Are Digital Marketing Courses Worthwhile? Professional Marketers Respond

There are a plethora of digital marketing courses available. They are offered by everyone.

Colleges, third-party organizations, and the platforms themselves all offer digital marketing courses.

Are digital marketing courses, however, worthwhile?

I’ve been working in digital marketing for 20 years and in marketing for even longer.

When I was in college, there were no digital marketing classes because digital marketing didn’t exist.

So I polled my peers to see what they thought of digital marketing courses and whether they were worthwhile.

Courses in digital marketing have their own set of difficulties

Some marketers thought the classes were too basic and ineffective.

Both posters have valid points to make.

College courses, in general, and marketing courses in particular, can be overly theoretical, rendering them useless.

It’s difficult to put theoretical concepts into practice.

And, as Wenner points out, digital marketing evolves at such a rapid pace that course content quickly becomes obsolete.

We discussed how creating detailed process documents for paid search is a waste of time in an internal discussion at work. Things change so quickly that we’d waste a lot of time keeping up with them.

To help keep course content fresh, some savvy digital marketing instructors invite real-world practitioners to speak as guest speakers or lecturers in their classes.

I’ve given talks about paid search and paid social to a few classes at Michigan State University.

It’s more effective to learn from real-world speakers because they’re up to date on the latest in digital marketing.

It’s Still Important to Have a Basic Marketing Strategy

Marketing strategy, on the other hand, does not change as quickly as technical knowledge. Many concepts remain unchanged.

I learned some marketing concepts in my undergrad classes that I still use today, 30 years later.

Many advertising professionals refer to David Ogilvy, dubbed the “Father of Advertising” by many.

In 1911, Ogilvy was born. His career peaked in the 1950s and 1960s, more than 50 years ago, during the Mad Men era.

His advertising strategy adages, however, are still relevant today.

This quote applies to paid search today just as much as it did in Ogilvy’s day to print advertising:

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

A “how-to” course on how to set up a Google Ads campaign or manage bids might not be worth it, but a marketing strategy course is.

Many people have started their careers as a result of taking digital marketing courses

Even though digital marketing appears to change daily, the majority of professionals believe that digital marketing courses are worthwhile.

Digital marketing courses were credited by some as the reason they are still working in the field today.

As Elley and Krantz point out, good teachers make a difference.

Coursework in Digital Marketing Isn’t Enough

It takes more than marketing classes to become a successful digital marketer.

A well-rounded education, according to several experts, is the foundation for a successful digital marketer.

Michael Stebbins, who co-founded OMCP to bring digital marketing and course standards to the industry, says:

“There are courses out there that can fill in as much as 70% of the hard skills a marketer needs to practice on the job.

Lately, a majority of digital marketing practices can be evergreen; for example, landing page agreements with ad offers, analytics reporting tied to business objectives, or even keyword research methodologies.

The best blend for someone entering the industry combines three things: Completing an accredited course covering generally-accepted practices, some platform course completion, and real-life experience.”

Brad Geddes, a digital marketing instructor since 2011, agrees:

“Overall, people seem best suited to PPC if they do a mixture of digital marketing with a minor in psychology (or a double major as there’s a lot of math when you get into Psych BS majors).

My background was personality psychology (0 marketing courses), and it serves me well in running PPC campaigns.”

Will Digital Marketing Courses Assist Me In Finding Work?

The answer is more complicated than yes or no.

We’ve established that digital marketing courses, particularly those focusing on technical training, can quickly become outdated.

A course taken five to ten years ago is likely to be out of date.

Candidates, particularly those new to the field of digital marketing, can fill in some hard skills by taking reputable courses.

Communication, teamwork, and problem solving, on the other hand, are more difficult to teach.

Soft skills are also essential for digital marketing success.

In fact, according to the OMCP® 2019 Role Delineation Study, most digital marketing disciplines’ top priorities across all job responsibilities were strategy and practice communication.

Consider that for a moment.

Employers valued strategy and practice communication over technical skills like keyword research, bid management, audience development, and content development.

As a result, a marketing strategy course would be extremely beneficial.

Additionally, work on honing your soft skills.

When hiring digital marketing experts, what should I look for?

When hiring digital marketers, most experts agree that hard skills, such as digital marketing certifications, and soft skills, such as communication and critical thinking, should be considered.

According to SiteLogic’s Matt Bailey:

“When I had my agency, I looked for people who were excellent communicators in writing and speaking, as most of the job is working with clients and constantly presenting, reporting, and working with a team. I hired for soft skills and trained the digital skills.”

Bailey looks for individuals who “share a critical and creative thinking core necessary to accomplish their work and solve problems.”

Problem-solving is an important part of digital marketing, and people who lack this skill often struggle in this field.

According to Stebbins, hiring managers seek out unlikely majors. “When John Marshall and I were building ClickTracks, our local university did not have a strong marketing program. Yet, we had interest from students to join our web analytics team,” he said.

Stebbins added, “We learned to recruit reliably from the economics department for marketing talent and the genetics department for digital analytics. We also learned that sales reps tended to make great PPC and digital advertising specialists (with some minimal training).”

Digital marketing courses and certifications, in my personal experience, are not a good predictor of success.

I’ve had people who passed multiple certifications but were let go, as well as others who came to us without having taken a single course but were outstanding performers.

In terms of soft skills, I believe that curiosity is the most important trait for digital marketing professionals.

As Bailey previously stated, digital marketing necessitates a great deal of problem-solving.

To solve problems effectively, one must be curious about why they exist.

It’s critical to understand why a campaign suddenly stops performing or why a specific keyword isn’t converting. It won’t do to look at performance changes and shrug and say, “It is what it is.”

Successful digital marketers can ask “why” and think critically.


Digital marketing courses can be beneficial in the long run.

Completing coursework demonstrates commitment and the ability to complete a task.

Those with verified skills, experience, and industry certifications in education stand out as being even more committed to the practice.

Courses and certifications, however, aren’t the be-all and end-all.

Many successful digital marketers have never attended a class.

“There is no substitute for running a live campaign,” said Derek Mollins of Brainlabs.

If you’re not already employed in the field, consider volunteering for an organization in need of digital marketing assistance.

You’ll gain a lot of knowledge while also helping a good cause.

When you combine digital marketing training with the development of your soft skills and experience, you’ll have the best chance of succeeding in the field.

Learn more from Marketing and read 6 Things That Determine the Cost of Digital Marketing Services for Your Business.

John Harper

#1 File Information bestselling author John Harper loves to dispel the myth that smart men & women don’t read (or write) romance, and if you watch reruns of the game show The Weakest Link you might just catch him winning the $77,000 jackpot. In 2021, Netflix will premiere Bridgerton, based on his popular series of novels about the Why Files.

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