Q&A: Pursue Advanced PR Degree?

Q.  I have a B.S. in marketing and after graduation I started working in an in-house PR function at a small fashion company.  Now I want to work for a PR agency specializing in fashion.  Since my educational background is in business should I pursue a master’s in strategic PR? Is it worth the time and money?         MD  

A.  Although I advocate getting as much education as possible, I have talked with a large number of people who obtained advanced PR degrees and some of them question the bottom-line value of those degrees—especially in the short term.  Some saw no jump in their salaries or status.  Advanced degrees appear to play a bigger role in differentiating individuals as they are considered for more senior positions in corporations and agencies.  Perhaps other readers–especially academics–will be able to provide additional counsel.  An MBA still carries far greater weight with business executives no matter how many PR-related degrees you have.  Most organizations have not yet placed a proper premium on advanced PR degrees.  I hope this changes as more highly talented PR graduate students start to prove the value of their additional education.   

Your situation is somewhat different than PR graduates since your B.S. is in marketing. If your comfort level with PR principles is sufficiently high, an MBA might be the right course of action for you.  If you feel you need a stronger knowledge base in PR and want to make a career in this profession, then the advanced PR degree might be the right approach.  You are doing the right thing by working in the industry for a couple of years before pursuing an advanced degree.  This allows you to put the material you’re studying in context with your professional experience.  Your work experience provides insights that help you focus on where you want to take your career long term.

7 thoughts on “Q&A: Pursue Advanced PR Degree?

  1. Thank you for a good post, I will probably soon find myself in a similar situation. Thus, I would like to ask for an advice.

    Given the fact that the advanced degrees in PR are not held in such a high esteem yet, what is the expected time horizon (in years) when they will be valued more? If I decide to go for the advanced degree, what schools should I consider?

    Of course, I do bear in mind that these questions are very subjective and the answers would be virtually unverifiable, but I am interested more in your personal opinion.

    Thank you very much!

  2. Fortunately, advanced PR degree programs are gaining stature at several colleges. In corporate America, I believe it will take five to 10 years before graduate degrees in this field are held at the same esteem levels as other advanced degrees.

    There are many excellent grad programs in PR. Key is to seek out a program at a college that has a solid reputation for first-rate education. Based on strong candidates that I’ve interviewed over the years, my favorites include Missouri, USC, Syracuse, Northwestern, Maryland, Virginia Commonwealth, Ball State, Alabama and Florida.

  3. Your post hit right on the questions that I am dealing with now! Thank you so much for your insight.

    What is your opinion on an advanced PR degree vs. an MBA for someone looking to make a career out of international PR and marketing?

    Thank you!

  4. There might be a bit more willingness to accept an advanced degree in PR by some international corporations. However, a majority of business executives still give greater weight to an MBA–even for PR-related jobs.

  5. Ron,
    Thank you for your insightful answer! Do you have an idea about European schools with a similar image like the ones you have mentioned?

    Thank you!

  6. Good follow-up question inquiring about European schools with strong graduate-level PR programs. I checked with several prominent academics, including those who have taught in Europe, and the initial feedback indicates that there are few programs anywhere in the world like those in the U.S. Manchester University in the UK as well as Stirling University in Scotland were mentioned by two academic friends. University of Maryland professor Elizabeth Toth directed me to an easy-to-navigate website — http://www.gradschools.com — that will allow you to identify gradudate programs in Europe and elsehwere. Dr. Toth also explains that European graudate education is still tied to the Liberal Arts and Humanities subjects. “There’s little interest in professional graduate education, beyond schools of business or management. The master’s degree in Europe requires a very significant thesis project as well as coursework and exams. The Ph.D. in European education is a disseration done with an advisor and no additional coursework or exams–quite a different education model than in the U.S. “

  7. If you want to pursue a career in fashion and strategic comm, perhaps you might like the idea of an international MBA? ESSEC is a well-regarded school in Paris, France that has an 18-month MBA program specifically designed for the luxury brand market. Google ESSEC MBA LUXE.

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