Having worked at a marketing department of a large international corporation for over two years, I can say that while a marketing degree definitely helps to get such a job, it is not necessary. Probably half of the employees at our department, including myself, had come into the marketing field through other ways. From my personal experience and observation, the key tip for success is this: start low, learn by doing, and then advance.

Like with many other professions, if you do not have a degree in the required field, you can get in the game by taking an entry-level position – say, clerical, administrative, or in sales. I entered marketing as a personal assistant to the marketing department director; perhaps a little more than an entry-level job but definitely not a marketing job. I began learning the ropes by doing purely administrative work like filing, taking care of correspondence, scheduling meetings and designing PowerPoint presentations. Before I knew it, I had the basic idea of what marketing was about, and before I knew it, I was helping to analyze customer surveys, create marketing bulletins, and prepare materials for seminars and conferences. Nobody cared that my degree was in history (of all things); as long as I was willing to learn, people were willing to teach me and entrust me more marketing-related work.

My boss, the department director at the age of 31, did not have a degree in marketing either. She had shared with me that she had a teaching degree and actually taught in high school for a while, but then decided to try a different career and took a sales job with this same corporation. That was a very hard and demanding job, she told me, but she had learned a lot through it and advanced to a manager. After that she had earned her MBA, and eventually landed the director’s chair. Granted, not every sales person will get this far and at such a young age, but using your entry-level position to learn as much as you can about the field you want to make a career in is vital.

So if you want to build a career in marketing but do not have a relevant degree, you still have a chance. Get in the game by obtaining a clerical job and use it to the fullest to learn what others learn in colleges. Never miss a seminar or a conference if you have a chance to go, even if you feel like you don’t understand a thing. Eventually, you will, and when you’ve got significant knowledge and work experience under your belt, no one will care about your lack of degree.