Journalism: Is graduate school needed?

Posted by Brianna Shawhan

After graduating from college, many people pursue a master’s degree so they can have an advantage over other people in their field. But would this be worth it for journalists?

Photo taken by MomMaven on flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Doing well during college isn’t as much of a worry to journalism students as it is to students who are majoring in biology, business, law, or pharmacy. Once you step into the real world of journalism, no newsroom will ask you for your GPA.

Many journalists believe that graduate school for journalism majors is a waste of time because it won’t give you an advantage over other journalists. What matters is the work you’ve experienced and the clips and skills you’ve gathered.

In her blog, journalism professor Mindy McAdams advises students against getting a graduate degree in journalism:

This post is for your mom and dad, who are pressuring you to go to grad school immediately after undergrad.

I don’t know why your parents think that’s a good idea. Maybe in whatever field they’re in, it’s what people do. Like law. Like medicine. But not in journalism. Not usually.

But not all journalists think graduate school is a completely bad idea. Journalist Walden Siew gave the positives and negatives of obtaining a master’s degree:

Positives:

1. Experience: If you didn’t gain much experience during undergraduate schooling or if you got your bachelor’s degree in something besides journalism, graduate school could offer you a lot more experience and skills before you get an actual job.

2. Learn from the best: Look for the graduate program that will offer you the best courses and professors. Make sure you don’t get into a graduate program that will teach you what you’ve already learned – you want to add on to your skills.

3. Networking: Going on to graduate school would allow you to meet even more students and professors who could help you later on in your career. Schools also usually have people with more diverse backgrounds than many companies do.

4. Alumni services: Along with alumni from undergraduate school, alumni from graduate school could help you gain more work opportunities.

Negatives:

1. Cost: You’ll need to figure out if graduate school is worth all of the extra money.

2. Experience: Most people learn all they need to know as undergrads and on the job. If you already have a lot of job experience coming out of undergraduate school, then attending graduate school is probably not the right choice for you.

3. Pay: Journalism jobs pay by experience and how well you do, not by how much schooling you have had. Getting a master’s degree will not earn you a higher salary itself.

If you’re dead set on getting a master’s degree, then it would be beneficial to obtain it in another field besides journalism. This way, you’ll have something to fall back on if you can’t get a job in journalism, and you’ll also have skills and knowledge on a topic that many other journalists might not know. Journalists can always use more skills.

Do you think journalism students should get a graduate degree? Why or why not?

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5 responses to “Journalism: Is graduate school needed?

  1. I’m glad you addressed this. I feel like a lot of kids want to go to grad school just to put off trying to get a job in this economy. However, I’ve always thought this can often do more harm than good, for many of the reasons you mentioned above. I think waiting to further your own education can actually help out in the end.

    • I also think that waiting to further your education would be more beneficial in the end. For journalists, it’d be smarter to work on the job for a while, then get a graduate degree if you want to move on to something different. I think a lot of kids want to go to graduate school because that’s what they think they have to do to get ahead, since more people are getting their undergraduate degrees these days.

  2. I agree with Kelsey. Graduate degrees may be beneficial and even highly recommended nowadays for psychology or education majors, but not for those in journalism. I think it’s best to get out in the real world and to get the hands on experience as soon as possible. You will learn more in the real world about the magazine, newspaper, advertising or whatever industry you enter into than you will in the classroom.

  3. I agree with everything you all have said. My friends think I’m crazy when I tell them I’m not considering graduate school. You mentioned the negatives and I think experience is the most important thing for potential employees to have in the journalism field. If you get great experience during your undergrad, why waste the money for more schooling?

  4. This makes me wonder about whether or not trade schools, or community colleges could take the place of graduate school. For example, if someone graduates from an undergrad program earning a degree in magazines, would it be beneficial to then take a few years to dive deeper into their specific interests, like interior design, through a community college? That would take away the negative cost problem, and then give them a little more insight. I personally am getting two degrees currently. One in magazines and one in elementary education. I thought this would be replacing grad school because I want to work at a parenting magazine. What are your thoughts on that?

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