Top 5 College Majors for Internet Marketers – Since They Don’t Teach This Stuff in School

May 6, 2008 - Written by Gyutae Park  

Think back (or forward) to your college days. What did you get out of the experience? Has it shaped you to be the best Internet marketer you can be? The Internet is still extremely young and many people don’t understand the economy of the web and how industries like SEO and online advertising work. There are no courses in any of the top universities covering Internet marketing and yet businesses online are growing at a rapid rate. When will the US schooling system catch up?

I’ve always had an interest for the Internet, from my first chat room on AOL to this very blog where I discuss some of my online projects. However, the fact of the matter is that everything I know in the realm of SEO and Internet marketing was self taught on my own time. No classroom teacher ever taught me anything on the subject. In fact, I’d be surprised if they know what any of this stuff means.

I graduated last year from Northwestern University with a degree in Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences. While the field helped me to develop an analytical mind and good business sense, it didn’t really guide me towards the kind of work I wanted to do online. Don’t get me wrong. I learned a ton in college and don’t regret any of it. I think I gained a comprehensive education that has helped to shape me into be the person I am today. However, I was always itching to get online – and university life never satisfied me in that way.

The problem with teaching courses about Internet marketing, SEO, and online business in general is that everything is so fast-changing. The curriculum would constantly have to be changed and degrees would quickly become obsolete. While the laws of physics stay relatively constant, Google’s search algorithm changes in a matter of days.

I don’t blame schools for ignoring the Internet industry, but that doesn’t solve the problem at all. Online marketing is a booming industry that needs attention in the education system. I was lucky enough to stumble upon it independently, but most students will go through college oblivious to a career online.

Looking back, there are 5 college majors that I think would be beneficial for anyone looking to pursue a career online – either for a company or as an entrepreneur. Obviously these don’t directly relate to Internet marketing but I think the knowledge and experience gained in these fields can help set a solid foundation for the industry.

1. Computer Science / Programming
There have been countless occasions where I would think of new website ideas, only to be set back by my own programming limitations. I started off college as a Computer Science major but later decided that it wasn’t for me. It takes a special someone to become a superstar coder, but if you have the opportunity, I definitely recommend you get some programming experience. The Internet runs on a variety of technologies – the more you know, the easier it will be for you to excel.

2. Business / Marketing
Obviously a career in Internet marketing requires an in depth understanding of business and general marketing concepts. While I did learn a lot of things through trial and error and good old fashioned experience, classroom learning on the subject provides a solid foundation and great background information for further progress. If you have no interest in programming, a business or marketing degree is probably the next best thing.

3. Engineering / Math
I don’t know about you, but I hate math (I break the Asian stereotype I know). Nevertheless, a math or engineering degree will help you to develop an analytical mind that is instrumental for constructing complex online systems – say for example building a little search engine called Google.

4. Writing
Blogs have really taken off over the past couple of years and quality content is what separates the successful sites from the failures. An ability to write creatively and quickly while clearly conveying messages is a tremendous asset to have online. A writing degree in college isn’t considered the most lucrative in terms of job prospects, but it’s definitely an important skill for independent webmasters.

5. Design
Likewise, there is always a demand for good design online. If you’re the artsy type and want to take your work to the web, an art or design degree might not be a bad idea. If you need inspiration, David Airey is a logo designer who does very well for himself selling design services online.

Do what you love to do
Finally and above all, find something that you are passionate about and genuinely love to do. If you go the programming route only because it has the most potential, you may find yourself hating life and rethinking your career later on. Save yourself the trouble and agony and study something that you are actually interested in.

Ultimately, it’s not really about what you study in college that will set your paths online. If you have the drive and the motivation to learn Internet marketing on your own, no college degree will matter. The ones listed above are merely just some suggestions that will help you to develop the background and the skills that are useful for Internet marketers to have.

Internet marketers, what did you study in college or what are your planning on majoring in? Vote in the poll and leave a comment. I’d love to see the results.

Internet Marketers: What was/is your college major?

