It seems like every time you turn around, another college or university is unveiling a program in Digital Marketing and Social Media. Someone thinks these courses are a great idea. But does that mean that your company should require its Social Media Manager to hold one of these degrees? The buzz among proven social media experts offers up a resounding “no.”

The vast majority of these industry movers and shakers achieved success without the benefit of a Social Media Degree–a fact which, in itself, seems to support their claims. Their own successes aside, however, these experts do offer up a barrage of other reasons in support of their stance.

The Problems with Social Media Degrees

Here are a handful of the problems associated with a Degree in Social Media.

• Lack of clout. While these courses are becoming more prevalent, they do not carry the same prestige as other degrees such as an MBA. Plus, they require a significant investment of time and money.

• Expiration date. One of the biggest flaws of these degree programs is the speed at which a formal education will become outdated. Social Media changes at a “blink and you’ll miss it” pace, which means that much of your employee’s knowledge will become obsolete before they even graduate.

• The field is results-driven. While it is nice to have some theoretical knowledge, the fact remains that employers need Social Media Managers that have real-world experience. When presented with two applicants–one with a fancy degree and another with actual experience at achieving goals–you are best to choose the one who has proven that they can do the job.

• Many skills are innate. Social Media Managers must possess some innate qualities that cannot be taught. Ideally, he or she should be a people person with a healthy sense of humor, a high level of creativity, the ability to think on his or her feet, a relatively thick skin, and natural leadership skills. While these qualities can be cultivated and improved upon, they are largely traits that people are born with.

Alternative Courses of Study

Industry leaders do, however, recognize the value of learning and offer up several substitutes for a degree in Social Media.

• Timeless Education. Rather than pursue a degree that focuses on knowledge that becomes stale-dated, you may wish to have your employee pursue a program that imparts skills that don’t expire. Courses in accounting, finance, and business strategies will always be relevant, for example.

• Internships. The experts all agree that the best way to learn is to get down in the mud and do the job. An internship–even an unpaid one–will give potential employees valuable experience, beef up their resumes, and you may even find the candidate of your dreams. If you don’t offer internships, enable interested parties to volunteer.

• Condensed programs. Some educational institutions now offer short programs of study that lead to certification in the Social Media field. A few prime examples include the University of San Francisco’s Online Master Certificate in Internet Marketing; Rutgers University’s Social Media Marketing Certificate program; and UC Irvine Extension’s social media certification program at which Debbie is an instructor.

• Self-teaching. The internet is a wealth of information. With e-books, blogs, articles, YouTube videos, iTunes U, and much more, an employee can teach themselves a great deal about social media and marketing. Gaining mastery over social media platforms is free–not to mention fun.

And, thanks to mobile devices, they can engage in learning anywhere, anytime. If you’d like to learn how to use mobile devices to study check out Mobile Devices: The Next Step in Online Learning.

The truth is that not all degree are created equal. Some are greatly coveted, while others aren’t worth the paper they are printed on. According to the majority of the industry’s experts, a Social Media degree is the latter. You want a Social Media Manager who will roll up their sleeves, get down and dirty, and get the job done.

How did you prepare for your job as a Social Media Manager?

This post was contributed by Kimberley Laws, a  freelance writer, illustrator, and avid blogger. You can follow her neurotic and OCD ramblings at The Embiggens Project and Searching for Barry Weiss.

Image courtesy of photos.com.

Guest Contributor
SocialHospitality.com publishes guest posts from entrepreneurs, small business owners, and business writers. To learn more about how to become a guest writer, visit our guest post guidelines.