When last we met, we discussed the options -- or lack thereof -- for formalized SEM education. Basically, because accredited institutions generally have a rigorous process attached to the curriculum creation, a fairly new -- by academic standards -- avenue of education such as SEM, beginning to show a growing demand, will have to wait until the processes and sources are vetted before you can register for Marketing 220: Search Engine Marketing.
We received several responses, most of which were about other opportunities for formalized education that didn't appear on our radar at first sweep. Emory University in Atlanta runs a one-session workshop that splits half SEO and half PPC and is attracting "an interesting mix of aspiring Web professionals, business owners, and marketing professionals."
Champlain College in Vermont has an extensive offering of mainstream, or credited, classes in electronic business covering everything from Google AdWords to social networking. These specific offerings can be taken as continuing education, but are also worth a full credit to enrolled students.
Most impressively, Panos Ipeirotis wrote from the MBA program at Stern School of Business at New York University:The name of the class is "Search and the New Economy" and most of the material of the class (including slides and videos) is available online at http://searchandtheneweconomy.wikispaces.com/. Sure, it isn't only SEM, but a very significant fraction of the class is devoted to keyword advertising, SEO, word-of-mouth, and so on. The enrollments are strong with a significant waiting list of students that want to enroll but don't fit into the room. And this is part of the regular MBA program, not an "extension," or "continuing education" class.
The Next Step
One reader carried us to the logical next step: moving from education to career by asking for career advice for people who are contemplating a career in the SEO/SEM field.
The easiest way to get practical and real-world feedback in SEM is to get out there and do it. For yourself. Start a Web site about a hobby or passion. Join it to a blog. Learn HTML. Get an AdWords account to promote it, even if at minimal cost. By turning theory into practice, you can change education into experience, and then you're ready to start looking for a job. Knowledge and theory is one thing but most employers out there are going to be looking for how much experience you have.
Unless you're going into business for yourself, you can probably land an interview or two with local Web design or SEO agencies. And these vary greatly from one to the next.
At one end of the spectrum, you may end up at a smaller company that will bring you on as a "one stop shop" for all things SEM; you'll be optimizing sites, managing PPC campaigns, maybe even digging into social marketing for clients. This is where the "get your hands dirty" advice comes in handy -- you've already learned and done most of it, so it's a light adjustment to take it all the way.
At the other end, you may end up working for a large company that is completely compartmentalized. In this environment, you may end up in an area doing just directory submissions or link building. It may be only PPC, or perhaps even just the bid management related to PPC. Obviously, if you're given a choice in the direction you'd like to go, play to your strengths.
As with any career choice or move, if you're passionate about it and take the time to put in the hard work, you can find a place in the SEO world. And we'll welcome you.