I’ve had enough! The noise around the so called “un-college” movement has gotten out of control, especially as it pertains to digital marketing education. I can no longer stay silent.
Follow me as I not so briefly discuss the virtues of higher education in Internet Marketing from the perspective of people who have actually been through the process.
Consider the source
Something important to understand about the chatter from people telling you not to go to college for digital marketing is that most of them have never actually been through the process themselves. I refer to them as male gynecologist. They may indeed be very educated and have a certain depth of experience, but at the end of the day they’ve never actually been through it themselves. As well intentioned as these experts may be, they simply lack the first hand experience to really know what it’s like to go through the process they’re giving you expert opinions on.
Gary Vaynerchuk, John Lee Dumas and other thought leaders in the digital marketing/ online entrepreneurial space are all figuratively speaking male gynecologist as it pertains to the virtues of a college degree in digital marketing. They may in fact have an experiential basis for their opinion (all three of my children were delivered by a male OB/GYN), but at the end of the day don’t know what it’s like to go through the process.
Ask Real Experts
The whole point of this article and attached ultimate guide is to solicit educated opinions from people who have gone through the process; so I wrangled two of my fellow Full Sail alums to get their take.
Christopher Gaudreau is a formally educated Digital Marketer specializing in sales funnels. Join Chris’ closed Facebook group Funnel Architects. Follow Chris on Twitter at @SalesFunnelGuy. You can also find him on LinkedIn.
Michelle A Bassett is the co-author of Beyond Buzzwords: Social Media, Mobile & Other Marketing Buzzwords Ain’t the Half of It!; and Managing Partner at Digital Marketing Advisers, a digital agency based in Atlanta, GA. Follow Michelle on Twitter at @CEOMichelleB. You can also find Michelle on LinkedIn, as well as http://michelleabassett.com/blog/.
Reasons vary for opposing the idea of a degree in Internet Marketing, but I found an article on the Surviving After College blog that sums up the sentiment nicely.
Here are 5 reasons why not to invest in an Internet Marketing degree:
1. It changes too fast to fit the style of formal educational teaching.
2. Most related jobs don’t actually require a degree.
3. Those years spent in school could be traded for years out in the field gaining experience.
4. You’re overpaying.
5. You can easily create your own business online.
Now before I dig in with my back teeth let me say this; when it comes to formal education I’m biased, but NOT bougie! I don’t think formal education is right for everyone, nor is it the only valid means of becoming a top notch professional Internet Marketer. Not at all!
However I do feel it’s dangerous to take advice from people who haven’t undertaken the process they’re advising on, especially when you’re talking about a decision as important and far reaching as college. So while I can appreciate this point of view, in my opinion the above mentioned points are ill conceived and fundamentally misguided for several reasons; here is just the top five:
It assumes digital marketing novices can distinguish between real, solid online business practices and the straight up B.S. that exists online. They can’t!
I liken it to driving all over hell and creation to avoid paying road tolls. Not only does driving the back roads take longer, but by the time you factor in gas money and the additional miles you’re putting on your car, you’d have done better paying the toll and been on your way. And don’t forget ANYTHING can happen to you on those back roads! If you break down, far better to do it on the side of the freeway where at least you’ll be seen.
Another common folly in the same vein is driving three towns over to buy gas that’s ten cents cheaper. As mentioned above, by the time you factor in the true cost of mileage and going out of the way you’d have done better just buying gas near you.
So sure, you can search out the info on your own at a lower cost, but realize you’re just as likely to find a black hat, network marketing (MLM) company or info marketer. So please don’t fool yourself into thinking that the journey isn’t fraught with peril and littered with land mines, because it is!!! Don’t believe me? In the last three months of the 2016 Presidential election fake news outperformed real news on Facebook.
Higher education takes all the guesswork out of the equation. You’ll never have to worry about any black hat techniques, pyramid schemes or straight up fake, fraudulent stories being passed off on you. Every principle you learn in a college or university is tried, true and thoroughly vetted.
It ignores how mega-trends are increasingly professionalizing the industry.
In response to mega-trends such as connected living (mobile), augment reality (Pokémon Go) and social media, positions exist at larger corporations that didn’t exist a few years ago. One of my favorite shows is FaceOff on the SyFy Channel. They give the Twitter handle to everyone on the show and want you to live-tweet using hash tags during commercial breaks for a chance to win $10,000.
