Written by: Kayleigh Tansey, Chapter Member
As the end of the spring semester is just weeks away, conversations around campus are buzzing with talks of graduation and plans for the future. Seniors are excited, yet stressed, for the semester to come to an end. But what about the rest of us? Even as an underclassman, it is hard to hear about those graduating and not start to think in advance to our own graduation day and futures. While thinking of all we need to do and achieve before then, it is easy to think of graduation as far away, but it’s simply not the case.
Something I have given a lot of thought to lately has been graduate school. In the communications department, I have overheard many conversations throughout the year about applying to grad school, getting interviews, and being accepted to certain schools and programs. How do you know if grad school is the right path to take? While the answer won’t be the same for everyone, there are a few things to consider. For me, the most important question: is a graduate degree really worth the debt? Depending on your field, the answer is both yes and no.
Someone getting a graduate degree in health and sciences can be looking at as much as a 190 percent salary increase. However, fields such as public relations and advertising are not looking at the same situation. In the communications industry, working experience and internships are everything. A graduate degree in public relations is not going to necessarily mean you are qualified to go work in the upper levels of an agency. In fact, many professionals in the public relations world feel that an undergrad degree and ample work and internship experience are more valuable than a graduate degree. They also tend to see candidates with a graduate degree as entitled to get better jobs and therefore, better pay. Quite honestly, after spending that much on the degree, I can’t say that I wouldn’t feel the same way.
In the eyes of many already in the industry, those with just graduate degrees in communications aren’t valuable just because they happen to have that piece of paper. Hiring someone with no work or hands-on knowledge in the industry is risky. Also, because they do have the degree (and the debt), they expect more money. It is simply easier to hire someone with an undergrad degree because they are going to settle for entry-level salary and already have internship and industry experience to get those jobs.
If you have the money and the drive for graduate school – go for it! Being realistic about that degree, how much it will cost you, and where it will get you is the key when it comes to making your own decision. The best thing to do, with industry trends as they are currently, is to also gain hands-on experience while earning your degree. Going into debt for something that isn’t going to guarantee you a significant pay raise may not be worth it in the end, but working and interning could get your farther. Before considering your path, make sure you do ample research on your industry in regards to graduate degrees and also keep sight of your ultimate career goals.