There are many paths to becoming a great marketer.
Even more so, there are tons of different roles that marketers excel in.
There’s a great degree of flexibility.
Take your education as an example. Did you go to school to get a marketing or business degree?
There’s a good chance you didn’t, but you still enjoy marketing, and it plays a part in your business or job.
And while you can pick up a ton of skills on the go, you might be missing a few fundamentals.
The best solution for this is to take courses online.
I’m not talking about sketchy courses offered by schools you’ve never heard of. I’m talking about courses from schools such as Harvard, MIT, Cornell, and more.
Most of these courses are available free.
That’s why I’ve put together a list of 18 courses and resources that you can find online.
Pick the ones that interest you, and do them in your spare time.
Note that this list doesn’t exactly mirror a complete marketing degree, but it does contain most of its components.
The courses in this section should be taken by every marketer. If you haven’t taken any of these or similar courses in the past, I recommend adding them to your list of courses to take.
1. Introduction to Marketing (University of British Columbia): Everyone needs to start somewhere, and this is the best place for marketers.
This is a very introductory course that will give you a general overview of marketing. It’s not very difficult, but it will make the gaps in your marketing knowledge obvious.
If you have a tough time clearly defining concepts such as market research and brand strategy, you should start here.
2. Networks, Crowds and Markets (Cornell): This course, on the other hand, is fairly advanced.
It’s a great course if you’re an analytics junkie like me. The main concepts covered in the course are:
- applying game theory to various parts of marketing
- understanding how marketing connects to various aspects of life (social, economic, technological)
- exploring how ideas spread
It mainly focuses on these concepts in the context of the Internet, which is ideal for most modern marketers.
3. Digital Branding and Engagement (Curtin University): This course is essentially digital branding 101.
You’ll look at the basics of getting positive attention for your brand through paid, owned, and earned media.
This course focuses on how a brand can use these different types of media to increase brand presence and user engagement.
Essentially, it provides a high-level look at ways of incorporating many of the tactics you read about on Quick Sprout and other marketing blogs into your marketing.
4. Principles of Macroeconomics (MIT): Economics is a fundamental subject that all marketers should have at least a basic understanding of.
This course is an introductory course to macroeconomics.
Macroeconomics is a study of economics on a national basis. It’s good to understand how your industry as a whole responds to changes in:
- employment and unemployment
- interest rates
- and more.
Since MIT is a US school, most of the examples are within the context of the US economy, but the lessons can be applied to any country.
5. Principles of Microeconomics (MIT): This is the other side of economics, which is more interesting to most marketers.
Microeconomics looks at economics on a much smaller scale: individuals, companies, and groups.
This is another introductory course, where you’ll learn fundamental concepts such as supply and demand, types of competition, and welfare economics.
While a lot of this will seem simple, it will be useful in all your marketing roles to some degree.
6. Introduction to Financial Accounting (University of Pennsylvania): One of the most important things to know, as I keep telling you, is what your return from your marketing work is.
Whether you’re running your own business or working for someone else as a marketer, it’s crucial for you to have this ability. Being able to present hard numbers behind your performance to your boss is a great way to stand out.
This is a very short course—only 4 weeks.
It’s not going to make you a financial wizard, but it will teach you how to interpret three main aspects of financial accounting:
- income statements
- balance sheets
- cash flow statements
By the end of the course, you will have a higher level of financial literacy and a better understanding of your business’s financial needs.
As I pointed out previously, there are tons of roles marketers might find themselves in.
Depending on your job or your interests, some of these courses will appeal to you.
I included them into this section because you could be a very good marketer without taking any of them. However, they may be worth taking as they are logical extensions and specializations of marketing.
7. Entrepreneurship 101: Who is your customer? (MIT): A high proportion of marketers are interested in starting their own businesses. Not all, but many.
You can be a fantastic marketer without being an entrepreneur, but you can also apply your marketing knowledge and skills to become a successful entrepreneur. Either path is fine, but don’t be afraid to try both.
Entrepreneurship is a tough thing to teach in a course, but I like the approach of this MIT course.
Instead of standard lectures, each class consists of a detailed case study of actual entrepreneurs across different industries.
During these classes, you will learn the skills you need in order to understand your customers better, which is a fundamental ability for an entrepreneur.
8. Entrepreneurship 102: What can you do for your customer? (MIT): You will have the same instructors as in the course above as this course will pick up where the previous left off.
Instead of focusing on figuring out who your customer is and why they buy products, this course focuses on figuring out what value you can provide to your customer.
If you’re experienced in content marketing, you’ll see a lot of parallels. Just as good content must provide value to readers, products must provide value to customers.
9. Startup Success: How to Launch a Technology Company in 6 Steps (MIT): There are many types of entrepreneurs, but most commonly, people want to found their own startups.
