Routes into marketing – do you need a degree?

18 min read by Rosie Denny 11 Jan 2023

The graduate recruitment machine is slowly gaining traction post-pandemic, but do you actually need a degree to get into marketing? We tasked our work experience placements, Josh and George – both studying Business and Marketing at Suffolk One – to find out how StrategiQ employees entered the marketing agency world.

Here’s what they learned:

  • There are many different routes into marketing.
  • Marketing covers many different areas – from working with customers and design to social media and software development.
  • While some employees have a degree, it’s not essential. Mindset is.
  • Whatever your level, the ability to solve customer challenges is essential.
  • Be prepared to work harder than you ever thought possible and you will reach your goals – and have plenty of fun on the way.

Our work experience placements interview Developer Darren (far left) to learn how, and why, he chose a career with StrategiQ.


By the end of the recruitment round for 2021, graduate recruitment was up 9.4% higher than in 2021, restoring many of the vacancies that were withdrawn at the beginning of the pandemic. Despite these signs of recovery, there is no doubt that the shockwaves created by the pandemic coupled with a looming recession continues to make its mark on students looking to progress a career. Despite this slightly bleak outlook, StrategiQ is keen to nurture talent through the storm.

Opening our doors

We invited Josh and George, both work placement students studying a Business and Marketing Qualification at Suffolk One, to immerse themselves in agency life. During their placement, we tasked them to conduct some research with StrategiQ employees to find out how they ‘got into marketing’ – coming up with their own questions, carrying out interviews and recording the content in our newly launched podcasting suite. Here, in their own words, is what they learned.

Developer: Darren

“A degree can help you get into software development, but it’s not essential. It’s more important to have a portfolio to show what you can do.”

How did you become a Developer, Darren?

In college, I had a friend that was tinkering with stuff – electronics mainly, but he also did web stuff. I just didn’t understand how you could do all that. I thought that web stuff was about making things look nice. It made me think – I wonder if I could do that?

If someone wanted to go into your role, would they need a degree?

No, not always in development. I’m sure it helps in some industries, but I don’t think it matters so much in Dev. As long as you’ve got your portfolio, you can show what you’ve done. If you have a degree, you might know the theory, but you don’t have the life experience.

What happened when you applied for the Developer position?

At StrategiQ, they asked me to explain some of my previous code, which I did, so they could use that as proof of how I work. I think there is merit to going to University, and to get a degree in Development, but that’s if you want to specialise for example something like software engineering.

What kinds of things do you need to be good at to make a career in development?

A head for maths is useful and everyone will say that you need a logical brain. But what’s become obvious to me is that you have to really listen to what challenges the client has and enjoy coming up with creative ideas to solve them.

So what’s your favourite part about being a developer?

When you automate something – that sounds so boring! But when you see the reaction when people use it – it’s like oh wow, that’s saved me so much time. It’s like you’re a woodworker, you’ve got all these tools and then people use them and you think, “I made that.” It’s like that with websites. It’s a sense of pride and accomplishment.

What do you want to do in the next five years?

Personally, I want to have a new house, to be engaged, and improve my tennis game. On the work side, I have regular catch ups with my line manager, which is great. It’s not like they’re pressuring you, it’s just to keep things on track because it’s easy to get wrapped up in the work and let your personal goals slide.

What’s been the best thing you’ve learned about the industry?

Working with professionals is very cool. The communication inside the agency is so easy to have because they’re just right there. It’s not like when you outsource and have to get a quote which slows the whole thing down. You can always just bounce ideas off each other. I think that’s really cool.

Business Growth Manager: Andrea

“University wasn’t necessary for me to get into marketing, but my experience with clients certainly is.”

How did you get into marketing Andrea?

I’ve worked in local media for the last 15 years and obviously that started with just print advertising, which gradually led me onto digital. So moving to an agency was a natural step.

Would you say university is necessary to do what you’re doing with StrategiQ?

No – I think my sales experience and experience with clients is more important for my role.

How are you finding the job at StrategiQ so far?

