People who are making the bold move toward a new career often gravitate directly toward continuing their education. There’s an instinctive logic to the decision. When you want to learn something new, you head to a formal place of learning.
Don’t start filling out those school applications just yet, though. A master’s degree is completely unnecessary for a successful marketing career.
Master’s Degrees: A Popular Choice
The master’s degree used to be popular only in careers where years of dedicated study were hard to skip. Jobs in the academic sphere or the hard sciences require time dedicated to research in a specialized area.
Over the last few decades, the master’s degree has become an increasingly popular option for eager professionals in all fields. It’s become a way to show prospective employers a depth of knowledge. Now, surveys show that the amount of people in the United States with master’s degrees nearly doubled between 2000 and 2018.
Why Schools Push Master’s Degrees
There’s a lot of marketing behind the rising popularity of marketing master’s degrees. Many people are encouraged as undergraduate students to continue to a graduate program by their professors. These mentors probably mean well. They’re likely suggesting the same path that they chose.
If you’re not in school, the billboards and advertisements are still making an aggressive case for advanced degrees, often promoting things such as increased flexibility and higher pay, two things you can get without a graduate degree. Entering a new field without a specialized education can feel daunting, and a program tailored to your area of interest seems like a natural path to take.
Schools are putting a lot of money into advertising their graduate programs and putting pressure on faculty to recruit students. As colleges have received less funding from other sources, even public institutions need to find new ways to increase revenue. A graduate student is a great asset for a school. Their classes cost twice as much as an undergrad’s.
The Problem with a Master’s Degree Curriculums
With more and more people getting advanced degrees, what benefit does a master’s program offer? Much of the typical marketing master’s curriculum revolves around the theory of marketing. Students learn about planning, economics, and managing projects.
These are important components of many digital marketers’ roles, but universities don’t have a monopoly on strategy. You can get a feel for the theory and strategies of marketing by tapping into a variety of alternate resources and by working in the field.
Master’s programs also have a tendency to allocate only small portions of curricula to the actual skills that are so important in the digital world. You might have just one class out of ten that focuses on social media, or no class at all that actually talks about effective layouts for marketing. The best practices of digital marketing change fast and they’re learned on the job, even by people with college educations.
Many marketing master’s programs emphasize how essential it is to have an internships. You can gain the same type of industry experience and mentorship by cutting out the middleman and working in the field.
Universities Come With a Hefty Bill
If a master’s degree in marketing isn’t ideal job experience, how could it possibly hurt? The financial factor should not be overlooked. The ultimate cost of a master’s degree is large.
You can expect to shell out around $30,000 for a master’s. If you picked a private institution, that expense could be as high as $120,000! Wherever you go, a master’s degree will always be a heavy financial undertaking.
If you don’t have $30,000 sitting around, loans come into play. The average graduate student is funding 53% of their educational efforts through loans. If you take out loans to cover the cost, you’ll end up paying even more in years of interest.
But Won’t I Make More Money?
It’s easy to find statistics that show that people with master’s degrees in marketing make good money. These snapshots fail to show an essential part of why that might be.
People who choose to obtain master’s degrees tend to be ambitious. They want to learn, they like to build new skills, and they’re willing to put in extra time and effort to succeed. These are all qualities that will serve you well in digital marketing, whatever your credentials.
Plus, people who get master’s degrees already have the time, money, energy, and resources to take on the additional responsibility of a master’s program. All of those assets are also correlated with finding better paying jobs in general.
The Cost of Time
Another type of cost that should not be overlooked is time. At most schools, a master’s in marketing requires 30 credit hours. This can be completed in two years, though a part-time student can easily take twice as long. For that duration, expect to spend approximately 10-12 hours per week on every class that you’re taking.
That’s time that could be spent otherwise picking up new skills. Or, you could be working full time in marketing and have an extra 10 hours a week for hobbies, family, or a little extra sleep.
Do Employers Expect a Master’s Degree?
If you were to gain a master’s degree, receive your diploma, and start applying to jobs, what would you find? Remarkably few job openings that require your new credentials.
A search of LinkedIn’s job advertisements reveals over 80,000 current openings in digital marketing. Of those, only 700 mention a master’s degree. That’s less than one in a hundred.
The people with master’s degrees don’t scoop up all the premium jobs, either. That same search revealed 8,000 digital marketing jobs available on this one platform that were offering salaries of over $100,00 a year—with no master’s degree required.
What About a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing?
Here’s another fact that comes as a surprise to many people: You don’t actually need a bachelor’s degree in marketing to succeed, either. Many companies don’t require a degree at all.
If you browse senior-level jobs ads in digital marketing, the list of requirements can be long. They may want management experience, a certain number of years in the field, strong communication skills, and proof of previous successes. Yet, if they mention educational background at all, industry experience is often considered an equal substitute.
For the type of jobs that you’re looking at as a digital marketing newbie, you’ll find similar wording. Some jobs request a bachelor’s degree, but the field is frequently left up to the applicant. Plenty of large and small companies forego this requirement altogether. If a candidate can demonstrate interest and ability, what does it matter where they got it?
Skip the Marketing Master’s Degree, Do This Instead
So, you may be asking, if a master’s degree in marketing won’t help me get my dream job, what should I do instead? You’re still going to need to learn and practice some new skills, and you’re going to have to find ways to gain relevant digital marketing experience.
One great way to get started is to check out some online digital marketing classes. You’ll get the actual tools that you need to start building experience and hunting for jobs, with a built in community of peers and mentors to support you along the way.