Q. I recently finished my college studies in German and Business Admin and have become very interested in the PR field. I feel that my choice of major, however, has not really geared me towards this type of career as I have not focused much on communications and factual writing. What is your opinion of PR masters programs in general? Would this be a useful tool for me to raise my stock and even the playing field or would this type of program be more of a waste of time and money? Have any specific programs (especially in the Chicago area) grabbed your attention? -TBA.
A. Without a PR degree or considerable relevant intern experience, I recommend that you get the advanced degree. You won’t be alone. The dismal job market has spurred a significant up tick in graduate school applications for 2009.
Grad school applications at the University of Alabama are up 40%, according to Bruce Berger, Ph.D., chairman of the Advertising and PR program. PR professor Maria Russell, Ph.D., confirms “a sizable jump” in the number of graduate applications at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.
Both professors and I agree that an MA in PR and an undergraduate degree in business is “powerful.” Dr. Berger says: “Linking of communication knowledge and skills with business knowledge will position you very well for the corporate and agency worlds. Having another language (German) is an added bonus.” He notes that about a third of Alabama’s PR undergrads minor in business, and another quarter minor in computer science. These are the “best fields” for PR hiring, according to recent interviews conducted by Dr. Berger. Dr. Russell agrees: “The future generation of effective practitioners will have a background in PR and business/management and will apply them into a digital world.”
As for your last question: In Chicago, I am only familiar with the graduate program at DePaul which is gaining strength and the excellent but pricey Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern. I also like the program at Ball State in Muncie, Indiana, which would be a long commute. Perhaps others will have Chicago-area recommendations that they can add via Comments below.