Many people have strong opinions on whether or not graduate school is necessary for people in the communications industry. The short answer to “Should I go to grad school?” is that it depends. It’s not like the medical field where further education is a must, but there are still many public relations graduate programs across the country. Clearly people are pursuing further education, but why?
I am officially going to Villanova University next semester to pursue a master’s degree in communication with a certification in public relations & advertising, with the hopes of then continuing onto a doctoral program. So if you are currently trying to decide whether graduate school is for you, then continue reading since I just went through the whole process. The two biggest questions, in my opinion, are “Who is grad school for?” and “How do you find a program?”
Who is grad school for?
Graduate school, especially in our field, is for anyone who wants to continue to learn and develop their skills in a classroom setting. That sounds pretty straight-forward, but honestly it is. Some people love school and learning in that structured environment, other people want to just graduate and start learning in the field. If you are in the second group, maybe grad school isn’t the path for you.
For me personally, there were two reasons I chose the grad school route. First, the University of Delaware does not actually have a public relations major, so I am an interpersonal communication major with lots of PR experience. I’ve only taken two PR classes (out of the three offered), so I want to get more formal PR instruction before continuing into the field professionally. Second, my parents are both professors, so I’ve been able to see the flexibility and fulfillment that teaching offers. I want to continue my education through my doctorate so that later down the line, teaching at the college level is an option for me.
Alright, so say you decided you want to go to grad school, then what?
How do you find a program?
There is such a wide variety of programs in our field, from one-year online programs meant for professionals to two-year on-campus programs with a thesis track for people planning on continuing on to get their doctorate. Ultimately, picking a program comes down to what your goals are. If you are working full-time, but want to get your master’s for career advancement, maybe an online part-time program would be best for you.
For myself, I knew I wanted to stay in the Philadelphia area, and I wanted a program that would then allow me to pursue my doctorate. I also wanted to focus primarily on my education and Villanova offers a large variety of graduate assistantships that cover tuition and provide a living stipend. When taking everything into consideration, this program was the best choice for me.
The most important thing is to look into the program details so you know what you’re getting into. Pay attention to whether they offer scholarships, financial aid, or assistantships. Is the program a career-based dead-end program or does it set you up for your doctorate? Define your priorities, evaluate programs, and find your match. Make the best decision for you and where you are career-wise and you cannot make a bad choice.
Jenna Newman is the PRSSA Mid-Atlantic District Ambassador and a senior interpersonal communication major and global studies minor at the University of Delaware (UD). She also serves as PRSSA-UD’s vice president of professional development. To learn more about her, follow her on Instagram @jennamichh or check out her blog.