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Guest Blog: Chris Measures, Marketing qualifications – do you need them?

In a previous blog I’ve talked about how to get into PR, and a follow-on question is always about what qualifications you need for a career in public relations or more general marketing.

There are a plethora of degrees and diplomas available, both as full-time studies at university and to fit around work. So, do you need them and what should you be looking for?

Firstly, you don’t need any technical qualifications to work in PR or marketing. You can join an agency or company straight from school and learn on the job, and rise up the profession quite happily.

However that doesn’t mean that degrees and diplomas are worthless, but you need to consider four factors before spending your hard-earned (or in the case of degrees borrowed) cash.

1.  Do I know what I want to do?

A lot of people have only vague ideas about their career when they leave school, which is absolutely fine. Therefore if you are going to do a PR or marketing degree be very sure that you understand what it entails and that it is something you want to do. Read up on the subject, and try and get some work experience so that you can see what it actually entails. Otherwise you’ll spend your money on a specialist degree that might not be relevant to your final career plans.

2.  Will it help me learn new skills?

Many client-side marketers work in small teams, or even as the sole marketing person in their company. So, the ability to learn on the job is therefore limited by the experience and knowledge of the people around you. Consequently, it is a good idea to investigate courses that can give you specific skills that will mean you can perform better. This is particularly true at the moment – marketing is undergoing a transformation, driven by digital technologies, which mean that even the most experienced traditional marketers need to learn new techniques.

3.  Will it get me promoted/a new job?

The other problem with on the job training is that you may not automatically learn the management and strategy skills you need to take the step up to the next level. The best way to address this is to persuade your employer to fund a training course – but think laterally here. I did a Marketing Diploma, rather than a PR qualification, as it gave the chance to widen my skills and get a better understanding of the wider marketing discipline. If you are also looking to move on, a qualification combined with experience can increase your chances of getting your dream job.

4.  Will it help me build a network?

Business has always been about who you know, and it is never too early to start building a network of industry colleagues, potential employers and potential employees. If you ever want to set up your own agency, a comprehensive network is a must, both for direct business and for referrals. Going on a PR or marketing course puts you in contact with likeminded individuals who you can share experiences with, and also potentially be useful for your future career.

Marketing qualifications require considerable investment, of both time and money. Therefore before you open your wallet and give up your weekends, ask yourself the four questions above and then make your decision.

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