Perhaps you’re a whiz at social media. Maybe you’ve built a following that’s tens or hundreds of thousands of people. With the expertise you’ve developed, maybe you’re thinking it would be a no-brainer for you to pursue a career as a social media specialist or a social media manager. You could earn a living by putting your experience to work on behalf of other companies.
But what kind of formal education does a social media professional need? Is formal education even a requirement for this career path? Are social media courses worth the investment of time and money that you’d have to make?
In many – but not all — situations, the answer to this question is yes. Social media marketing courses are likely to be worth the time and expense – assuming you choose the right courses. Let’s take a look at why social media marketing courses are likely to be a worthwhile investment for aspiring marketing professionals. Let’s also discuss some exceptions – the situations in which the investment would clearly not be worth it.
In the United States, it is common for corporate employers to require the social media marketing professionals they hire to have obtained formal education.
Elka Torpey at the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that social media specialists in the USA will usually need to obtain at least a bachelor’s degree in a subject such as public relations, communications or business. In her report on social media specialists, she gives an example of a success story in social media. Her example holds a master’s degree in digital marketing.
In Australia, employers generally expect to hire marketing professionals who have formal marketing education – typically either a bachelor’s degree or VET training. According to the experts at a leading Australian academic training portal, Training.com.au, basic social media marketing courses would be a minimum requirement for many positions. They point out that 49.1% of the professionals working in the field of marketing and advertising hold a bachelor’s degree.
So if your goal is to work for a corporate employer, you will definitely want to consider obtaining formal marketing training. Even in cases where a job description doesn’t directly require it, you will be in competition for employment with other people who have obtained a degree. To stay competitive in the field, you are likely to find that a degree, or at least some successfully completed marketing coursework, is a requirement.
You are less likely to need formal education if you plan to freelance instead of working as an employee for a corporate employer. In that situation, you will need to convince prospective clients that you can do the job well. There are many ways to convince them of that; if you can make a good case for your competence based on other evidence, you can probably find suitable work.
In all cases, the bottom line isn’t how good your education is. Employers care much more about the results you can get for them than they will ever care about your education. But, having the right academic credentials is likely to be a big part of convincing a prospective employer that you can get the job done.
It’s important to beware of cases when social media courses may not meet your expectations. These are some of the situations you need to be cautious about:
Academia doesn’t always keep pace with the ever-changing landscape in the world of marketing. Social media trends — and platforms — change quickly. It isn’t worth it to sign up for a class where the coursework consists of five year old material that is now obsolete. Before you sign up for a social media marketing course, you should ensure that the course material is relevant and up-to-date.
But the truth is, even if you do find a cutting-edge course to enroll in, much of what you learn in it will quickly go outdated. Be aware that this is a career that will require you to do a great deal of work to keep pace with the constant changes.
Social media marketing is a legitimate niche with many reputable professionals working in it. But, unfortunately, it is a niche that’s attractive to scammers, too. There are numerous dodgy courses available from scam artists who will not deliver the results they promise. You always want to avoid these. Be sure to choose courses that are available from reputable academic institutions or businesses. Alternatively, you might find it worthwhile to pursue certifications that are provided by tech companies or software providers that have solid credentials in the digital marketing space. In any case, research the reputation of the course provider and check for legitimate testimonials from students who have completed the course or certification successfully.
We hope this information is helpful to you as you decide whether or not you want to enroll in social media marketing courses. Formal education isn’t for everyone – but if you’re interested in pursuing a lucrative career in social media marketing, you are likely to find it valuable to obtain some education in this field.