This trend was unheard of five years ago, but is commonplace now, and will only continue. Please believe you’ll need some kind of formal educational training to run these sorts of digital marketing campaigns going forward.
It assumes individuals want to be solo-preneurs, and not professionals.
Entrepreneurship is GREAT… but it’s not right for everyone! Not everyone can or even wants to be an entrepreneur. From a practical standpoint everyone can’t be an entrepreneur! Our society needs skilled operators and practitioners to exist.
Assuming your solo Internet business reaches a level of success you’re still only one person and there’s still only 24 hours in a day. At some point you’ll need to bring on staff or you’ll no longer be able to grow. You’ll want those staff members to have a certain level of skill & competency.
When making a hiring decision it’s a lot easier to quantify “I have a degree in …” verses how you’ve aimlessly meandered the wilds of Google for years but still feel you’re qualified to do the job. Don’t take that out of context; I’m not saying experience doesn’t count for anything. What I am saying is that it can be difficult to quantify verse having a diploma, which is easier to quantify.
Then again some people have no desire to be a business owner and instead want to consult with or work directly for large corporations like Nike, Coca-Cola or Disney. I can assure you they’re not letting you touch their social media without some sort of formal education or credentials. Your degree may be in early childhood development, but you still need one just to get an interview.
The people making the hiring decisions have degrees and they want you to have a degree. That may very well change in the future, but that’s the way it is in the professional world as of this writing.
It ignores the true expansiveness of the industry.
I often compare the industry of Internet Marketing to the Medical industry in that it’s very broad and there are several areas of specialization. You can be a Brain Surgeon, OB/GYN, Ear Nose and Throat Dr., Family Dr. etc. The same is true of professional Internet Marketing. You can specialize in SEO, PPC, Affiliate Marketing, Mobile Marketing, Social Media, Web Analytics, Email Marketing and much, much more. GOOD LUCK learning all that in an unstructured environment.
To be clear: I didn’t say you “can’t” learn several different Digital Marketing disciplines on your own. What I said was good luck learning all that in an UNSTRUCTURED environment. When you invest in a degree you’re not only paying for the content itself, but for the guidance that comes from following a curriculum and having a rubric to grade your progress against.
Everybody’s different, but for my two cents, my precious time has always been worth more. Why on earth would I spend years learning the hard way by trial and error (which I’ve foolishly done before) when I can follow an established blueprint? Always remember, time is the one commodity you can NEVER get back! That’s all I’m getting at.
You typically won’t enjoy the same degree of clout, prestige or vast alumni network, as you will by being associated with a well-respected college or university.
Sure you can figure out how to turn your laptop into an ATM, but no one with any clout knows who the hell you are! Worse yet, you get grouped in with the ilk of Warrior Forum, Frank Kern and other questionable operators. NO THANKS! I’d much rather have the prestige and credibility of someone like B. Bonin Bough or Avinash Kaushik.
It all boils down to your career goals and what you want out of life. If all you want is to turn your laptop into an ATM that spits out $100 bills, then yeah, you probably don’t need a degree for that. But if as a young professional your Internet Marketing career goals are to either consult for or work in-house with the likes of Disney, Nike or Coca-Cola you can forget about not having a degree!
There are several (some well deserved) negative perceptions of the Internet Marketing industry. The industry of marketing has changed more in the last two years than in the preceding 50, but most people’s mindsets haven’t kept up. In my opinion, this is the crux of the negative perception issues that plague the industry to this day! People don’t think a formal education in Internet Marketing is worth the investment. This dated mindset gives them license to go for it blind and drag the industry through the mud in the process.
Truth is until a few short years ago not only did you not need formal Digital Marketing education, but there was none to be had even if you wanted it! This of course is no longer the case, however there are several articles like the one mentioned above calling you a fool for investing in an Internet Marketing degree. In my opinion this does more harm than good and won’t serve the industry going forward.
In closing, anytime you have an industry that can get as shady as digital marketing can there is a need and a responsibility to not only educate consumers on how not to be victims, but have a standard of conduct so that practitioners don’t inadvertently turn into predators. A college education is an important step in raising the profile of the professional digital marketer.
I don’t necessarily disagree with the points brought up in the opposing article so much as I feel the viewpoint is one-sided and incomplete. I hope I’ve given anyone reading this article enough information to consider the other side of the formal education coin and make a truly informed decision about career goals and what’s best for you.
Fill out the form below and I’ll send you my hand-curated guide on degree and training programs in Internet Marketing. Here’s to your success.