So you say you want to get started with a career in digital marketing? You’re thinking you want to develop an in-demand skill that will allow you to work remotely on your schedule, while also making enough money to do the things you want and need?
Good for you. You can have all that and more, even if you’ve never worked a day in your life as a digital marketer.
However, if you’re thinking about getting a digital marketing certification to help you qualify for digital marketing jobs, you might want to think again. In most cases, courses offering certificates will be completely meaningless and worthless, especially if all they do is give you a piece of paper.
Of course, it’s always a great to spend your money on training and education. But you want to get something out of it, no? Something more than a piece of paper?
Instead, you should be focusing your attention on what will actually get you a job. This means training using tangible experience.
Certificates alone won’t do this, so don’t bother with them.
Reasons Why It’s Not Worth Getting a Digital Marketing Certification
It sort of goes against all we’ve ever been told, no? The narrative we’ve always been fed is that if we want to get a job in a certain field, we need to go to school for that field, and then we need to walk away with a diploma or some other document that proves we did the training.
Therefore, if you want to start a career in digital marketing, it’s normal to think that the next thing you need to do is acquire some sort of digital marketing certification.
But that’s an outdated way of thinking.
Here’s why you don’t need to bother with a digital marketing certificate:
They Do Nothing to Prove Experience
Marketing is a field that has a direct link to sales. When you do a good job, sales numbers go up. It might take weeks or it might take years. But that’s the end goal of all digital marketers.
What this means is that if you want to get a job, you need to be able to prove you can make sales numbers increase. And the best way to do this is to show what you’ve done in the past.
Being able to demonstrate success as a digital marketer is worth about billion times more than any certification you might get.
At this point, you may be thinking, “But I’ve never worked in digital marketing. That’s why I need the certificate.”
How to Show You Can Do the Job without Experience
If you don’t have any experience in digital marketing, you can demonstrate you have the skills to get the job done. You can present a portfolio of work you’ve done from a job with an overlapping skill set, and you can showcase what else you could do to get the job done.
One of the best things about the digital marketing field is that it is growing and the skills needed to do the jobs that are out there are in demand.
That means there are a lot of people out there who will be willing to give you shot. But you need to be able to prove to them you’re worth it.
A digital marketing certificate won’t don’t this all on its own. But a course that teaches you the skills you need and provides you with examples for your portfolio will.
There’s No One Verifying the Quality of the Certificate
Another reason why a digital marketing certificate isn’t worth anything is because there is no accrediting body that speaks to the quality of the education you got.
That’s the whole point behind college diplomas and other official credentials. The institutions that offer them have to go through a rigorous accreditation program to prove the documents they are giving you are worth something. There is no such body overseeing everyone offering a digital marketing certification to verify their quality.
In fact, if you are claiming to teach people digital marketing, there are services you can use to generate your own digital marketing certification to give out to students.
How is that of any use?
It’s because of this that digital marketing certification courses are so often ripoffs. People looking to make a quick buck will charge you a lot of money for a digital marketing course that only serves to provide you with a meaningless digital marketing certificate at the end.
The best way to combat this is to look for in-depth testimonials from past students. Hearing from those who have had success with a particular program is far more valuable than any certification or accreditation.
It will give you the chance to not only learn about the course but also how it helped others get a job, which is the ultimate goal. Look for detailed testimonials such as the one below to be sure you’re getting good, quality information that will help you evaluate the quality of a particular program:
There Isn’t Even a Digital Marketing Degree
One argument you could make in favor of getting a digital marketing certificate is if it could set you up for some sort of advanced degree. But this isn’t even the case.
In fact, very few universities offer this type of degree. And those that do will waste your time and money.
One private college that does offer a digital marketing degree, Full Sail University, will charge you $60,000 a year for a 2.5-3 year program that doesn’t even start teaching you tangible skills – SEO, social media marketing, PPC, etc. – until month 21.
Instead, you’ll spend most of your time learning “English Composition,” “The Psychology of Play,” and “College Mathematics” before diving into what you actually need to know to get a job.
Digital marketing is also an ever-changing field. If you embark on a multi-year program, whatever you do learn in the beginning will be pretty close to irrelevant by the time you finish.
A much better approach is to take a much shorter course that gives you the most up-to-date skills and then learn and evolve while working and actually making money.
Other universities that teach digital marketing usually offer it as a specialization within a different program. But most often all they offer is one course.
For example, at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school with a world renowned business program, digital marketing is a one semester elective you take as part of a marketing degree.
This just proves that there aren’t that many specific skills you need to learn to get a job in digital marketing.
You can learn them quickly, apply them in real-life situations, and then leverage your existing experience to land a job much more quickly (and for much less money) than if you tried to get a whole new degree.
Teaching Quality is All Over the Place
The value of any digital marketing course you take will ultimately depend on your teacher.
If they take the time to impart their digital marketing skills to you and provide you with activities that will help you demonstrate your skills, and if they teach you the things you need to know to be able to get a digital marketing job, then the course is probably worth it.
