There are plenty of benefits to becoming a Google Ads specialist right now:

  • A skillset that’s in demand, both locally and globally
  • An average salary of up to $75k (according to Glassdoor)
  • Plenty of opportunities for full-time, part-time, and freelance work
  • Often, the ability to work from anywhere, at times that suit you

But it’s hard to know where to start. While Google has designed their advertising platform so it can be used by non-specialists and business owners, you’ll need a higher level of expertise if you want a job creating and managing Google Ads campaigns.

In fact, most recruiters and hiring companies are looking for people who have an official Google Ads Certification on their resume. Getting this certification is typically the first step towards building a lucrative career in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. In total, there are eleven certifications on offer—including the following five popular ones:

  • Google Ads Search Certification (for search campaigns)
  • Google Ads Display Certification (for Display ads)
  • Google Ads Video Certification
  • Shopping Ads Certification (for eCommerce sites)
  • Google Ads Apps Certification

In this post, we’ll focus on how you can get the Google Ads Search Certification—the one that qualifies you to run paid search ads. This certification sets you up nicely for a career in online advertising, and many specialists proceed to add the other qualifications to their resume after prioritizing this one.


What’s the best way to get an entry-level certification for Google Ads? In this post, we’ll look at the pros and cons of two different routes you can take to becoming a Google Ads specialist:

  1. Self-directed learning, involving an independent, isolated study schedule.
  2. Guided learning, including our own training community, Climb Hire—plus two other options: community college and e-learning tutorials.

First, let’s briefly review what you’ll need to learn in order to become a Google Search Ads expert. The key Google Ads skills you’ll need to develop include:

  • Keyword research, using Google’s Keyword Planner to determine which keywords are worth including in your campaigns to reach your target audience.
  • Campaign setup, including building ads, ad groups, and campaigns from the ground up using your keyword research data and knowledge of your target market.
  • Execution and mastery of bidding strategies, remarketing, landing pages, and all of the most important tactics needed for successful search campaigns.
  • Measurement, assessing campaign performance metrics—from the conversion rate of specific keywords and ads to how your campaign impacts broader marketing objectives.
  • Optimization, including optimizing ad spend, tweaking ad copy and ad formats, adding negative keywords, and many more tactics that can get you better results.

(Note: It also helps to build your knowledge about how Google Ads fits in with the wider world of digital marketing strategy, because you’ll definitely be working alongside SEO specialists, social media marketers, and other stakeholders to deliver successful campaigns.)


There are plenty of articles out there telling you how to pass the Google Ads exams by yourself, but they’re rarely useful. This one, for example, gives you some not-so-helpful advice, including:

  • Choose the certification
  • Study the material
  • Practice
  • Take the exam

Thanks for nothing!

It’s certainly possible to do this yourself. The Google Ads exams are provided free of charge (by Google Skillshop), meaning if you can source all the learning materials you need and prioritize your studying effectively, it’s feasible to get your certifications without any support.

The main benefit is complete flexibility around when, how, and where you learn.

But the downsides of self-directed learning outweigh the upsides, especially if you’re aiming to enter the jobs market as a Google Ads specialist:

  • Self-directed learning can be really hard. We all know the basic steps: choose the right certification, study the material, and practice before taking an exam. The hard part is staying motivated and focused through the whole process.
  • For many people, accountability is one of the biggest drivers for effective learning. If you study alone, there’s nobody else to answer to. Understandably, self-imposed deadlines tend to change on a whim. Life always gets in the way.
  • On the flip-side, it’s hard to know when you’ve done enough studying and you’re ready to tackle the exam questions unless you have a reference point.
  • While the exams themselves are free, not all the study material is. Google Skillshop does offer basic preparatory courses and knowledge checklists for free, but the most helpful hands-on information will be behind paywalls.
  • You can’t play around in the Google Ads platform properly without spending real dollars. There’s no such thing as a “training account”, so you’re liable to be suspended or completely banned by Google if you’re not doing any real advertising.
  • Frankly, it’s less fun to learn without a community, and you won’t build up a network of fellow learners/graduates around you. You’ll be alone as you begin your job hunt, and the lack of connections in your field will put you at a real disadvantage.

If you prefer to learn Google Ads without the help of others, self-directed learning is definitely possible. But as we’ll explain next, we think that guided learning is a much more effective route.


Guided learning can offer you the benefits of:

  • Accountability
  • Community and network
  • Efficiency (i.e. learning what you need to know)
  • Additional soft skills

There are three routes you can take to learn Google Search Ads with guidance. First, we want to introduce our own PPC training program at Climb Hire. We’ll then look at two alternative options—community college and online-only tutorials.


Climb Hire is a non-profit organization dedicated to preparing low-income and overlooked working adults for a career in tech.

Over 80% of Climbers secured new roles within 6 months of finishing the program. On average, their income doubled—from $24k to a $50k+ salary—after graduating and starting a new tech role.

But what makes Climb Hire unique?

  • Zero upfront cost (honestly, zero!) due to our pay-as-you-climb model. You only pay once you’ve graduated and start to earn more than $40k (or $47k in California).
  • Help with landing a role. You don’t just get a certification, you get taught the skills you need for tech industry job applications, interviews, and more. Plus, you’ll get real-life experience through our networking events and mock interviews with industry professionals.
  • You get full access to our supportive community of Climbers who provide helpful advice and share job opportunities. (Actually, 77% say this is one of the biggest advantages.) Plus, continued access to our vibrant alumni network.
  • You always get an official, recognized qualification. In the case of our Paid Search Marketing Program, you get the Google Ads Search Certification and you’ll also graduate as a Meta Certified Digital Marketing Associate. Recruiters love these.

