Should I Get My Master’s to Advance my PR Career?

127070-main_FullDear Mopwater:

How have you been lately?

I have been doing quite a bit of thinking about my future and I felt that you would be a good person to seek advice from.

Honestly, I don’t want to go back to school for my Master’s but I feel like I should because [taking it back to grade school days] everybody else is doing it. I am fighting with this notion that higher degree equals higher position; yet, I’m also fighting with the financial basics that higher degree equals more debt and will take longer to get out of.

I have learned a lot more in my work experience than school itself. I took a surprising turn from being a film major to taking my media skills and incorporating them into Marketing. My degree has definitely helped with the evolving interest in new media. I like what I do and I want to grow in it. Possibly transferring to a PR firm or large ad agency in the future. Who knows.

I just want to know can I achieve a managerial position with just a BA. I know that I may have competition with an individual obtaining a Masters degree, but if I gain enough work experience and provide an impressive portfolio — can I make it?


Contemplating Graduate Degree

Dear Contemplating:

Thank you so much for reaching out.

More education DOES equal more debt. It just does. Don’t just do what your friends are doing if you honestly don’t feel it’s necessary. I’m a firm believer in on-the-job training; and there’s so much changing in our industry that on-the-job training probably makes more sense right now anyway. A lot of people probably wouldn’t like to hear me say that. But wouldn’t you rather work and get paid 40k to learn in one year than pay 40k to a school to learn the same things from a theoretical perspective?

HOWEVER, given the precarious state of our current job market, it may be difficult to even get your foot in the door to get the full-time job that offers you a salary while you learn on the job. So what do you do in this scenario? In this case, if you can get your education financed affordably and you’re not going to go into an insane amount of debt to pay off your degree, then consider it. But remember, a graduate degree is not a guarantee of a job or better job prospects. And the absence of a graduate degree on your resume won’t necessarily keep you from getting the job that you want. It all depends on you.

(Tip: You can get creative with financing. Upromise – The Smart Way to Save for College)

So if you want to go to school to advance your public relations skills, you should go. But don’t just go because

a. everyone else is doing it

b. you’ve reached a career dead-end and don’t know what else to do, or

c. you think it will guarantee you a job.

Because there are no guarantees.

At the end of the day you should be prepared to walk away happy with the skills and knowledge you gained from your year or two in grad school, whether that nets you a new position or not. If you can’t say you would be okay with that, I wouldn’t commit to a graduate program.

I think that by asking questions, you are on the right track. You just may need to get your career on the right track. I’m not sure where you are working, but if you are trying to get into a management position at an agency, you need to be working at an agency. If you want to do non-profit PR, get at a non-profit. If you want to go association, get at an association. If you want to own your own firm, start freelancing. If you want to rise to the top at an agency, you need an account executive position. You may even need to to start with an internship position which I’m sure that you can get. If you are hungry enough, anything is possible.

Heading Back to School? – Don’t forget to find scholarships for college at Want more tried and true advice for your PR career?  Order your copy of the Mopwater Manual.

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