Online Marketing Strategies - Money Journal

Is Marketing a Good Major? What Academia Won’t Tell You…

Four years and $145,644.

That’s the average time and money it’ll cost to get a marketing degree in the United States. 

Howdy, I’m Sam Oh and I’ve been working in the digital marketing industry for 15 years. 

I serve as VP of Marketing at Ahrefs, a leader in the SEO tool industry. My videos have been watched 22 million times in six years and I’ve been invited to speak at universities, colleges and conferences around the world.

In fact, the US government recognizes me as being in the top 1% of my field. But the thing is… I don’t have a degree in marketing. 

I’m not here to tell you if you should or shouldn’t get a marketing degree. I’m here to lay out the facts, share thoughts and reflections from 15-years of experiences in digital marketing, and hopefully… you’ll have a better idea if marketing is a good major worth investing in.

Why You Might Consider a Marketing Major

Deciding to major in marketing can open doors to a multitude of skills and opportunities. Here’s why it might be a smart move:

1. Accelerate your skills

A marketing degree offers a fast track to mastering essential skills. You’ll learn how to communicate effectively, think analytically, strategize, problem solve and have leadership opportunities.

These skills are not just foundational for marketing but are invaluable in any professional setting.

2. Peer Learning

Learning alongside peers can enhance your understanding and retention of concepts. In fact, according to a study by the Journal of Applied Sciences, peer learning encourages deeper engagement and can lead to better academic performance.

In a marketing program, you’ll collaborate, share ideas, and grow with your cohort.

3. Networking Opportunities

Your classmates today could be your colleagues or business partners tomorrow. By studying marketing, you’re placed in a network of peers likely headed towards similar professional paths. 

Additionally, connections with professors and guest lecturers, often well-established in the industry, can open doors that might otherwise remain closed.

4. Internship Access

Many marketing programs offer or even require internships, providing hands-on experience with marketing agencies or in-house marketing departments. These internships can be pivotal in gaining real-world experience, making your resume stand out.

5. Meeting Job Market Demands

Some positions specifically require a marketing degree, so having one meets essential job criteria right from the start. For some companies, your education may be used as a factor to determine your starting salary. 

According to WPI, marketing majors had an average starting salary of around $43,000 in 2020, a figure that’s likely grown since.

Choosing a marketing major isn’t just about learning theories and models; it’s about equipping yourself with a toolkit for success in a dynamic and ever-evolving field.

Why You Might Reconsider a Marketing Major

While a marketing degree can offer numerous benefits, it’s crucial to weigh the potential downsides:

High Cost

The most glaring drawback is the financial investment. As mentioned earlier, an average four-year college degree in the U.S. can cost around $145,644. This substantial amount can lead to significant student debt, impacting financial freedom post-graduation.

Time Commitment

Spending four years in college is a considerable time investment. This period could alternatively be used to gain practical experience in the field, start a business, or pursue other educational avenues that require less time commitment.

Possibly Outdated Curriculum

The world of marketing, especially digital marketing, evolves rapidly. There’s a risk that university curricula may not keep pace with the latest industry trends and practices.

For instance, while traditional marketing principles remain important, the shift towards digital mediums means that skills in social media, SEO, and content marketing are increasingly vital. There’s a chance you might be learning more about print advertising, which is less relevant today.

Lack of Current Practitioners as Educators

Often, university faculty may not be actively involved in the current marketing industry. This can lead to a gap between what’s taught and the real-world skills needed today. Learning from current practitioners who are up-to-date with the latest trends and tools in digital marketing can be more beneficial.

In fact, university professors will contact practitioners like myself for permission to teach content from my videos. 

Types of marketing majors

Depending on how far you go with your education, you may be presented with various types of marketing majors. Here are a few common ones. 

Bachelor’s in Marketing

A Bachelor’s in Marketing typically covers a broad range of marketing principles and practices. This degree focuses on various aspects like consumer behavior, market research, marketing strategy, digital marketing, and sales management.

You won’t become an expert at anything, but you should get a high level overview of the different niches within the marketing industry. 

Courses will often include real-world projects and case studies to provide practical experience. It’s ideal for those looking to start a career specifically in marketing.