The source of the desire is obvious: it’s a chance to have full control of a business where you can apply all your marketing and business knowledge.
But you need more than marketing knowledge to launch a startup.
This course will help you fill in the gaps in your startup knowledge (kind of the reverse purpose of this whole list).
This is another introductory course, but it will answer all the basic questions you might have. Once you finish the course, you’ll know how to:
- generate startup ideas
- develop prototypes and improve them
- recruit a team to help you
- raise funds (if needed)
- grow your business (where marketers excel)
Note that this course focuses on technology startups, but most lessons will apply to other types of startups as well.
10. Digital marketing specialization (University of Illinois – Paid courses): This isn’t actually a single course; it’s a series of five.
I included this for anyone who already has a good foundation in marketing but needs to update or extend their skillset.
These courses are all connected to each other and are focused solely on digital marketing. That includes things such as:
- digital marketing analytics
- social media marketing
A note: you’ll have to pay to take these courses. However, they only cost about $100 each, which is incredibly cheap compared to an actual university course.
11. Social media marketing specialization (NorthWestern University – Paid courses): This is also a series of five courses.
The main difference is that this is even more specialized, focusing solely on social media marketing.
The first few courses are really basic, so if you have any experience with social media marketing, you can probably skip them without falling behind.
This course is great if you work (or plan to) in a niche dominated by social media marketing.
If social media is going to play a big role in your success, you want to learn as much as you can about marketing effectively on it.
12. Introduction to Project Management (University of Adelaide): If you have aspirations to run your own business or be promoted to a managerial position, this is a useful business course to take.
It’s exactly what it sounds like: an introduction to all the basic project management skills you’ll need.
It’s more of an abstract course because projects can be very different from each other, but the basic fundamentals will still be useful if you’re managing a project and a team.
13. Quick Sprout University for Internet Marketing: This is the first of a few items on this list that is not from an actual university.
I created this a few years ago, and it is now available free.
It covers all the major areas in Internet marketing:
- Link building
- Content marketing
- Social marketing
- Paid advertising
- Email marketing
…and a few more niche topics.
The whole course consists of many short videos that address a particular skill, tactic, or strategy you should know.
Even better, you can choose your skill level by using the menu on the left. Most topics are covered from the beginner level to advanced.
In my opinion, this rivals any course on this list in terms of completeness and value. Think of it as an “introduction to Internet marketing.”
It’s a good complement to the earlier mentioned digital marketing course as it is more specific and teaches you things you can apply right away.
This final group of courses will teach you skills that are, although not crucial, useful to you as a marketer.
If you want to have advanced or unique skills that other marketers can’t match, take these courses.
Honestly, this single course will make a huge difference.
It’s not as hard as it seems to learn how to program on a basic level. This will allow you to automate repetitive marketing tasks, analyze large data sets, and do things like scrape websites.
I understand that the concept of programming can seem overwhelming, but this course is of reasonable difficulty and will take you step by step over all the hurdles you need to overcome.
If you have any interest in programming, you’ll enjoy it.
15. Data Analysis for Your Business (TU Delft): Data should be the core of marketing in most situations.
You need to understand how to sort and analyze data so that you can use it to make decisions that grow your business.
This course in particular focuses mainly on using advanced techniques in Excel (spreadsheets).
If you’re already fairly advanced with Excel, you can skip this course. However, if you’re looking to learn a few new tricks, it may still be worth your time.
16. Data Science and Analytics in Context (Columbia University): This is another option for learning data analysis.
It focuses on more advanced concepts such as natural language processing (NLP), machine learning, and approaching data with a statistical mindset (important).
It’s less practical than the course right before it, but if you’re interested in working with large quantities of data, it’s a great place to start.
17. HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Course & Certification: This also isn’t a university course, but it’s extremely well-established nonetheless.
HubSpot is famous for its contribution to inbound marketing, and this course covers a lot of digital marketing topics in detail (although still focusing on the basics).
I recommend this mainly to marketers who don’t have much experience with digital or content marketing. It’s a great introduction to inbound marketing.
18. PPC University: Finally, this is another free resource and probably the best set of courses you’ll find on paid advertising (for a reasonable price at least).
It covers just about everything you need to know to get a good start in paid advertising, which all marketers should have at least a basic understanding of.
We’re living in an amazing age when courses from the top universities in the world are at your fingertips.
Even if you weren’t fortunate enough to get a formal education in marketing, you can still learn everything you need to know about the subject.
Take as many of the courses on this list as you’d like if you feel they will teach you knowledge and skills that fill in your gaps as a marketer.
If you’ve taken any other marketing courses online that I haven’t included, let me know what your experience was with them in the comments below.