July 15, 2021
Editor’s Note: Can’t decide which marketing certification is best for your career? Read our latest post and learn what some digital marketers say are the 3 best marketing certifications to advance your career.
Marketing jobs: It’s a great time to have one.
You get a lot of autonomy, great benefits, and you can actually measure the impact of your work on the business you’re promoting.
Marketing is becoming ever more measurable. With measurability comes accountability. Accountability leads to a meritocracy, where the best rise to the top regardless of how good they look in a suit.
I hear complaints from fellow entrepreneurs and hiring managers all the time – they say it’s getting almost as difficult to find good marketers as it is to find good developers.
I think the problem is actually worse with marketing. Unlike software development, where most unqualified people have the decency to give up or go to bootcamps to brush up on their skills, marketers have no shame. They will apply for literally any job, no matter how unqualified.
But say you wanted to get “qualified” …what would you do?
There’s no equivalent of a medical board, CFA qualification, or the bar exam for marketing. Most of the top people in marketing don’t have a marketing degree (shocking, right?). New techniques come out every week and old ones stop working (radio ads, anyone?). Online courses are more up to date and relevant, but there are thousands to choose from. It seems like these days every half-baked platform is offering a certification as a shady marketing ploy.
The tough question to answer, then, is this: Which certifications are the good ones? What certifications should you get to land that marketing job?
There’s no good answer, but in Ladder we’ve hired 71 marketers in the past 5 years, so I’ll give you my answer. These are the certifications we look for on the resumes of prospective marketing hires:
I don’t care if you never run any paid advertising. This course will teach you how to think about marketing. You’ll learn how to find out what people are searching for, how to write good ad copy, how A/B testing works, how to track and report on performance.
I get excited when I see this on your resume. I’d trust a marketer who understands Google Ads with any other marketing channel because they are noticeably better at systematic thinking. This course was mandatory in the first job of one of our co-founders: you got fired if you didn’t pass in the first 90 days. That company got acquired by Adobe for $350m.
Estimated time to acquire: 4-5h
>> Learn more
This course will help you get promoted. Seriously. Once you know how things are performing, you can do more of the good stuff, and less of the bad stuff. Then tell your boss (who doesn’t know how to use Google Analytics) about all the awesome stuff you did, with a big fat dollar amount next to it. Knowledge is power.
This course gets pretty technical. Most marketers aren’t. If you have this qualification, I immediately respect you. Unfortunately, you’ll have to get used to everyone pestering you to pull reports for them because they don’t know how. A good way to make friends and influence people.
Estimated time to acquire: 4-5h
This is probably the most well-rounded growth marketing certificate you can obtain on the Internet.
The range of topics is incredibly broad and includes courses like creating a marketing plan and a growth process & strategy, through channel-specific topics like Facebook, Google, and Linkedin ads, while also teaching you the basics of CRO & A/B testing.
We strongly recommend all Ladder’s specialists to take this certificate. All of the courses, that need to be passed to acquire this certificate are taught by the experts in a certain field, which makes it great to develop your skills – even if you think you possess advanced knowledge in a certain topic.
Be aware tho, that acquiring this certificate is no joke. You’ll have to be ready to commit more than 120 hours to pass it, with a test consisting of 75 demanding questions at the end. Only for serious players.
Estimated time to acquire: 120-150h
Price: $899 upfront, or from $199 a month
Why chase your customers, when you can make them come to you? That’s a powerful concept. HubSpot pioneered ‘Inbound marketing’, and they’re worth $1.88 billion, so it’s worth listening to them. Blogging, Social Media, Landing pages and Email: this is what a well-rounded education looks like.
This is definitely a much easier course than Adwords and Analytics, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable. This is the most practically applicable course because you don’t need any money to do Inbound marketing. Perfect for marketers on small budgets.
Estimated time to acquire certificate: 2-3h
The one thing about growing a company through inbound… it’s slow. The fastest way? Facebook ads. Start by reaching thousands of people for a couple bucks and only scale it up if it works for you. The sky is the limit; over 1.73 billion people use Facebook daily – and the whole Facebook advertising ecosystem (that consists of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger) is used by more than 3 billion users around the globe.
The amazing thing about Facebook Ads is the ability to learn quickly, thanks to its advanced machine learning algorithms. You can test exactly what audiences (the targeting is super creepy by the way), value propositions and creative designs work the best. Even better, with all the extra traffic you’re driving, you can speed up learning on conversion, referral and retention tests too.
Estimated time to acquire certificate: 4-8h
One day you’ll come to realize that the World is run by people in suits using Microsoft Excel. Be one of those people and you too can rule the World. Seriously, something like 95% of the ‘advanced analysis’ I’ve done has been in Excel and it’s crucial for building campaigns too.
This is so important that we force everyone who applies to work at Ladder to complete a 1-hour excel test before they even qualify for an interview. That test has an 85% failure rate (even among more senior marketers). VLOOKUP and Pivot Tables are your new best friends, get acquainted.
Estimated time to acquire certificate: 8-10h
Here’s the thing – while excel is great for analyzing marketing data, it can only get you so far. Plus, more advanced use cases tend to be pretty time-consuming.
Solution? The most flexible (and popular) data-analyzing programming language around – Python.
While learning to code might sound scary, through Python automation and analysis, you can save hundreds of hours per year and vastly improve your productivity. Plus being able to code is just cool.
If you’re working in marketing space, the best way for you to start would be probably a course created by Ladder.io co-founder, and Ex COO, Michael Taylor. He’s an amazing marketing data analyst and Python practitioner.