It’s really good. I’ve been here a couple of months and it’s struck me just how much talent there is here. I’m keen to learn from everyone, but equally I’m really enjoying bringing my own skills to the table to bring more great clients on board!

What were your first impressions of StrategiQ?

I really like the new brand and values, which is kind of important when you’re talking to clients about it!

What are your goals for the future, personally and professionally?

Personally, I wanted to work somewhere that valued personal growth, which StrategiQ does brilliantly – I have my goals clearly laid out and agreed by my Line Manager, which is incredibly reassuring. To grow StrategiQ is why I’m here!

Designer: Max

“I loved University – it was exactly the right path for me. It taught me how to see things from a different perspective and at work I put it all into practice.”

How did you get into design, Max?

Well, in my late teens, I came to a crossroads where I was trying to figure out what I was going to do. My brother suggested that I go to university, and reckoned that I’d be really good at design as I had an eye for it. So with his encouragement I picked a couple of courses, one was in media studies and app design, but when it came to it, I actually didn’t fancy doing it and went through clearing.

Did you enjoy studying design at university?

It was the best thing I ever did. University was just perfect for me. I was in such a good place to really understand what I needed out of design and the whole process
behind everything. They teach you the foundations, how to see things differently.

Where did you study?

I went to Canterbury Christchurch University, which I absolutely loved, it’s a great place. I did a graphic design course and in the first year, you get to try out video, web and ads, a bit of everything. I’d been designing logos and posters for my mates so I thought that would be the route that I went down but as you go through the modules you narrow it down a bit.

How do you make sure that you design what the client asks for?

I guess just asking the right questions. I think it’s brilliant when you get to sit face to face with the client like we’re encouraged to do, as you get to figure out what their end goal is. It gets you excited about how the work you’re going to do will impact their business.

What are your goals for the future?

It’s a big one, and at StrategiQ we’re encouraged to have our work goals and our professional ones too. For me , I’ve moved around a lot so having my own place would be awesome. The agency is really good at making sure you’re always improving. Literally every day, you’re trying to figure out how you can be better at something and I think that’s really good.

What surprised you about agency life?

The pace. Once you get into the professional world, the speed at which you work is just crazy. But the output is so worth the process that you go through. I can’t see myself doing anything else.

Social Media Exec: Lauren

“A degree gave me the information, but it was being proactive about putting learning into practice that got me on the career ladder.”

Was marketing something that you always wanted to do, Lauren?

I left school not sure where my career was going to take me, and hadn’t considered marketing as a direction that I should take. My mentors at school had encouraged me to go to university, but I wasn’t convinced. I spent a year in merchandising before having my lightbulb moment – I needed more learning in my life!

What happened next?

I looked around various courses at different establishments, and settled on De Montfort University. They offered a BA in Advertising and Marketing Communications which combined skills that I’d been good at in school, such as business studies, accounting and art. I learned about the whole marketing mix and covered things like social media – little knowing this would become my focus.

What led you to join StrategiQ?

I’d been following the agency on social media for a while and set my sights on working there. After graduating, I got in touch and landed an interview, and ultimately, an entry level position as a Marketing Executive.

Your career has skyrocketed in the last 18 months! Tell us more.

I began working on in-house marketing for the company, which quickly turned into client work. I began to develop a real passion for social media marketing, so when an opportunity arose to focus solely in this area, I had to go for it! My promotion to Social Media Executive was a big achievement for me.

How does StrategiQ support your career goals?

The company has been amazing. We formalise what we are setting out to achieve – both professionally and personally – and have this plan signed off by our Heads of Department. My experience proves that, if you want something and you’re willing to work for it, then it will happen.

What’s next for you, Lauren?

Well, StrategiQ has acquired a brilliant Social Media team, Untapped Media – so I’m now part of a team of four rather than an island of one. It’s exciting for the company and it’s exciting for me – I can’t wait to support StrategiQ in growing the service line and contributing to our future growth.

Want to learn from the smart people at StrategiQ?

Follow us on social media to learn about future opportunities and openings within the team. Already on your career path? Check out our vacancies.

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