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Does a Marketing Degree Make You A Better Marketer?

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Typically, no.

That's because marketing is an applied practice, involving lots of tinkering and trial and error, yet common marketing courses are largely theoretical without real world application.

Take a look at some typical marketing courses:

  • Consumer Behavior
  • Marketing Research
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Marketing Management
  • Marketing Metrics
  • Digital Media Marketing

For a job in marketing, you will never need to have generalized knowledge on consumer behavior. Instead, you need to know niche-specific behavior particular to the cohort you're marketing to.

For most of these courses, the second problem is in the evaluation.

What should be your learning outcome and how should your grade be assessed if you took the course, say, marketing strategy? Should the top marks be given to the student who wrote the most detailed and comprehensive marketing plan?

That could be a useful measure… if your grade was assessed on how well you can articulate a plan.

A more reliable and accurate approach, though cutthroat, would simply be if the strategy works. Because that’s all that matters.  

Unfortunately, that can't be accurately assessed without applying your strategy in the real-world, not in a controlled, sterile simulation.

Without knowledge gleaned from iterative repeated testing, a strategy is nothing but a collection of ideas collectively worth nil.

At the end of the day, it’s impossible to know if your marketing plan will ultimately fail or succeed unless it’s applied.

Otherwise, you’re operating in a field of assumptions typically based on incomplete data.

Marketing Classes Learning Outcomes

man making a presentation on a big screen to a dimly lit audience

If you’re evaluated on how well you articulate and present your plan, then your first order learning is on how to articulate and present a marketing strategy well, not on marketing strategy per se. There’s a difference.

Marketing professors' evaluations are independent of real world feedback. So they evaluate on what they can control and assess: your writing and presentation skills.

Rather than learning how to deliver to your niche audience effectively, you’ve learned how to deliver to those who assess your grade instead.

In fact, after your course, you still wouldn't know how your niche consumers would respond to your marketing strategy because you’ve never applied it towards them.

If your future boss gave your immaculate marketing plan the go-ahead and after implementing it, it failed, it would be deemed a bad plan because it missed the mark, never mind how well it was articulated.

What a Marketing Role Looks Like

photo of a woman presenting a diagram on a laptop

Marketing is all about testing and iterating.

Under no circumstances do simulated practice constitute as testing since real-world variables aren’t present under these controlled conditions.

How do you test or iterate if it’s not part of the curriculum?

Marketing is more than merely writing compelling copy. Decisions are made mostly on data collected from testing. Not merely data drawn from Google, Wikipedia or the news, but from internally collected data; that is, hard numbers.

Aggregate data provides the most no-nonsense information for marketers to initiate campaigns off of. Juggling excel sheets and communicating in excel functions are marketers day-to-day.

It's the age of 'Big Data' where all facets of business are informed by data, especially marketing. It's not all flowery creatives for a marketer; it's very much a data-driven industry.

This is what separates a practitioner from a student asked to make informed assumptions about how to proceed with a marketing strategy.

What to Look For in Marketing Classes

Man seated cross-legged peering at iPad with graphs and charts on the screen.

Make sure your marketing curriculum preps you with practical skills that marketers should have:

  • Copywriting - content creation
  • SEO - Search Engine Optimization
  • SEM - Search Engine Marketing
  • Google Adwords
  • Facebook Ads
  • Data Analytics
  • Formulating winning marketing strategies that gets tested in the real world

The point here is that you don't need to go to school for marketing to do well in marketing. They do, however, offer internships that place you right in the heat of a marketing role which would accelerate your learning far more than the courses you take in school.

Another option are MBAs in marketing as these programs tend lean towards a more robust application of knowledge.

What Do Marketing Professionals Look Like?

Most of the big tech names' marketing directors and VPs of marketing never went to school for marketing.


Uber - Rebecca Messina (Global Chief Marketing Officer) - Bachelor of Arts, Spanish, Diplomacy and Foreign Affairs

AirBnB - George Seeley (Global Marketing Director) - Bachelor of Science (BSc), Architecture, Town Planning and Construction Management

Amazon - Neil Lindsay (VP, Prime and Marketing) - B.A. Applied Science

Facebook - Carolyn Everson (VP of Marketing) - Liberal Arts and Communications

Microsoft - Chris Capossela (VP of Marketing) - Computer Science and Economics

Apple - Philip Schiller (Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing) - Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology

This is obviously an incomplete picture. Most of these individuals landed a job in marketing to begin and through their years of experience built themselves up to the position they're in now.


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