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38 Responses to “Top 5 College Majors for Internet Marketers – Since They Don’t Teach This Stuff in School”

Alejandro Reyes on May 6th, 2008

I went to college for 2 weeks & make more money than most of all my friend that have degrees…

I think college is great man – but what’s even better for folks IMO is to find a mentor, and start taking action now.

The best thing about school is the ability to have disciple in doing homework etc, meeting deadlines, and the biggest – NETWORKING and meeting people.

Gyutae Park on May 6th, 2008

I think college is great for people who are not yet sure about what they want to pursue as a career. If you know that you want to work as an Internet entrepreneur, then you’re right – having a mentor and learning through experience is probably your best bet.

Also, I can safely say that I probably learned more about life in college than I did about any subject through text books. For that reason alone, I’d say college is worth it.

 
 
Peter Davis on May 6th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

I would think that psychology would be most useful, as much of it is trying to manipulate people into doing what you want them to do.

Gyutae Park on May 6th, 2008

Hey Peter, thanks for stopping by. I agree that psychology is a great field that enables you to study how people think and act. However, job prospects for psychology majors are usually poor. You can usually learn the same things as most psych majors by studying marketing/sales.

 
 
David Airey on May 6th, 2008

Very kind of you to mention me here, Gyutae. Thanks for that.

Gyutae Park on May 6th, 2008

Hey David,
No problem. I’ve heard a lot of great things about you and your work. Perhaps I’ll contact you with some projects in the near future.

David Airey on May 7th, 2008

It’d be a pleasure to work with you, Gyutae. Get in touch anytime if you have any questions.

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Kacper on May 6th, 2008

I studied computer science, but today I think I would choose Marketing/Finance.

Gyutae Park on May 6th, 2008

Hey Kacper,
What’s your reasoning behind the change? What do you think a marketing degree would have provided that your CS one doesn’t?

 
 
Vivian on May 6th, 2008

I studied communications/marketing and it’s been pretty useful to me. I think computer science would’ve been a good major, but what I know, I pretty much taught myself.

I’d have to say that basically any major that requires research and writing creatively and analytically is useful in Internet marketing, since the industry is constantly changing, and we need to be able to interpret and read trends.

BTW, I’m also an NU alumni SEO’er. :)

Gyutae Park on May 6th, 2008

Another NU alum… great to meet you! I’d love to get in touch and discuss some of the things you’re doing. Contact me via email if you get the chance.

You’re right though. An ideal person for Internet marketing is someone who has the research/analytical mindset. A college major can help someone develop this but it’s not necessarily the sole cause.

 
 
Todd Mintz on May 6th, 2008

Your major is far less important than your ability to think & perceive. Any of the “liberal arts” IMO would be good training for the web, but it’s your post-degree actions and attitude that will determine your success.

Gyutae Park on May 6th, 2008

Hey Todd,
I always notice you on Sphinn – great to have you here. I totally agree with what you said. It’s not necessarily what you study but rather what drives you to study and how you do it.

 
 
MarketingDeviant on May 6th, 2008

Would be nice if colleges start offering online entrepreneurship majors =D.

Gyutae Park on May 6th, 2008

I took a few entrepreneurship classes at Northwestern, but none of them really focused on the online aspects. Regardless, I think most of the offline business concepts apply online so it doesn’t make too much of a difference.

 
 
web2.0 on your own on May 6th, 2008

hey mate, you are right ! I’m waiting for this speech for quite a long time. I do my Marketing degree in my uni in HK, it neglects the function and effectiveness of web 2.0 in terms of Marketing.

Gyutae Park on May 6th, 2008

Web 2.0 is so new that it’s not really feasible for universities to incorporate it into their curriculums. Learning about marketing in general is definitely enough to chew on in college.

 
 
Wisdom on May 6th, 2008

I like math, I’m surprised you chose an engineering degree if you dislike math.

 
Gyutae Park on May 6th, 2008

Haha, yeah I got by but math definitely is not my forte. I like Industrial Engineering mainly because it was a good mix of technical skills and business/marketing concepts.

 
Furniture on May 8th, 2008

Thanks for the info
i am also willing to do a short internet marketing course.

