Life moves fast in the world of digital marketing. In fact, since 2013, digital media consumption in the United States has increased by 49 percent , according to comScore.
So, considering a career in this field might be wise. But, when you’re trying to build a career in digital marketing, you may find it difficult to keep up with the industry’s ever-increasing rate of change. So, is it even worth it to invest in a formal education?
The answer is that, while most employers like to see at a least a four-year degree, what you learn about digital marketing at a university won’t be the same as what you learn in an actual digital marketing job. Instead, to become successful in your career, you need to be prepared to learn on the job and gain skills in the field.
Why schools don’t teach digital marketing
Because digital marketing changes so fast, schools struggle to keep up. Richard Geasey, an internet marketing consultant and lecturer at the University of Washington, wrote in Inc. that, “Most schools are staffed by instructors who know nothing of internet marketing. The field is so fast and quickly changing they have no chance to learn anything useful and present it to students.”
Most of those instructors, moreover, often have very little practical experience in digital marketing. They may have studied marketing for years, but if they don’t have real-world experience to share, they won’t be able to properly teach the subject.
So, instead, what instructors teach is the basics of traditional marketing, which does provide a strong marketing foundation; but it doesn’t prepare students for the practicalities of working in the field itself. There are no classes on social media management and none on marketing automation, email marketing or the myriad other topics you’re bound to come across in your career. These things are learned from working in the field.
Writing for Marketing Land, Travis Wright, host of MarTech Talks, wrote, “I’ve spoken at several business schools, including the University of Chicago’s, Booth School of Business and the University of Utah, David Eccles School of Business. Each time after I’m done presenting, students approach me feeling scared — due to the overwhelming lack of knowledge and job readiness they have. I let them know what they didn’t know that they need to know.”
The need to self-educate
A recent survey from CareerBuilder found that 67 percent of employers polled said they were concerned about the skills gap. So, the takeaway is that if a school won’t provide you with the kind of digital marketing experience you need to close that skills gap, you may find it’s time to take your education into your own hands.
Here, then, are three ways to educate yourself on the digital marketing industry:
1. Find free resources.
Instead of paying an exorbitant amount of money for a fancy specialized degree, you can easily find free resources online that will be more valuable and better help you in your career.
Sites like Coursera offer a variety of free courses on a number of topics. The site even has a specialization course series on digital marketing. HubSpot Academy also offers free certifications in areas like inbound marketing, email marketing and more. Even Google has its own free digital marketing course.
No-fee courses like these, as well as ones you pay for, are abundant on the internet and can help you learn more about the industry and the latest trends. You’ll also find it useful to follow key digital marketing influencers online. Many of them host free webinars; these are typically hour-long mini educational sessions which can be extremely informative.
2. Read everything you can.
Read as much as you can as often as you can. Books from those same marketing influencers will help you better understand the digital marketing landscape. But be careful — with the rapid pace of the industry, books become outdated faster than they go into print.
Make a point to stay up to date by reading the latest news from top marketing blogs from:
Take a look at my blog, too! I write tons of articles about digital marketing and other related topics.
Oh, and sign up for blog newsletters to get new posts delivered straight to your inbox. This will make it even easier for you to keep up.
3. Just do it.
A study by the University of Chicago found that students actually learn better through a hands-on approach. The same holds true for digital marketing. The best way to learn it is to dive in head-first. Even if you don’t have a job in digital marketing right now, you can still actively practice digital marketing.
Start a blog and practice writing content. Teach yourself SEO. Play around with Google Analytics. Establish your own personal brand on social media. The opportunities available online are abundant — you just have to go out and find them.
Once you do land a job in digital marketing, learn everything you can from your peers and managers. Especially when you’re just starting out, it’s critical to absorb as much knowledge and information as possible.
Remember how I said digital marketing is always changing? Get used to being in a state of constant learning. For the rest of your career, you’ll always be trying to keep up. You’ll never be able to master digital marketing when there’s always something new to learn, but by being in the trenches every day, you’ll gain experience that will allow you to become successful in your career.
Do you have a career in digital marketing? How did you come to learn the industry? Share your education tips in the comments below: