There are some common myths about what it takes to break into a digital marketing career without experience. Here we dispel those, and tell you how to do it.

There are common misconceptions about what it takes to break into a digital marketing career:

  • Previous experience is always required.
  • Without a university degree, you will have trouble finding a job.
  • The field is too competitive for newcomers.

The truth is much more nuanced:

Yes, experience in digital marketing can be helpful for landing a job in the field. However, getting an entry-level digital marketing role doesn’t require the kind of formal experience you might imagine. Yes, proof that you’re educated in digital marketing skills is something recruiters are looking for in job candidates. But that proof doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of a four-year degree. And yes, digital marketing is a competitive industry—a quick search on LinkedIn shows ~700,000 people listed as digital marketers. But newcomers willing to invest time and energy into learning the skills will be competitive in the field.

The majority of online guides out there naively pretend that having no experience is no barrier at all. One article we read simply tells you to “build a portfolio” without actually specifying how, and most other articles fail to give you practical advice on how to overcome the experience gap.

That’s where we come in.

We’ll give you some actual guidance on how to enter into digital marketing without experience, and we’ll explain how our program in Paid Search Marketing (completely free to join in 2024!) will help you get the technical skills and experience you need to build a portfolio and launch your career as a digital marketing specialist.


Digital marketing includes a wide array of paths you can take. For newcomers venturing into this field, the abundance of choices can be overwhelming.

To ease this process, we’ve compiled and briefly defined some common digital marketing specializations below. Although this list doesn’t cover every option, it offers a solid starting point as you venture into the wide world of digital marketing.

  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Optimizing websites and online content to enhance their visibility and ranking in search engine results and drive organic (unpaid) traffic to websites.
  • Paid Search Marketing (also called Pay-Per-Click or PPC). Creating and managing online advertising campaigns while utilizing platforms like Google or Meta Ads. Advertisers bid on keywords to showcase their ads in search engine results pages (SERPs).
  • Content Marketing. Copywriting, publishing, and promoting content across various online platforms with the primary objective of captivating a target audience, ultimately leading to a customer action.
  • Social Media Marketing. Promoting companies and brands to increase product visibility or service offerings across social media platforms to captivate audience attention, channel traffic for conversions or signups, and increase overall brand awareness.
  • Email Marketing. The strategic practice of sending targeted messages or campaigns to a subscriber list to nurture leads, promote products or services, and build relationships with customers.
  • Digital Analytics. Analyzing data from digital marketing efforts to measure performance and make informed decisions for optimizing campaigns and strategies. This field typically necessitates a decent level of analytical skill to effectively measure results.
  • CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization). The process of refining websites or marketing elements to boost the percentage of visitors who complete a desired action, like purchasing something or subscribing to a newsletter. This can be accomplished through techniques like A/B testing, enhancements to user experience, and data analysis.

After you’ve decided on which digital marketing career path makes sense for your interests, you’ll need to start thinking about how to learn the technical skills of that specialization.


You can’t become a digital marketer without learning some key technical skills. But how do you learn those skills and get on the job market when you’re starting from scratch?

There are two well-trodden paths, each with pros and cons. First, you could go it alone and teach yourself digital marketing skills. Plenty of digital marketers have done this, although it’s not as easy as it sounds—and not so appealing to risk-averse recruiters. Second, you could get yourself a college degree. But this route is expensive, and it takes years before you enter the job market.

A third way, the one that we recommend, is what we call the hybrid approach. This involves securing yourself reputable digital marketing certifications and learning key skills intensively over a few months through a structured learning program, while building your extra experience outside of the classroom at the same time.

Taking this route means you can prove to recruiters that you’ve taken time and energy to learn, while demonstrating the self-driven entrepreneurial spirit (which always comes in useful as a marketer!). Plus, you’ll avoid gathering self-taught bad habits and skip the high cost and time investment of a college degree.

We’re going to start this section by explaining precisely how you can take this hybrid approach and get yourself a digital marketing role within just a few months (with no prior experience).

Then, if you’re still interested in the other approaches, we’ll look at the pros and cons of those.

Climb Hire is a non-profit organization dedicated to preparing low-income and overlooked working adults for a career in tech. To kickstart your career—completely free of charge in 2024—discover our learning tracks and apply now.


The hybrid approach to entering the field of digital marketing involves (a) receiving guided, instructor-led, learning and (b) gaining extra hands-on experience outside of the classroom.

By combining these two elements, you can build the necessary skills and knowledge to enter the digital marketing industry with confidence.

Programs like Climb Hire’s Paid Search Marketing program include:

  • Digital marketing experts to teach you relevant skills.
  • A supportive peer community.
  • Hands-on experience in digital marketing work.
  • Access to a professional network.
  • Guidance and support in acquiring a job.


