a formal education at a college instead of exploring certification options.
It boils down to your own preferences, the learning format that works best for you, cost, and goals.
If you excel with in-person learning and a more structured academic environment, pursuing a marketing bachelor’s degree may be your best option.
Alternately, if you prefer to go at your own pace and have more hands-on experience in marketing, pursuing a certificate may be in your best interest.
You can then build your portfolio with this hands-on experience to prove yourself a strong candidate.
Whether you prefer to sharpen your digital marketing skills through a four-year university or want to begin your career in marketing without a formal education, it is contingent on your personality and what works best for you personally.
There is no right or wrong way to approach getting a digital marketing job and what works best for one person may not work for another.
Stay true to the education style you prefer and gain the necessary skills. You’ll be on your way to becoming a successful marketer on your own time.
Featured Image: fizkes/Shutterstock
Marshall is a Google Business Profiles Silver Product Expert that has spent over a decade in digital marketing on both …
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