The worth of a graduate degree in journalism has always been heavily debated in the journalism industry. Some say it's unnecessary and some say it is. For international students wrestling with the same issue, it's worth it to take both sides into account, both make good points, but the ultimate decision is yours.
Earning a journalism masters degree in the US takes about one to two years. But with the total cost running anywhere from $15,000 to $55,000 USD, it's not a decision to be taken lightly.
Do Get a Graduate Degree in Journalism…
Why is a master's degree in journalism beneficial? Read the pros here:
There will be new technologies and new approaches to the industry as journalism evolves with time. You can see this happening right now as print media declines and the Internet has risen to take its place.
Grad schools are doing a great job of adapting their curriculum to include multimedia approaches to the same age-old industry. They are building state of the art media labs and guaranteeing instruction across all media platforms.
Journalists trained without today's technology in mind may find that grad school is a great way to catch up.
Grad schools are also a fundamental starting point to make connections within the industry. Journalists eager to further their careers but losing jobs to people who have a contact at a major organization may feel disheartened, and rightfully so. The way to counter this is getting to know people through professional events, seminars, and training workshops – but also through grad school.
International students can make use of their big-name graduate schools by getting to know classmates, alumni, and professors. In addition, grad schools often have internships available for their students – opportunities otherwise unavailable to those outside the university.
- Aspiring Journalists
New to the Industry
This is where a journalism master's degree may very well have the most benefit. Those with no formal training in journalism, like students who did not earn their undergraduate degree in journalism and those looking to switch careers, will learn the basics on up.
Keep in mind, however, that while an undergraduate degree in journalism is not necessary for acceptance in a journalism master's degree program, journalism experience will be. Find an internship or gain practice at a local or school newspaper before applying.
Don't Get a Graduate Degree in Journalism…
On the other hand, a master's degree may not be essential to a successful career in journalism. Read the pros of not getting a master's degree in journalism here:
Many journalists will tell you that the best way to learn is through experience. Journalism is a very hands-on, learn as you go, job. The basics learned as an undergrad carry through to the workplace, but the workplace in and of itself is a great educative tool.
On the job journalists hone their writing skills, improve their interview and research skills, and discover how best to work with colleagues and supervisors. You'll learn how to use different media platforms and technology as it arises in the workplace. Reporting skills will improve out of practice. While others are getting their master's, practicing journalists are adding to their portfolios.
When it comes time to apply for a new job, employers will look for talented writing skills and a great set of clips regardless of the applicant's level of education.
- Professional Organizations
- Don't feel like experience is education enough? Continued journalism education can be obtained via professional organizations for much cheaper than a graduate degree. Sometimes the company you work for will even pay for seminars or training workshops.
- When considering a $55,000 USD price tag (the current cost of tuition at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism) sometimes it's just not practical. Unless, as an international student, you have more than enough money saved to cover grad school, or are sure you can score enough scholarships and financial aid, your debate may be answered for you.
Wait it Out
One last way to look at the debate: Don't make the decision to go back to grad school… yet. If you've just gotten your undergraduate degree, try working for a few years. See how you feel about journalism as a career. If it's exactly what you wanted, fantastic. If not, than you won't even have to debate if a graduate degree in journalism is worth it.
A few years on the job will also help narrow down the many specialties of journalism. Say you favor magazines over broadcasting, than you can better tailor your graduate school search to your needs.
A master's degree in journalism is a big decision. While there is no wrong answer, be sure to take the time to weigh your options so you can make the right decision for you.