guiding the career in public relations

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Good Time To Get Masters Degree

March 26th, 2009 · 3 Comments

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.

Tags: Q&As

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Abby // Mar 27, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    The economy is not a good reason to go back for your masters. I’ve found that most PR jobs require experience, but only prefer a degree in communication or public relations. (A degree is required, just not necessarily in that area.) You’d be better off getting an internship in the field, that way you will discover if you really like the work and also gain valuable experience. Nonprofits are a great place to intern with. After that, you’ll be able to better assess whether PR is the field for you and if you think grad school is necessary.

    Here’s an interesting blog post I read on the subject:

  • 2 Culpwrit // Mar 28, 2009 at 8:56 am

    Agree totally. Experience is key to successful entry into a public relations career. However, this questioner has no experience or PR training so the graduate degree in public relations may be the best way to re-direct his career focus. Three or more internships are now becoming common before landing a full-time job in public relations, but it is hard to land a PR internship without sufficient academic training.

  • 3 Kelsey Brown // Apr 1, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Many agencies are looking for people with different types of experience. I read a blog from Buchanan & Associates discussing the desire for people without public relations or advertising degrees.

    Agencies such as this do exist! I would suggest searching for those before spending another many thousands of dollars on school.

    CULPWRIT: Excellent point. It is good to hear about such enlightened firms.

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