Your individual preferences and interests will help you determine which digital marketing niche to choose (from the list above).

For example, if you’re naturally an analytical thinker, detail-oriented, and results-driven, you might gravitate toward paid search marketing. These qualities align with the work of a typical paid search marketing role, where you analyze data to create appropriate ad campaigns aimed at achieving measurable results.

The certifications you’ll need will be determined by the niche you decide to specialize in. For example, Google offers a total of eleven PPC certifications, including:

  • Google Ads Search Certification
  • Google Ads Apps Certification
  • Google Ads Display Certification
  • Google Ads Video Certification (+ more)

Employers looking for digital marketers tend to favor candidates with globally-recognized certifications like these, because they prove you have the skills needed to excel in the role.

Climb Hire’s Paid Search Marketing Program

Climb Hire is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering low-income and overlooked working adults to get into the tech industry.

We offer a supportive four-month program in Paid Search Marketing that provides mentored training in the technical skills needed to earn the Google Ads Search and the Meta Certified Digital Marketing Associate certifications. The program also teaches invaluable soft skills and provides a wide professional network that helps “Climbers” land digital marketing jobs.

And it works. On program completion, over 80% of students get jobs within six months, often with a starting full-time salary of over $50k.

Why is Climb Hire a Great Choice for Structured Learning?

Climb Hire distinguishes itself from other programs and courses in several ways:

  • Scholarships for all: In 2024, Climb Hire is offering scholarships for 100% free tuition to all accepted students, thanks to our generous donors.
  • Intensive training: Our program provides rigorous training that enables you to truly master the skills and methodologies essential for success in the digital marketing world.
  • Industry-recognized certifications: Through our Paid Search marketing program, you’ll attain two globally recognized certifications, the Google Ads Search Certification and the Meta Certified Digital Marketing Associate certification, enhancing your appeal to digital marketing recruiters.
  • Hands-on experience: Our capstone project provides valuable hands-on experience in delivering digital marketing work for real clients, enhancing your practical skills and industry readiness for entry-level positions.
  • Development of crucial “soft skills”: Recruiters seek candidates who embody more than just the correct qualifications. They’re also looking for employees who are professional, responsible, and have the right attitude. We help you develop these essential soft skills that are crucial for landing a job, including participation in networking events, crafting standout resumes and cover letters, and mastering the art of job interviews.
  • You’ll have access to a peer community of like-minded individuals who provide support and networking opportunities. Many of our Climbers have found job opportunities through this community, and even after securing employment, you’ll always have access to our groups.
  • Personalized career support: Each student receives individualized guidance from a dedicated Career Development Advisor, assisting you in securing a digital marketing job upon program completion.
  • Access to a professional network: As a Climb Hire student, you gain entry to a wide professional network, including partner companies that collaborate with Climb Hire and frequently recruit our outstanding entry-level talent. While we don’t guarantee job placement, the connections you’ll gain from the Climb Hire community give Climbers advantages when looking for digital marketing roles.

Testimonials from Climb Hire students show how beneficial our programs really are.

For example, before Climb Hire, Dominik didn’t have a professional network to help guide and mentor him toward success. After graduating from one of Climb Hire’s programs, he got a job as a recruiting coordinator on the technical team at Checkr.

“Climb Hire was able to help 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.”

To apply for the Paid Search Marketing program, simply visit our website and submit your application. Qualified applicants will be invited to a 30-minute interview with our admissions team. If selected, you’ll receive an offer to join the program.

Don’t forget: Climb Hire programs are tuition-free in 2024, thanks to scholarships generously funded by donors!


While formal experience in digital marketing (i.e. a traditional job) isn’t a prerequisite for an entry-level position, having some experience can greatly enhance your appeal to job recruiters.

In our Paid Search Marketing program, you’ll get invaluable hands-on experience, like the capstone project, as part of the curriculum. But to boost your skills even further, it’s great to practice on your own, too.

With the hybrid approach, you can reinforce the digital marketing skills you’re learning from our experts outside of the classroom. Under their guidance, you’ll be less prone to making rookie mistakes that could potentially waste your time and money—while still gaining experience.

Here are some ways you can build on your paid search marketing skills outside of the classroom:

  • Start your own website or blog and set up real PPC campaigns using Google Ads with a couple hundred dollars. This way, you can experiment with different ad formats, targeting options, and bidding strategies to understand their impact on campaign performance.
  • Practice setting up A/B tests within your PPC campaigns to compare different ad creatives, landing pages, or targeting options. Analyze the results to understand which elements drive better performance and refine your strategies accordingly.
  • Find a volunteer opportunity (like with a friend’s company, a local business, or a nonprofit) to practice your paid search marketing skills and gain work experience in a real-world environment.
  • You might also have luck finding quick digital marketing work on gig sites like Upwork or Fiverr. Note: Be careful with this, as delivering subpar work could lead to negative reviews that potential employers might see when researching your background.