If they are just going to provide you with information you probably could have found on your own with an afternoon of Googling, then you’re better off saving your money.
How to Check for Good Teachers
Look for courses taught by digital marketing professionals, and be sure to verify their experience before signing up to learn from them.
Remember, credentials don’t really matter. Instead, ask: what has this person done? What do you stand to learn from them?
Another thing you’ll want to do is take a look at the digital marketing course syllabus. Are there any tests? Projects? Homework assignments? Or is it just a bunch of power points you have to review and a few questions to answer at the end?
Far too many digital marketing courses just regurgitate information at you that you could have found out on your own.
Of course, tests and homework aren’t the most fun thing in the world. But if they are going to help you learn, will help you build a portfolio, and help you get a job, won’t it be worth it in the end?
Lastly, check for testimonials.
Past students should be able to speak about not only the course material but also the teacher. If they walked away feeling like they’ve learned something, and that the teacher actually helped them, then that’s a good sign they will be able to help you, too.
When searching for testimonials, look for something in-depth and specific, such as this:
Should You Take a Digital Marketing Course?
Based on the fact that digital marketing certificates are often meaningless, you may be wondering if all digital marketing courses are scams that should be avoided.
There are actually a lot of really great digital marketing courses out there that will actually help you land a job, such as that offered by In Demand.
Benefits of Digital Marketing Courses
While digital marketing certifications don’t offer a lot of value on their own, digital marketing training programs and online courses can.
Some of the benefits good courses will provide include:
Develop Your Digital Marketing Skills
If you’re going to spend the time and money learning digital marketing, don’t you want to learn digital marketing? Theories and concepts can be useful, but they aren’t going to get you a job.
So, instead of spending a bunch of time learning what search engine optimization is and the value of Google Adwords, you need to be learning how to look at a Google analytics report and how to optimize a blog post or website so that you can participate in a search engine marketing campaign.
You don’t need to know what a sales funnel, but you do need to know what the different digital marketing channels are, what makes social media marketing work, and how to run a pay-per-click strategy.
When you can walk away from a digital marketing course knowing how to do things, then you’ve spent your money well. But if you finish and don’t know how to put what you learned into action, it doesn’t matter if they gave you a certificate, you wasted your money.
Build Your Portfolio
When you go to apply for jobs, prospective employers are going to ask for samples of your work. They’re hoping to see stuff you’ve done with past clients. But if you’re new to the digital marketing world, you might not have any of this to show.
Don’t sweat. A good digital marketing training program will give you assignments that you can use in your portfolio.
It will have you write SEO-0ptimized blog posts so that you know what it entails. You will design PPC ads around specific key terms and craft posts for a social media marketing campaign so that you can prove that you can do it. And you will craft email marketing messages to show your understanding of this tactic.
Learn How to Get a Digital Marketing Job
Digital marketing training programs need to prepare you for a digital marketing career. This means learning skills and building your portfolio, but it also means learning all those other things that will help you land a job.
What information should you include in your cover letter? How should you present your experience in your resume? What information should you include on your resume? What should you focus on in your interview?
Some of this stuff will carry over from your previous job. But there are always intricacies that you might not know about. Online courses claiming to teach you about digital marketing should do this so that you not only get the skills you need to do the job but so that you can also put together a competitive application and win the position.
Provide You with Some Insight About the Field
Lastly, a digital marketing course should help you gain some insight into the field. This means it should be taught by a digital marketer.
The reason for this is because a digital marketing professional with experience in the field will know what you need to know in order to get a job, and also to be successful. After all, if they’re teaching it to you, it’s because they know what they’re doing. Hopefully.
Often, some of the tricks of the trade you learn from other digital marketers are the most valuable and the ones that lead directly to jobs and results.
Therefore, before you sign up for an online course, spend some time checking out the teacher. What have they done? Where have they worked? Why do you want to learn from them?
If possible, try to find some of their free materials (there are bound to be some) so that you can get an idea of what it might be like to learn from them.
Remember, you are paying top dollar for this training. Make sure you’re getting as much from it as possible.
Be Weary of Digital Marketing Courses That Offer…
Since most digital marketing certifications aren’t really worth it, but there are a lot of them out there, it means there are a lot of scams.
To keep you from wasting your money, be weary of digital marketing courses that offer one of the following, or something similar:
No one can guarantee you a job. Sorry. It doesn’t work that way. Is the digital marketing industry full of opportunity? Absolutely. But you still need to prove your worth and get someone to hire you.
Instead of guarantees, look for testimonials. Find real people who have studied with this person or group and read or watch what they have to say. This will tell you much more about how likely you are to get a job when you are done than some bogus guarantee that likely comes with caveats or lots of exceptions.
When doing this, look for testimonials that deal in specifics. Anyone trying to sell you a course knows that testimonials are key to getting people to sign up, but if all they offer is a picture and a stock quote, what does that really tell you? For example, check out the testimonials from Udacity:
These quotes could have been written by anyone, and they don’t really tell you anything about the course itself. Compare that to what students of In Demand’s Digital Marketing Career Blueprint have to say, and it’s a whole different story.