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Graduation Anxiety

Posted At: April 15, 2013 2:30 P.M.
by Katie Sanders
“So what are you going to do after college?” This question plagues every college student from his junior year on. Curiosity from others can spark career aspirations, a well-thought-out plan or sometimes panic in the responder. The dilemma typically stands between accepting a job after receiving an undergraduate degree or pursuing a master’s degree in graduate school.

Undergraduate students in public relations or communication are not the only ones stuck in this dilemma. It could be easy to lump all graduate fields together, but public relations graduate students may have completely different advantages or disadvantages than those in other areas of study.

Advantage: One obvious advantage of pursuing higher education is the knowledge received. More time studying research methods, campaign strategies or writing techniques gives graduate students the leg up. Graduate school is definitely a distinguished line on your résumé.
Disadvantage: In this field, experience is sometimes given more importance than “book learning.” The time lost in the workplace by attending graduate school could hurt students pursuing a master’s degree in their search for a job after college.

The job market
Advantage: Graduate school has become a popular post-undergraduate option due to the bleak state of the job market. Higher education allows students to delay entrance in the workforce while increasing knowledge and networking contacts. Graduate school can prevent recent grads from spending idle months searching for a job.
Disadvantage: While unemployment rates may not seem favorable to college graduates as a whole, the public relations field may not be so unfavorable. According to the The Bureau of Labor Statistics,  the field is projected to grow 21 percent from 2010 to 2020. An undergraduate degree in public relations may open up opportunities in other similar communication fields.

The package benefits
Advantage: Graduate school is more than a great line on a résumé. According to the Georgetown University’s Center for Education study, a graduate degree may boost earning power by up to 40 percent.
Disadvantage: Not all graduate degrees offer the same payoff. Census Bureau stats show only an $8,000 pay bump for public relations graduate students. Although this stat may grow, many students have a hard time swallowing the extra two to four years of graduate school loans without a big payoff.

Even with the pros and cons laid out, it’s a tough decision. The scale isn’t tipped in one direction over another. There are still other emerging options to get ahead of others in the field, which include APR accreditation, PRSA membership, professional seminars or online graduate school.

Do you believe one option is stronger than the others? Any advice for upcoming spring graduates?


  1. Post comment

    This is great information for us up and coming graduates! I’ve always had the thought in my mind that I wanted to attend graduate school after my undergrad. However, after spending four years here pursuing a degree in PR I feel as if it may be a waste of time. I’ve had this conversation with many of my professions and previous employers about the benefit of grad school for a communications student. The majority answered with the same response, it is more important for you to have the first-hand experience of working than it is to sit in school learn about it. The fact that grad school will only earn an extra $8,000 is also a little disheartening.

    My plan is to work in the field for a few years then possibly return to a graduate program focused around communications. I’ve found great ones that have sent a number of their students to work at Fortune 500 companies after graduation. I think that once you’ve had experience in the industry you’ll be able to properly ascertain whether or not grad school beneficiary to our line of work.


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