A Reddit user asks marketing professionals to comment on the viability of a marketing degree. I offer my thoughts on that, coupled with advice on how to choose a degree that actually boosts your marketing career.
By Fausto Mendez
During my morning Reddit reading spree, I came across a thread by a college student that recently switched his major to marketing. He asks, “how viable is it as a degree, or is it a bit common?” He’s trying to plan out a career in marketing, specifically in the finance industry.
I can’t comment on the popularity of marketing degrees, but I am a marketing professional. I can comment on what I’ve seen from my perspective.
I’m currently the Director of Marketing at AnyPromo.com, and to be honest, I’ve never worked with anyone that actually has a marketing degree (as far as I know). I’ve worked with a wide range of majors, including artists, software engineers, accountants, IT pros, and more, but never a marketing major. We sometimes work with an advertising consultant, and he is not a marketing/advertising major. I also know a marketing manager at Disney, and his degree is not directly related to marketing too.
However, my perspective is rather limited. I’m not even 30 yet (still have three years to go). Plus, I only have about two years in a management role. Fortunately, I’ve seen others climb the ladder, so I do have an opinion on how you should choose your major for a marketing career.
How to Plan College for a Successful Career in Marketing
It all starts with your passion. The best marketing professionals are passionate about what they do. Whether they’re graphic artists or data analysts, their daily work excites them. Focus on a major that excites.
Next, refine your passion to a set of specialized skills. Your major should help you develop a set of specialized skills for your chosen marketing field. If you love to illustrate, you should major in graphic design. I’m a writer at heart, so I majored in English. Do not choose a degree in marketing as you won’t have a more refined specialty, and gigs that require specialty skills are more abundant .
Your major should help you refine your specialized skills, but don’t become too reliant on school. There’s a lot that school can’t teach you, so your best bet is to supplement your studies with internships, community service and real work. I started my sophomore year as a professional blogger. This added invaluable real-world experiences alongside everything I was learning in class.
Use your specialized skills to get your foot in the door at the marketing department in your company of choice. For me, this meant getting hired as a low-level copywriter and social-media guru. My organizational skills and leadership qualities made it really easy to move up the ranks to a management position, so it was only a matter of time.
If you can squeeze into a startup company, you’ll move up the ranks more easily because the company is (supposed to be) growing. So your bosses will prefer managers that know the company well, especially if you know your department and co-workers better than outsiders.
Advice from Other Marketing Dudes
As I mentioned above, my perspective is really limited, so you should probably look into the opinions of other marketing professionals. Below, marketers that also happen to be Redditors chime in with their opinions in the same thread.
A successful marketer with an MBA in marketing strategy had no trouble breaking into a marketing role. He sees Bachelor degrees everywhere but very few MBA degrees anywhere.
"I work a lot with advertising agencies and while there are few MBAs there, there are many undergrads. I do think it’s a difficult career, though, especially if you’re someone who’s more into the numbers than the creativity."
Another successful marketer experienced great success from an internship at a B2B company that makes adhesives. This company did not have an official marketing department, but he came on as a marketing intern. During his stay at the company, he made his work indispensable to the growth of the company.
"As an intern, expect to get grunt work that makes someone else’s job easier. You’ll be ‘greasing the wheels’ to make sales, negotiations, etc, easier for the people who actually handle marketing & sales. If you can prove yourself productive and intelligent, you may be tasked with greater responsibility.
I now have a job at one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. doing digital marketing for various clients. It’s the best job I’ve ever had, easily.”
One marketing major could not break into the marketing industry, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t successful.
"I got a marketing degree, just graduated this past May. I am a supervisor in a factory, making great money. A degree is a degree, you can spin your degree anyway you want to get the kind of job you want to have."
In similar fashion, another Redditor passes on sage wisdom from his career counselor.
"My career counselor said it doesn’t matter what you get a degree in as long as you have a great cover letter."
Well, it is true that a cover letter can make a massive difference. Honing your writing skills so that you can assemble stellar CVs is critical in any career path.
But my favorite career advice is straight out of an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: get a job cannon.
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