Bachelor’s in Business with a Minor in Marketing

This option offers a more general business education with a focus on marketing. The major courses cover a wide array of business topics like finance, management, and economics, while the minor in marketing delves into specific marketing subjects.

It’s suitable for students who want a broader business background with specialized marketing knowledge.

Master’s in Marketing

A Master’s in Marketing is an advanced degree that dives deeper into marketing theory and practice. It’s designed for individuals who already have some marketing experience or a related undergraduate degree and want to specialize further.

This program often includes advanced topics like marketing analytics, brand management, and digital marketing strategies, preparing graduates for higher-level marketing roles.

Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Marketing

An MBA with a concentration in Marketing blends broad business management education with specialized marketing studies. This degree is well-suited for those aiming for leadership roles as it covers strategic planning, leadership, business operations, along with advanced marketing courses.

An MBA in Marketing is highly regarded in the business world and can open doors to executive positions. 

How important is a marketing degree to get a job in marketing?

Research from Ahrefs shows that a college or university degree is one of the least important skills SEO hiring managers are looking for. 

This trend isn’t confined to SEO alone. Many facets of digital marketing, like social media management, content creation, and digital analytics, often prioritize hands-on experience and a portfolio of successful projects over academic credentials.

Employers in these fields tend to look for tangible evidence of marketing skills, such as successful campaigns, content portfolios, or a strong online presence – myself included. 

However, in certain marketing sectors, especially those that are more traditional or corporate, a degree might still hold significant weight. For instance, in roles that involve extensive market research, strategic planning, or high-level brand management, a formal marketing education may be beneficial.

Additionally, for those aiming for leadership or executive roles, higher education degrees like a Master’s in Marketing or an MBA can be required. These qualifications often signal a deeper understanding of business principles, which can be important in senior positions.

Marketing career path

Here’s a general view of the marketing job hierarchy, from entry-level to C-level roles. Remember, job titles and responsibilities can differ depending on the company’s size and culture.

Marketing Specialist

  • Experience Required: 0-2 years
  • Average Salary: $45,000 – $55,000

A Marketing Specialist typically works on executing marketing plans, conducting market research, managing social media platforms, assisting with campaign development, and analyzing data to measure marketing effectiveness.

Marketing Manager

  • Experience: 3-4 years
  • Average Salary: $60,000 – $75,000

As a Marketing Manager, responsibilities expand to overseeing marketing campaigns, managing budgets, coordinating with sales teams, developing marketing strategies, and potentially leading a small team of marketing specialists.

Director of Marketing

  • Experience: 6-7 years
  • Average Salary: $80,000 – $110,000

A Director of Marketing role involves more strategic planning. Directors of Marketing are typically responsible for setting marketing goals, aligning marketing strategies with business objectives, overseeing the marketing department, and liaising with other company executives.

VP of Marketing

  • Experience: 12-14 years
  • Average Salary: $120,000 – $210,000

The VP of Marketing plays a key role in shaping the company’s marketing strategies and vision. Responsibilities include leading marketing efforts across multiple channels, driving brand strategy, innovating marketing approaches, and contributing to overall business strategy.

Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)

  • Experience: 20+ years
  • Average Salary: $150,000 – $320,000

A CMO leads the entire marketing operation of a company. This role involves strategic decision-making at the highest level, setting marketing direction, pioneering new initiatives, overseeing the integration of various marketing channels, and directly influencing the company’s growth and market presence.

Final thoughts

The path you choose is entirely up to you. Whether you lean towards the imaginative and more creative aspects of brand and campaign creation, or gravitate more towards data analysis and market research, there’s a place for you in marketing.

If you do opt for a marketing major, remember that college is more than just academics. It’s a prime opportunity to network. Connect with peers, professors, and industry professionals – these relationships can be just as valuable as the knowledge gained in the classroom.

And if you’re contemplating different educational paths or considering skipping college altogether, know this: a degree in marketing is not a mandatory ticket to success in this field. 

The marketing world is filled with self-taught successes and unconventional journeys. Your skills, creativity, and ability to adapt and learn are what truly matter. 

Whether you pursue a marketing degree or decide to attend the school of hard knocks, the world of marketing offers a dynamic and exciting career landscape, ripe with opportunities for those willing to explore it.

Author: Sam Oh
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