Here’s a guest post from Brian Jenkins of BrainTrack.com that looks at whether you need a degree or certificate to be a social media marketer. We would be remiss in our duties to the mothership if we did not point out that in addition to the certificate programs mentioned below, Mediabistro offers a social media certificate program that requires 4-6 courses taken over one year.
Should aspiring social media marketers spend the time and money to obtain a college degree? It depends who you talk to. I asked Mark Stevens, a popular guest in mainstream media, author of “Your Marketing Sucks,” and CEO of MSCO Media, if it’s worth getting a bachelor’s degree in the field of Internet marketing. He strongly stated, “No. Get out, get your hands dirty and find your own way to make it work. All the great tech biz people passed on school for a reason. The marketplace beats professors as a teacher every day.”
I also spoke with John McCarthy, Senior Director of Digital Strategy at WebMetro, a prominent digital marketing company. John he told me that experience trumps Internet marketing degrees. He said, “An Internet marketing degree shows initiative, but experience is more crucial.” Some of the experts I interviewed believe that a college degree is a factor when hiring, but demonstrated success in the real-world of Internet marketing is much more important. They also told me that companies are looking for people with good Web analytic skills.
Mikolaj Jan Piskorski, associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, has a different view. According to him, it is crucial that students learn the theories, science, and facts behind social media marketing in the classroom. He believes marketers need this training to get beyond their own social media biases. Only that way can a marketer truly understand the people who are using the various social media platforms.
So a case can be made for taking Internet marketing classes: If a student goes to a good school, he or she will receive expert advice from professors with real-world experience. Students gain knowledge of what actually works through best practices case studies. They also learn how businesses effectively use online communities and influencers to enhance their marketing campaigns. The key is making sure the instructors have recent real-world experience in social media marketing. Besides courses, certificates, and bachelor’s degrees, some schools provide MBA programs with a specialization in Internet marketing.
Based on interviews with Internet marketing people, an internship, even if it’s unpaid, is worth the effort. Some Internet marketing companies end up hiring their best interns. An internship will enhance your resume and put you ahead of people with only a college degree and no social media marketing experience. If you can’t find an internship, volunteer some time every week for six months or longer. Not surprisingly, many firms enjoy receiving free help! Experience gained from internships or volunteering demonstrates to prospective employers that you have the skills they need.
There are a few quick programs out there that social media marketers can take to enhance their resumes. Rutgers University Center for Continuing Professional Development offers a fully online Social Media Marketing Certificate program that can be completed in less than a traditional semester. The University of San Francisco (USF) offers an online Master Certificate in Internet Marketing (three courses). USF also offers an Advanced Social Media certificate course, which can be done in eight weeks.
Completing some online Internet marketing courses, either through a college or some other notable entity, may increase your chances of getting an internship or a volunteer position. If you’re thinking about being self-employed in the field, some businesses may be impressed by a combination of proven success and a college degree in Internet marketing or related certificates.
Brian Jenkins writes about many different topics for BrainTrack.com, including college degrees in marketing.