The hybrid approach merges structured learning with independent practice, offering a comprehensive strategy to quickly and efficiently learn digital marketing skills and gain globally recognized certifications. While other guided learning options are available—such as different programs or hiring a private tutor—it won’t be easy to find something else that’s both free (or at least affordable) and comes with personalized mentorship and hands-on experience.

(For example, private tutors tend to be costly, typically ranging from $50–150 per hour. We estimate that preparing for Google Search Ads and Meta Ads certifications requires approximately 90 hours. This could make the total cost of a tutor between $4.5k–13k!)


Another route for beginners getting into digital marketing is to go it alone. To do this, you need an abundance of independent initiative, patience, attention to detail, and strict dedication to keep yourself on track without support or external accountability.

First, you’ll need to equip yourself with the necessary skills to pass certification exams (which recruiters will be looking for in resumes). To do this, you need to wade through the reams of information scattered over the web; in articles, video tutorials, and online courses.

But you also need to be able to practice the skill set you’ve developed, and build a digital marketing portfolio to show to potential employers. You can do this by:

  • Starting a blog or website and publishing content in a specific niche.
  • Using free analytics tools (like Google Analytics) to track your website’s performance.
  • Using free online SEO tools to practice optimizing and tracking your content.
  • Creating and managing social media profiles and experimenting with different types of content, posting schedules, and engagement strategies to give you hands-on social media management experience.
  • Running ad campaigns with a few hundred dollars across various marketing channels (like Google or Facebook ads) for your website or social media channels to tune your digital marketing strategies and keep track of the results.

There are, of course, pros and cons to this approach:

The Pros of Self-Guided Learning
First, you can learn at your own pace and tailor your learning process to fit your own individual schedule. It’s also cost-effective, because many online tutorials and blogs are free-to-access (although in some cases, the really useful stuff is behind a paywall). Plus, you can create your own customized curriculum geared towards the digital marketing areas that interest you most.

The Cons of Self-Guided Learning
It’s tough to stay disciplined and hold yourself accountable the whole time. Plus, navigating the vast amount of digital marketing information out there is difficult. It’s impossible to know what’s good and what’s bad advice. Furthermore, the most technical aspects of digital marketing are challenging to grasp, and it’ll be tough to make sure you’re understanding everything properly without an expert to guide you. This may result in you picking up subconscious bad habits. Afterwards, you’ll have to handle your job search alone, without the support of a network.


If you have the time, money, and desire to enroll in a two-to-four-year program in digital marketing, there are some great institutions and courses available all over the U.S.

The Pros of Digital Marketing Degrees
Formal degree programs are highly-structured and (due to their length) tend to cover lots of digital marketing topics, including SEO, social media marketing, email marketing, and PPC. They give you credibility and show employers you’re serious about learning and growing professionally. Having a reputable institution on your resume is never a bad thing. Plus, higher education can open up networking opportunities with fellow students, professors, and industry professionals, leading to valuable career connections down the line.

The Cons of Digital Marketing Degrees
Pursuing a degree in digital marketing requires a significant investment of both time and money.

  • For a university degree, you’ll need to be accepted into the school of your choice. Then, you’ll need to dedicate two-to-four years to complete the coursework. Yearly tuition can range from $10k–70k. This is simply not feasible for many people.
  • Tuition fees for community college, which typically offers two-year degree programs, are often around $5k per year. Less than a four-year degree, but still a big investment.

Plus, because of the duration of these degree programs, they can become outdated as the technology changes faster than the curriculum.

Even if you have a degree, it’s possible that many recruiters will still want to see certain digital marketing certifications on your resume. Some degree programs will incorporate those, but others won’t—meaning you have to get them separately.

Finally, degree programs tend to prioritize theoretical learning over practical experience. Because of this, you may have limited opportunities for hands-on experience with real-world digital marketing campaigns—unless you do it on your own.


Climb Hire offers the certifications, hard and soft skills, hands-on experience, and dedicated support you need to land a digital marketing position. With hundreds of successful graduates, most with no prior work experience, here’s what you can expect:

  • Free tuition for all students in 2024.
  • A keystone project that includes actual digital marketing work for a real company to gain experience.
  • A learning community of supportive peers with similar goals and challenges.
  • Average starting income of $50k after graduation.
  • The technical and soft skills that help 80% of graduates land their first job in the field within six months of program completion.

Apply today to start your career as a digital marketer!

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