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More valuable to a PR professional: master's degree or experience?

I finished my bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies (a relevant degree for PR) and am now currently working toward my master’s degree in Corporate Communications and Reputation Management. Lately I have been feeling less passionate about my degree program (I feel it is too focused on marketing) and have been more interested in entering the job market. After doing some job searching online, I’ve noticed that very few if any PR management/coordination jobs require a master’s degree while all require experience. Would I be best served withdrawing from my degree program and getting practical experience? I appreciate any opinions but would really value advice from industry professionals. Thank you!

Well, I’m not an "industry professional"…but I do sit on the other side of this debate as a college professor in marketing. While I don’t think it is possible for any degree to be "too focused on marketing" (LOL, personal bias), I do believe that in most "marketing-related" fields, especially PR and advertising, experience is a requirement for any job higher than "entry-level"…and a bachelor’s degree is more than sufficient for an entry-level job!

Now in the long-run, a master’s degree would open doors that would be closed to you without one…but I’d estimate those doors are at least 10 years away for you. At the moment, experience will do more for your career than additional education.

Would I advise withdrawing from your degree program?…not necessarily…especially if the program is structured to give you opportunities to gain experience through internships…and even if it isn’t, you can still gain valuable experience through volunteer work while you finish your degree. For some people, it is easier and more productive to finish their entire education before they start their career rather than trying to earn an advanced degree 5 or 10 or 20 years into their career when they discover it is necessary to their career goals…juggling a career and family and other responsibilities only gets more difficult the older you get. I know I was thankful that I finished my doctorate at 27, before I was married, before I found myself a single mom, before I had to work a full-time job to support myself and my family.

I think the question you need to ask yourself is whether your short-term and long-term career goals require you to earn a master’s degree. You may be correct that most of the jobs you envision for your short-term don’t require a graduate degree…however, I think you should talk to some of the faculty in your program to find out what types of jobs former graduates find after graduation…and about the long-term career path related to your degree.

You might discover that they have a strong recruiting network that places graduates in jobs that DO require a master’s degree…jobs that pay more and have more responsibility than the ones you found when searching online (you are likely to find a disproportionate number of entry-level jobs posted online…companies searching for higher-level positions are more likely to use recruiters, networking/referrals, other less "broad-based" methods for finding candidates). Alternatively, you may discover that your advanced degree won’t do a lot for you during the next five years or so but that after that time, it will open doors to promotion opportunities not available to those without such a degree.

I do see a lot of "non-traditional" students in my classes who were basically forced to return to school for an MBA to continue their career advancement…quite a few of them have noted that they realized that they were no longer eligible for promotion with their employer due to the lack of a degree. A friend of mine sees this in education all the time (she finished her master’s degree before she started teaching full time)…colleagues who are paid less, hold a lower rank, and have already exhausted all opportunities for promotion just 10 years into their career…except earning a master’s or doctoral degree!


2 Comments

  1. Well, I’m not an "industry professional"…but I do sit on the other side of this debate as a college professor in marketing. While I don’t think it is possible for any degree to be "too focused on marketing" (LOL, personal bias), I do believe that in most "marketing-related" fields, especially PR and advertising, experience is a requirement for any job higher than "entry-level"…and a bachelor’s degree is more than sufficient for an entry-level job!

    Now in the long-run, a master’s degree would open doors that would be closed to you without one…but I’d estimate those doors are at least 10 years away for you. At the moment, experience will do more for your career than additional education.

    Would I advise withdrawing from your degree program?…not necessarily…especially if the program is structured to give you opportunities to gain experience through internships…and even if it isn’t, you can still gain valuable experience through volunteer work while you finish your degree. For some people, it is easier and more productive to finish their entire education before they start their career rather than trying to earn an advanced degree 5 or 10 or 20 years into their career when they discover it is necessary to their career goals…juggling a career and family and other responsibilities only gets more difficult the older you get. I know I was thankful that I finished my doctorate at 27, before I was married, before I found myself a single mom, before I had to work a full-time job to support myself and my family.

    I think the question you need to ask yourself is whether your short-term and long-term career goals require you to earn a master’s degree. You may be correct that most of the jobs you envision for your short-term don’t require a graduate degree…however, I think you should talk to some of the faculty in your program to find out what types of jobs former graduates find after graduation…and about the long-term career path related to your degree.

    You might discover that they have a strong recruiting network that places graduates in jobs that DO require a master’s degree…jobs that pay more and have more responsibility than the ones you found when searching online (you are likely to find a disproportionate number of entry-level jobs posted online…companies searching for higher-level positions are more likely to use recruiters, networking/referrals, other less "broad-based" methods for finding candidates). Alternatively, you may discover that your advanced degree won’t do a lot for you during the next five years or so but that after that time, it will open doors to promotion opportunities not available to those without such a degree.

    I do see a lot of "non-traditional" students in my classes who were basically forced to return to school for an MBA to continue their career advancement…quite a few of them have noted that they realized that they were no longer eligible for promotion with their employer due to the lack of a degree. A friend of mine sees this in education all the time (she finished her master’s degree before she started teaching full time)…colleagues who are paid less, hold a lower rank, and have already exhausted all opportunities for promotion just 10 years into their career…except earning a master’s or doctoral degree!References :

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