Before Climb Hire, Dominick Brakefield was working a variety of different jobs, but wanted to learn and develop skills that would benefit him in the future. But he didn’t have a professional network to guide him. After graduating, Dominick got a technical role at Checkr.

“Climb Hire was able to connect me with this opportunity. They really helped keep me motivated and also helped me build the confidence I needed to land that awesome dream job.”


You’ll graduate from our 4-month Paid Search Marketing Program with:

  • Two globally-recognized certifications—the Google Ads Search Certification and the Meta Certified Digital Marketing Associate certification.
  • Familiarity with broad digital marketing principles, strategy, and analytical approaches. Plus, expertise in search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, and, of course, paid search marketing (Google Ads). (Note: You can check out the syllabus preview here)
  • “Soft skills” for approaching job applications, interviews, and getting started with your career as a Google Ads specialist. Every Climber gets matched with a Career Development Advisor, who helps build a resume, write cover letters, and much more.
  • Introductions to partner employers who collaborate with Climb Hire to recruit the best entry-level talent. While we don’t guarantee you a job, Google Ads experts are in high demand—and our community is constantly sharing job opportunities.

Climb Hire is a remote learning platform (although our HQ is in California). Climbers are grouped into online learning “pods”—giving you authentic connections and opportunities to meaningfully engage with, learn from, and build relationships with your classmates.

To join our Paid Search Marketing Program, you just need to apply via our website. After sending in your application, you’ll be contacted for a 30-minute interview with someone from our admissions team. If it looks like a good mutual fit, we’ll extend an offer and you can begin your 4-month program with the next cohort. It’s that simple. (And remember, it’s totally free until you get a new role and start earning more than $40k—or $47k in California.)


Community college is often a great option for people who want to boost their education as an adult and learn fresh skills for a new career. There are around 1,000 community colleges dotted all around the U.S.—so there’s probably one within a short distance of your home.

The benefits of community college include:

  • Lower tuition fees when compared to universities, especially for in-state students
  • A relatively open admissions policy, with usually just a high school diploma required
  • The chance to work alongside fellow students and be guided by experienced tutors
  • Some flexibility in your schedule, including evening and weekend classes

But there are downsides, especially if you’re hoping to become a Google Ads specialist:

  • You’re limited to the choice in your immediate local area, and not all community colleges offer Google Ads-specific courses. It’s more common for these institutions to run general digital marketing courses, which are still valuable—but not geared towards paid search in particular. And many community colleges don’t even offer these.
  • According to the Education Data Initiative, tuition alone for in-district community college attendance averages $4,110. And for out-of-state students, the average community college tuition goes up to $9,690. While these costs are lower than other types of higher education institutions, it’s still a lot of money to fork out in advance. (With Climb Hire, you pay nothing upfront.)
  • While community colleges do provide career advice, there’s little in the way of specialist support. So if you’re aiming to get a job as a Google Ads professional, the college is unlikely to have detailed advice about how to get into the industry.
  • Colleges have no real stake in getting you a job. (Remember, it’s always in Climb Hire’s interest to help you get recruited—because we only get paid for the training when you start earning above a certain amount. There’s no such incentive for community colleges.)


If you search for “Google Ads online course” you’ll be served more than 500 million results. There are a lot of these courses out there, which means it’s hard to choose the best one for you.

Online courses are actually a half-way-house between guided and independent learning. You’ll usually run through the course yourself, but you’ll benefit from the structure of the learning material, exercises, and homework tasks. And you’ll have flexibility to work at your own pace at the same time.

There are three main types of online-only Google Ads courses:

  • Mixed-material courses, where you get access to an online learning platform containing what you need to pass the certification exam—documents, videos, and more. Often these platforms (and/or mobile apps) will have built-in exercises that take you through the curriculum. The downside, again, is that there’s no community—and you won’t get any help with finding a job in Google Ads after you complete the course.
  • Video-only courses for beginners, where you follow instructions and take notes from an expert who presents Google Ads tips through video. You can actually find some of these for free on YouTube. While these videos can be a useful way to learn new tactics, you’ll need more structure than this to be certain of passing your Google Ads exam.
  • Online private tutors, who take you through what you need to learn in order to pass the certification exam. The benefit here is accountability—you need to do your work, otherwise your session will be a waste of time and money. (Speaking of money, tutors can be pretty expensive, and costs are upfront, too). While this accountability is helpful, you won’t have the advantage of a learning community and you won’t be part of a network that can help you get employed after graduating.

Whichever sounds like the best learning option for you, it’ll be hard to wade through the thousands of options to determine which course will get you over the line.


Whether you’re looking for an in-house Google Ads role or you’d prefer working at a marketing agency, getting certified is a crucial first step. Recruiters are on the hunt for specialists who can prove they understand the fundamentals, and the Google Ads certifications show exactly that.

Guided training, among a community of like-minded learners, will give you the very best learning experience. Coupled with career advice, job opportunities, and ongoing membership of a vibrant alumni network, Climb Hire has been the ideal route for hundreds of talented, determined people to break into tech. The benefits are clear:

  • No upfront costs whatsoever
  • 80% of graduates secure new roles within 6 months
  • $26k average income boost after graduating
  • $50k+ average starting income

Apply today, and get started on your journey to becoming a Google Ads specialist.

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