Grad School & PR: What’s the deal?

By: Jenna Newman

“You don’t need to go to graduate school for PR.” “Only go to grad school if they pay for it.” “Grad school is a good way to broaden your network and learn more about the field.”

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These are all the different things I heard throughout my junior and senior year, which made it really difficult to figure out what I wanted to do post-grad. On top of that, most of my friends were looking for big city, big agency jobs, which isn’t exactly the route I’ve seen myself taking. My guess is that I’m not the only one who has considered grad school or just felt as though they were on a totally different path than most of their peers, so here are some questions and insights that I found helpful in my journey to grad school.

What are your goals? Not the goals of the people around you. This can be so hard when you’re surrounded by friends and classmates that are all fighting for the same internships at the same firms in the same big cities. But within PR, there is so much you can do. You can teach, do research, work in-house, work for an agency, work for a non-profit and so on and so forth. That being said, it’s super important to figure out your goals.

What gets you excited? A good way to figure out your goals is to figure out what you’re passionate about. Almost every organization has (or needs), a PR person. Start by figuring out what gets you excited and then determine what the best way  to go about working for a company that does that, or that company is. I am really interested in working with nonprofits; however, I am also potentially interested in teaching one day. I grew up in a household with two professors and I got to see the benefits of teaching and what that entails. I’ve always been passionate about helping others and have really enjoyed my experiences at UD as a teaching assistant, working as a peer tutor and conducting research for various honors projects. Although grad school means postponing my dreams of working in a non-profit, it lines up with the excitement I have teaching and doing research.

Are there programs that line-up with your goals/interests? Once you figure out what makes you excited and what your goals are, start looking into programs that line-up with those. You can start this search before you definitively decide that you want to go on to grad school. Look into how long the program takes, whether it’s online, in person, or a hybrid, cost, funding opportunities and the location of the program and whether the program is career only or has a thesis track. I was looking for a program that was located in the Philadelphia area and had the option for a thesis track because I am interested in research and potentially want to pursue my doctorate. I also ideally wanted to get an assistantship that would cover my tuition as well as provide a stipend. That’s what led me ultimately to applying to Villanova University for their masters in Communication and certificate in PR & advertising program.

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How does COVID-19 impact the industry’s trajectory? This may not be a question that everyone has to answer. Personally, I hope that after this year’s graduating class, COVID-19 does not need to be a consideration, but either way, COVID-19 will change the way the industry functions. My father, a professor, said he’s had many students suddenly come asking for graduate school recommendation letters, because even though many companies are putting a freeze on hiring, graduate schools are still accepting applicants. Also, if you have any interest in research, there will be a whole new base of literature being conducted in the aftermath of this pandemic and you may be able to get your name on a paper that will be read for years to come.

Ultimately, there are pros and cons to going right into the job field as well as getting your masters degree. I opted to get my masters because I love learning in a classroom, conducting research, teaching and I see additional education as an opportunity to advance myself in my career, but you need to make the decision for yourself. Consider these questions, evaluate your goals, and determine the next steps to get you to your dream career!


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