The whole course curriculum was created specifically for digital marketers’ needs, to help you automate and replace Excel almost entirely while giving you a headstart into the world of coding.
Estimated time to acquire certificate: 7-12h
Price: $99 $49.50 with special code for Ladder readers “LADDER”
Brian Balfour: ex-VP of Growth @ Hubspot
Andrew Chen: ex-Growth @ Uber
Bangaly Kaba: ex-Head of Growth @ Instagram
These are only few names of people involved in creating the Reforge program. While a lot of courses claim to be created “experts” in the respective field, Reforge is different. They don’t give a heck about specialists and self-proclaimed experts – they simply let you learn from the superstars of growth.
The Reforge Growth Series is the most advanced growth marketing certification you can take on the Internet. The curriculum includes acquisition, referral & retention, growth models, user psychology & experiments. After finishing it, you should be able to implement a complete growth process into your organization.
However, be aware that this is a closed program. You’ll have to be able to document at least 3+ years of work experience and get referrals from the industry practitioners prior to applying.
Estimated time to acquire certificate: 30-60h
Believe it or not, but if you’re good at Excel, you’re pretty close to being able to code. And if you can code, you can do wondrous things. Add tracking to your website, make changes to landing pages, editing email designs; knowing a little bit of code can save you a lot of time, effort and money.
Once you know how websites are put together, you’ll be much more comfortable making SEO, conversion and retention recommendations. You’ll also be better at figuring out what’s wrong with your analytics tracking (a timeless skill). Plus being able to code is just cool.
Estimated time to acquire certificate: 300+h
Price: from $19.99 / month
A big part of marketing is having an eye for design. If you can make visually appealing ads, websites and emails, you’ll go far. This course will also help you with data visualization, which is crucial in getting your growth team and decision-makers on the same page.
Even if it’s not you doing the designing, you will still spend an inordinate amount of time approving the designs of others. Don’t be ‘that guy’. Educate yourself.
The good thing is that you don’t need to go to art school or spend any time in hipster coffee shops. It’s really quite simple to nail the basics and tools like Canva make it easy to produce professional quality designs, even if your teacher told you in school that you weren’t the ‘creative type’.
Estimated time to acquire certificate: Varies based on course
A lot of our hires have come from Startup Institute or General Assembly. We teach courses at Startup Institute in New York. Our entire team is deeply ingrained into the Startup Institute ecosystem, and we’re slowly doing the same with General Assembly.
A few reasons:
This doesn’t just apply to Startup Institute and General Assembly, but to all bootcamps that focus on training people for the type of environment we thrive in. We work with startups and large businesses with the kind of lean methodology these bootcamps teach, so it only makes sense that we understand the value of an SI/GA graduation certificate.
Google Tag Manager is one of the most important tools we use every single day with clients and for Ladder. It’s the single unifying tool that enables us to use a bunch of different portions of our marketing tech stack without having to manually change website code.
Google Tag Manager (GTM) allows you to add all the different scripts and tags needed for things like Google Ads conversion tracking, Facebook Pixels, tools like VWO, and much, much more. All of this is done with just a single script added to a website, enabling you to easily add and run all other tags via GTM’s user interface.
Any candidate that has gone through the Google Tag Manager Fundamentals course immediately signals that they understand the need for optimizing the way tech and advertising tools are implemented onto a website. They’ve learned how to use GTM and gone through examples on setting up tools and scripts with Tag Manager. That’s one bit of training that helps immensely during our onboarding week.
If you want to become a more technical marketer, without learning code, this is a professional marketing certificate you should definitely start with.
Estimated time to acquire certificate: 4-6h
Thinking in terms of funnels and value-optimization is the key to creating a successful growth strategy in 2020. As the CPM’s and CPC’s rise, plus the digital advertising space gets more crowded, acquiring a ROI through a single-step acquisition strategy had become harder than ever.
That’s why it’s so important to work on increasing the value of new customers, rather than just on increasing their quantity.
This course helps you to do exactly that – craft a marketing funnel strategy focused on value, by constantly working on warming-up your leads, by using paid ads, e-mail and advanced retargeting and up-selling strategies. The cool thing is that the whole approach is based on the learnings from behavioral psychology, so it helps you better understand your customers’ behavior in general.
Estimated time to acquire certificate: 7-9h
This can be anything from learning SQL so you can pull custom data queries from your advanced analytics tool of choice (Mode Analytics, for example) to learning Bootstrap and Angular, two common frameworks on which many web apps are built.
Being able to at least understand the underlying code that makes an app run is invaluable for understanding how marketing campaigns can be informed by the product you’re trying to promote.
Estimated time to acquire certificate: Depending on a skill level and course
While we typically err on the side of paid social media marketing, it’s important to also understand the marketing fundamentals behind each of the top social platforms, from Facebook and Twitter, to LinkedIn to Pinterest. Being knowledgeable in the use of these platforms from a marketing perspective will help you become better at targeting audiences and advertising to them. So even if you never end up running an organic social media campaign, you’ll still find a lot of value in the HootSuite training program.
Estimated time to acquire certificate: 3-6h
Price: depends on course, starts from $99
That’s it: our shortlist of the qualifications we truly respect. There are of course plenty of other courses out there, many of them good. Maybe some of them are better than these courses.
But really it’s not worth wasting your time going overboard with these. Certifications can help, but they’re just a start. The real juicy tricks, tips and techniques can only be learned by doing.
So get this out of the way and convince someone to let you run real campaigns for them. That’s when the magic starts to happen.
Don’t bother putting this on your resume, but read this:
This process is how all the best marketers I know think about growing companies. Learn it. Internalize it. Use it. Win.
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