Go to Grad School for the Right Reasons


Q.  Since you’ve become a professor, I probably know your answer but I’d like your POV about getting a master’s degree in PR.  I got my undergrad degree in English two years ago and have been in two lack-luster jobs since then so I have applied to graduate school in order to create some PR credentials.  Wise use of debt?  -KS

A.  Despite the fact I began teaching last year, I continue to encourage most individuals to work for a couple of years before returning to graduate school.  This is especially important if you aren’t certain about the career you want to pursue.  It sounds like you have done exactly this, so graduate school can help achieve your career goals.  

In an earlier post, Syracuse University professor Bill Coplin provides six essential points to consider before pursuing a graduate degree.  Bill and I agree that work experience after receiving an undergraduate degree helps clarify your longer-term career goals.  Since there usually are significant costs involved, you also need to assess the bottom-line benefits of graduate school.  I normally recommend a graduate degree in some form of communications for those individuals wanting to make a transition from a profession other than communications.  For instance, a finance major working at a bank who wants to get into PR is a logical candidate for a graduate degree in one of the many options within the communication discipline. 

An undergraduate degree in PR from a reputable college is not significantly enhanced by immediately seeking a graduate PR degree.  Instead, I’d recommend seeking an MBA or advanced degree in a field directly related to the type of job you wish to pursue.  For instance, if PR undergraduates want to work in healthcare, they’ll set themselves apart from others by getting healthcare-specific master’s degrees.  Even a master’s degree in healthcare communications will be stronger than a general MA in public relations. 

Location of the grad program also can make a difference in your future job prospects.  For instance, a grad school located in a major metropolitan market often has an advantage for those wanting to work part- or full-time during their college experience.  As my barber said when he moved his shop from a quiet street to a busier location, “if you’re cutting hair, you have to go to where the heads are.”  Larger markets tend to provide more networking opportunities that lead to post graduate-school jobs.  

Finally, please make sure you are seeking the advanced degree for the right reasons–not just because it’s something to do while waiting for the economy to improve.

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