Is Grad School for PR a no-go?

October 2, 2009 at 5:32 pm 14 comments

This week I posted a discussion on Linked in Public Relations titled: “Should I go to Graduate School for PR and if so, which one?”

So far I’ve had five commenters, all telling me the same thing: do not go to graduate school for PR.

Here, I listed the points they made:

1. “Before deciding to go to graduate school, you should try to do an internship or two that may better position you to move into a full-time PR position after graduation.”

2. “Find an internship or entry level position for at least a year before committing yourself (and your finances) to graduate school. You need to make sure it’s really a career path you want to stay with and the best way to do that is several years of experience. I know many many people who leave the profession because it tends to be high stress and a big time commitment.”

3. “Weigh the true value of grad school. In many areas of PR, building your professional experience and professional and media contacts is much much more helpful for advancing your career.

4. “Now is the time to be thinking about what type of PR you want to do and in what industry. Look for internships in those areas so that you can bring a working knowledge of that community and its audiences with you to your next interview.”

5. I would suggest considering other graduate degrees (i.e. MBA, MPA, MPH, JD). Those degrees tend to be more professional and respected by future employers.”

6. “With a degree in communication and a certificate in PR, you’re already set for entering the workforce. At this point, getting a masters in PR will only delay the professional experience you will need to complement your academic education.”

7. “Since most internships are unpaid, you’ll do better to start with pro-bono work for nonprofits to fill out your resume.”

8. “If you wait to enter the workforce,you’ll lose ground to practitioners currently underemployed, unemployed, and new grads competing for what PR positions are available in this depressed economy.

9. “You need to demonstrate not only that you know what to do, but that you can do it and have done it. You won’t be able to do that if you go on to grad school now. Even if you complete a master’s degree in PR you’ll still be so young and new to the workplace that many employers will hold your lack of experience against you.

10. “A master’s in PR won’t help you get an entry-level agency job, and it probably won’t be necessary for getting a corporate job, either. Down the road, having an MBA will be helpful, but only for working with senior-level (client) executives or at your corporate employer.”

11. “I would recommend going into the work force prior to going to graduate school. A masters program in PR is typical more theory and academic focused. . . many employers do not find this to be practical experience.

Basically, I am told to get an internship over and over again. This may be good advice for someone who will be in undergrad for another year, someone who has zero experience, or someone in a prime location where they can do an internship while attending school. However, I am graduating in May. I would say it’s a little late for that. Plus, I already have 2 years of intern/work experience doing PR for higher education at Ferris State. I’m supposed to intern somewhere else and have less responsibilities and get less experience than I am already getting? Nuh uh.

Secondly, I can’t live off internship wages ($0) or pro-bono work (also, $0). The catch-22 here is that in Michigan, there are hardly any PR firms, most of which are not hiring (ask all of the Ferris State PR grads looking for jobs in Michigan and see how many have them. I bet you will be lucky to find even one). So my option of “living for free with mom” is therefore eliminated.

Thirdly, the economy sucks. Though Michigan is the economic armpit of the US right now, it seems like NO ONE is hiring. I had one former colleague and recent Ferris PR grad apply everywhere in the country, even ALASKA! And she still has not found a job. Sure, people are offering internships, but my reason for not interning is stated above. The only way I would be able to intern is if I was living off my money from student loans aka grad school.

Though I was grateful to get so many advice-giving comments in my LinkedIn discussion, I don’t see any of these ideas being useful for my particular situation.

However, I do think if you have another year+ of undergrad left, live in a prime location (aka Grand Rapids, Chicago, NYC), or have limited or zero experience, their advice could be very useful for you.

View or comment on this LinkedIn discussion and give your own word of advice.


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Where PR ends and Advertising begins Grad School: the pros and cons

14 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rowena Briones  |  October 4, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    As a current PR graduate student, I think that going for an advanced degree is a great option for undergrads finishing up this year. Especially if you have a lot of internship experience under your belt (which you have!) going to graduate school will only be prove to be helpful in expanding your skills, knowledge, and strategic thinking.

    It also is very important to find the graduate school that is right for you. There are a lot of great programs that emphasize practical, professional experience (i.e. American University, Syracuse University) that can help you connect with practitioners and open up job opportunities. The great thing about these programs is that they are usually only about one year and you will get a lot of experience that will help you in the long run in terms of launching your career.

    However, a lot of these schools do not offer so much in funding/financial aid, whereas there are other PR institutions that fully fund their graduate students but are more research focused. This could be a perk of applying to those kinds of programs, but if you are solely interested in the practice, then it may be worth it to just take out student loans.

    In any case, I am a big proponent of going straight for an advanced degree. I had this conversation with a lot of people and got mixed thoughts about this issue, but I’ve heard that it is a lot harder to go back to school once you have been out in the work force. Plus, as you mentioned in your post, we’re in a tough economy right now and going to school can delay the big job search for now until things get a little better.

    I would suggest applying to some graduate programs, and applying to some job positions, and see what happens. There’s no harm in keeping your options open.

    Hope this helps!

  • 2. Mitch McDonald  |  October 5, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    I’d stick with the grad school idea. I had an amazing internship this summer, which I’m sure will benefit me down the road; however, the positives don’t trump the fact that I was not only working for free, but also because my college charges me for those credits. No matter the situation, no one should have to pay to work.

  • 3. steve fox  |  October 6, 2009 at 9:24 am

    This is tough decision. I think grad school can be incredibly beneficial for a lot of people. However, your goals and motives for grad school can help you make this decision.
    1. Are you going just to be in better position for a job?
    2. Do you want to be challenged to think at a higher level?
    3. Might you consider teaching some day?
    4. Can you financially make it a few more years without entering the work place now?
    5. Might some practical experience prior to grad school make further schooling more meaningful if you attend later?

    I’d love to talk more about this topic. I have some opinions. Maybe a good discussion during Wednesday night’s class?

  • 4. Norm  |  October 6, 2009 at 10:11 am

    I think you should get a job. Start looking and connecting with people in the area of the country that you want to live and in the industry you are interested working in. The other factor to look at is what schools are in those areas.

    This way, once you get in have 6-months to a year under the belt. Then go back to school to get your Masters while you work. I know it might be tough, but at least your company might help with costs and you should have some money set aside to help with other costs so you take less on loans.

  • 5. postmodernpr  |  October 10, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Thanks for the comment on my blog.

    I’m not going to regurgitate the arguments I made in my post, but all I can draw from is my personal experience.

    A PR masters degree helped me gain knowledge and contacts that I wouldn’t have otherwise had, but it’s not necessary for everybody. With the economy as it is, I’m glad I spent the year in education rather than struggling to find meaningful employement.

    However, although I feel more confident entering the industry now, I’m also nervous at being 23 and only just starting out.

    If you already have 2 years internship experience, then you already have a great start. Grad school could help develop your strategic thinking but would leave you more financially burdened and you would have to spend another year out of work.

    Good luck in making your decision.

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