Gyutae Park on May 13th, 2008

If you’re interested in Internet marketing courses I would recommend the following:

SEOmoz Pro
SEO Book Training
Teaching Sells

 
 
Flimjo on May 8th, 2008

Great post. They really don’t teach anything of value in school. Posts like these provide guidelines for people who actually want to make it online.

Gyutae Park on May 13th, 2008

Well I wouldn’t say that schools don’t teach anything of value, but people who want to work on their own online can definitely afford to take a different route in college.

 
 
Jay on May 8th, 2008

I graduated from Northeastern University with a Journalism and Communication Studies degree. Though, I’ve taken some classes at Harvard University but all the technical stuff like html, design work I do, internet stuff is all self taught.

Honestly, I wanted to do advertising since high school but things went a different way in my life. Plus, you’re right, it doesn’t matter what you major in college cause a majority of the time you’re not going to be working in that career field anyways.

And don’t worry man, I hate math too. There’s a reason why I did journalism and communications lol… no math!

Jay

Gyutae Park on May 26th, 2008

Hey man,
Good stuff. Boston is an awesome college town and I’m sure you had a chance to explore all of your interests at Northeastern. How has the Journalism degree helped you with your blogging and online marketing? There are definitely some crossovers there.

 
 
Derp on May 17th, 2008

I don’t consider CS a vital major in this field. I’m not a CS major, but I’ve been coding for a decade, and while I *could* implement most of the ideas I have, I just can’t sell them. I can’t sell myself, and if I had to start college over, I would definitely take marketing classes. Economy and statistics help too.

Programming can be outsourced, but not the ability to manage, or to sell.

Gyutae Park on May 26th, 2008

I think I’m the opposite of you. I learn marketing and selling through experience but programming has to be forced upon me, or else I just won’t be able to do it.

I definitely agree with your last point though. Programming rates in India are extremely cheap, but no outsourcing can help you think up ideas and make them work.

 
 
Collin LaHay on May 19th, 2008

I don’t start my first semester at the University of Wisconsin until this Fall, however it will be Business/Marketing.

Gyutae Park on May 26th, 2008

Great school. Good luck! All your blogging and Internet marketing experience will definitely give you a head start in your classes. I found it very useful when I could apply what I was learning in class to my own independent projects.

 
 
Online Communities on May 26th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

I decided to go back to school at the age of 25 for a degree in Internet & E-Business. In fact, I have my final exams this week then I am done (surely this means I should be studying right now… oops!).

I think overall, the experience has been useful – and there were some classes (such as Internet Marketing Management) that were highly relevant. University can give you good grounding in theoretical approaches, but nothing beats real life experience.

- Martin Reed

Gyutae Park on May 26th, 2008

Hey Martin,
Thanks for procrastinating and stopping by here. :)

What school do you go to? Internet and E-Business majors are hard to come by.

Theory is all good, but when all is said and done, you have to apply them to real life. Thanks for sharing.

Online Communities on May 27th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

It’s a school in the UK; quite a few over here are offering degrees in E-Business, E-Commerce and even E-Marketing is now cropping up. The problem is, the field moves so fast that unless your lecturers are directly involved in these areas, they will inevitable teach out of date information.

- Martin Reed

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Roy Phay on May 30th, 2008

Hi Gyutae,

Thank you+E82 for sharing your knowledge and experience! I’m always looking for ways to improve myself and I’m glad to have found your blog. Thank you for sharing with us.

Cheers,
Roy

 
Amani on June 4th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

Hey,

I have no idea what college major I should choose(I was sure a week ago, and a month before that,but I’m so flaky I always change my mind). I’m a people person, I love English Literature (it’s mainly the major I keep thinking of) and theatre. The thing is people keep telling me I’ll end up being a teacher if I go for English (Well, I tutor and I’m quite good at it:P But still I don’t want to end up being a teacher!). I just want to know what my options are if I study English, considering that I aspire to get a graduate degree (whatever that may be!). If anyone can help me out, I’d really appreciate it!!!

Thank you! :)

 
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