PR pros often wonder whether grad school would be worth the time, money and effort.
If you’re on the fence about pursuing an advanced degree, here are a few suggestions:
1. Consider your long-term career goals.
If a master’s degree will help you attain a particular career objective, evaluate the different options (e.g., MBA, MS) and decide which is the best route.
Apply your long-term vision to everything you choose to do—from the classes you take to the topic of your thesis paper.
If you intend to stay in PR for your whole career, you don’t need an advanced degree. PR is more practice than theory, so you learn mainly from experience.
If you want to switch careers, grad school can be a way to demonstrate your seriousness in pursuing something else.
2. Be careful about which program you select.
Consider the business rationale behind PR. It’s not just media hits and social media posts; it’s the business impact they make. Higher education helps you to think differently about the issues and tasks we encounter.
When it comes to building skills and competencies, a grad school PR program will push you to advance what we do day to day.
Crisis communications was a big focus in my own grad program: We studied previous cases and best practices for every stakeholder. Critical, logical and linear thinking under pressure are essential.
3. Take advantage of networking opportunities.
Grad school is also a great networking opportunity. More than in undergrad studies, people go to class; students want to continue learning. You’ll meet and work with other professionals in similar industries or lines of work.
4. Don’t discount the time commitment.
Grad school is a huge time commitment, especially if you want to attend on campus—rather than online—and make the most of your tuition.
Luckily, there are programs with part-time options and night and weekend classes. It will become another thing to balance, in addition to work and life.
5. Evaluate whether grad school will benefit your personal bottom line.
Will you get a paycheck bump? It depends on which company you end up working for, but to be candid, PR doesn’t put a premium on higher education.
Reach out to program alumni. Whether through LinkedIn or mutual friends, you can ask alumni what they thought about a certain program. Not all are designed the same, and you could learn which programs or schools are better than others.
What do you think? Is grad school a smart move for PR pros?
Julia Sahin works in corporate communications at a top New York PR firm. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.