After reading this from Mark Ritson (and the conversation on Twitter) I wanted to share my thoughts on whether you need a university degree to be an expert in or even get a job in digital marketing.

The short answer is no.

I’ll qualify that by plenty of people at Branded3 do have university degrees – but I’m not sure who has a degree in what and I feel that spending time looking into it basically defeats the point of this post.

  • I do know that our Head of SEO Andy Parker has a degree in History, joining B3 as a link builder, with no experience.
  • Search Strategist JJ Grice joined B3 as a 19 year old link builder instead of going to university.
  • Our newest Search Strategist Mat McCorry doesn’t have a degree either and joined as an SEO Executive.
  • Planning Director (and former Search Strategist) Matthew Jackson has an MSc in Chemistry and Head of Insights Alan Ng has a PHD in something to do with opticians.
  • CEO Tim Grice studied law and started as a Search Strategist after learning by working for himself – I have an MA in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature and I started as a link builder.

Branded3 values expertise above everything, so it’s not that we don’t care if we hire smart people. We know we can tell recruits how this works – we want people who are keen to learn and willing to demonstrate they are experts.

The longer answer is that I think university teaches you skills that become valuable for agency life – working to deadlines, networking, referencing etc. – but assuming you have relevant experience on your CV I can’t promise I’ll pay much attention to “education” and it will have no influence on whether you get a job here or not.

On that point I agree with Will Critchlow:

If you don’t have relevant experience we just want to know how keen you are to get it. Don’t turn up to an interview knowing nothing about SEO. Don’t tell us you want to work here because it looks fun. You can impress enough by reading a beginner’s guide to SEO, being willing to start at the bottom like we all did and by just knowing who we are.

When it comes to SEO I would always take someone with 3 months under their belt at an agency like Branded3 against someone with 3 years of theory and no experience.

…and if you don’t have much experience take a look at our current vacancies. If you think you can do one of the jobs, or just want to know if we help you to learn, ignore whether the ad says you need a degree or not and tell us why we’re right for each other.

I’ve seen plenty of discussion on some universities offering a degree in SEO too. This terrifies me – the things you’ll learn in your first year are outdated by your third.

P.S. regarding Mark’s article:

But look beyond that and I think there are two serious concerns. First, despite their billing as leading experts in marketing it’s clear from even a cursory examination of the list that these people are actually experts in just one area of marketing – communications. They sell it using a variety of different, new conceptual names like “traffic”, “content”, “lead conversion” and “digital marketing” but this is what ancient professors used to call the promotional part of the marketing mix. Nothing wrong with that but this is a very small part of marketing discipline – about 10% by my estimation.

I think a list of “24 marketers you should follow on Twitter” being comprised of experts in the field of communications is fair enough. A list of “24 marketers who have published books you should read” would probably be very different.

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