I have a deep interest in marketing and behavioral psychology and would like to pursue a marketing career. I am 20 and wondering whether to do the college thing or just take lots of Udemy courses, get low level jobs and work my way up. I am torn because, while I realize a college degree sets a solid foundation, it also burdens you with debt! And not a day goes by without me seeing some kind of article on the web about the declining value of college degrees. I've already taken a few Udemy courses and feel I can be useful in an entry level marketing job. I've also toyed with building a Shopify site and selling some stuff to demonstrate my skills. What do you think?
Many experts believe the question isn’t whether online courses will eventually replace college degrees, but when. However, even if that shift is inevitable, it certainly hasn’t fully happened yet.
That said, employers in many fields are now more interested in experience and ability than in a piece of paper stating that you graduated. Marketing requires a blend of creativity and business/technical skills. No college can teach you creativity, and Udemy plus hands-on experience can certainly teach you the other stuff.
A marketing degree might help you get hired over other candidates for an entry-level job. But there’s a good job market right now for certain kinds of marketers, such as digital marketing specialists. If you specialize in the right area, your chances of getting hired can increase even without a degree.
A degree in marketing does have value, though. It gives you a place to get some hands-on experience with marketing tactics, which might be hard to get without internships and other opportunities afforded by college. You’ll be able to learn from the experience of your professors. A degree will also allow you to pursue your interest in behavioral psychology. You could minor in psychology, for example, which might make you more competitive in the job market.
A marketing degree also has drawbacks. College courses don’t usually keep up with the latest trends and techniques in this fast-paced industry, so you might be learning basic or outdated concepts. And the finer points of marketing can only be learned in a job situation, not the classroom.
Is a marketing degree worth it? The industry is changing so quickly that it’s almost impossible to say for sure. My advice would be to start out by taking Udemy courses and getting online certifications, and to choose a niche as you do so. For example, you could start with Udemy courses and a Google AdWords certification, which is valuable for any digital marketing niche.
Then, start applying for entry-level marketing jobs. Sales jobs can also give you valuable experience that will help you transition into marketing. You might later be able to get promoted to the marketing department at the same company.
If you find that the competition for jobs in your area is too fierce, you might have to pursue a marketing degree after all. However, it seems likely that you’ll be able to get started without one - it just might take longer to get hired.
Finally, making a Shopify store to practice your marketing skills won’t hurt, but only do this if you have the time to fully invest in this project. Setting up the store is easy, but doing the marketing can take a lot of time. That time might be better spent taking courses or doing freelance marketing for a small company to learn the ropes instead.