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Can You Break Into Advertising Without a Degree?

We live in an era of advanced technology, big opportunities, and an infinite number of ways to continue learning. Academia has long been fundamental in determining our career path yet the formula for a successful career has drastically changed especially in recent times. Now, with access to Google, Linkedin Learning, and YouTube—is pursuing higher education worth it? Are skills really more important than degrees? There’s been a shift in opinions about higher education, especially about relevancy, time, and financial commitment. 


That’s why we’ve boiled down the WHY, HOW, and WHERE of considering furthering your education to help you break into the marketing and advertising industry. Application season usually begins early fall and goes through late winter, so now is the perfect time to lay out your academic plan. 


When considering going back to school, the foremost question to ask yourself is why. Is your inner circle going back to get another degree and you feel as if you also need to? Have you been thinking for a while about making a career change?


First, you should consider if it’s the right time. List out the pro’s and con’s of returning to a classroom setting. Think about how pursuing an advanced degree or certification is going to impact your personal life. Some factors to consider are relocation and living arrangements, adjusting work life balance, juggling family responsibilities, and how a degree could help you advance in your career. Another degree or certification may not change anything depending on your career goals. 



Advertising is an excellent example of an industry where you can become successful with or without that special piece of paper. Or perhaps you just want to absorb knowledge and learn for the sake of learning. As curious individuals, we sometimes chase after academia and knowledge to run away from personal problems without knowing that we can chase simpler creative solutions for our itch to become great storytellers and problem solvers.


What are your career goals? Start by defining what you want to study. Brand advertising and digital marketing degrees are a great place to start, or if you want to tailor your studies, consider looking into niche programs like art direction or brand management. Getting an advanced degree or some form of certification in whichever study you choose will be time consuming and costly. It’s important to consider where you want to be long term and how going back to school will increase your earning potential. 

Perhaps you’ve spoken with mentors, recruiters, or ad industry leaders that have expressed that a certain degree is required or “kind-of” required in the sense that there are companies and brands that only hire people that have graduated from a certain school or program. These companies have a continuous pattern of hiring graduates from specific programs because recruiters know what students have been taught, who taught it to them, and their way of creative thinking and problem solving. Though don’t let this discourage you. Each company functions differently and there are an endless amount of great companies that bring in people based on attitude, drive, capabilities, and overall fit.

Begin researching advertising programs and their reputations, look for programs that are well-regarded, suggested, or even taken by employers you want to work for. Fire up LinkedIn and jot down where employees of your dream employer went to school. Take note of any certifications they may have and consider pursuing them. Research programs that have a strong track record of producing successful graduates and look where the graduates went off to work. Connect with these people (and professors) if you can.


For some, continuing education is non-negotiable depending on the field such as law or medicine, where a professional degree from an accredited education is required. But the marketing and advertising industry is a melting pot of many backgrounds, experiences, and academic titles. It’s made out of talented creative people with a genuine passion for art and stories, and that’ve found their place in the advertising space. None of these people came from the same place. Some obtained a masters from a renowned grad program and others broke their way in with a bootcamp certificate. There is no “right” way to break into the advertising industry. The ad space welcomes all pathways and doorways. It’s up to you which one you want to take. 

Bootcamps are a great way to break into the advertising industry. And fast. Bootcamps are an intensive short-term training program that teaches practical skills, a good option for going into content development or web design. Not to be confused with professional certifications, which are credentials that demonstrate your expertise in a particular area and are required for job titles such as estheticians and mechanics. 

Perhaps you’re not looking for a form of certification but you want to strengthen your copywriting skills or learn more about a certain topic like brand identity. Workshops and seminars are a more affordable and great way to grab a specific skill or pick up knowledge in a specific area. There are also free options like MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that are flexible and accessible to everyone. The opportunities don’t stop there. Discover advertising internships or apprenticeships where you can shadow experts and distill their expertise. 


So, can you break into the advertising industry without a degree? Yes.

Knowledge is not power until we unlock it ourselves. Ask yourself questions, explore your options, and re-evaluate your skill sets. Be well-versed in the opportunities around you. Education is everywhere we want it to be and what is important is growing our curiosity and passions. A degree could just be your ticket to a career you wouldn’t have ever imagined and yet the internet can get you to a similar place. 

At The King Agency, we value and acknowledge the importance of education and we pride ourselves in offering continuing education and professional enrichment opportunities to our employees. We’re an advertising agency where education is highly regarded no matter your background and experience. We support our employees by continuously encouraging professional memberships, reimbursement for conference attendances, and obtaining certifications that bolster their advertising career. 

We hope these insights are helpful to your academic journey. Everyone’s journey in advertising is different and that’s what makes us uniquely valuable. Everything we’ve learned and gained from our lived experiences has enabled all of us with different strengths, talents, and insights. Embrace your journey with pride and believe in yourself and your potential. 

The King Agency is an award-winning marketing agency offering a full suite of communications services including advertising, branding, digital, and strategic marketing, at any scale. Based in Richmond, Virginia, with offices in Atlanta and Virginia Beach, The King Agency has been helping turn businesses into award-winning brands for more than 25 years. To learn more visit thekingagency.com or email hello@thekingagency.com