Making the Choice: The Workforce or Graduate School

Updated: Feb 24, 2019

When you were 6 years old, the biggest decision of your life was choosing to order rocky road ice cream or mint chocolate chip. When you were 10, you were deciding between playing soccer and becoming a ballerina. At age 16, you couldn’t decide whom you wanted to take to the prom and, by 18, you had to choose a college where you would spend the next four years of your life.

Decisions exist at every age, and they always seem to feel like life or death choices. Unfortunately, they aren’t going away anytime soon. In fact, we will all be posed with the same heavy decision to make within the next few years – where we will be post-graduation.

Luckily for us, Doug Serton, the director of public relations at iCrossing, Brandi Boatner, a past national president of PRSSA, and Karla K. Gower, an associate professor of public relations at the University of Alabama and the director for The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, have shared their advice for how to make our decisions based on their own experiences. In particular, they had suggestions to help us decide between going for the job right after graduation or extending our degree.

The professionals agree that if you ask recruiters, they are going to advocate taking a public relations job, and if you ask recent MA graduates, they are going to push for you to pursue the degree. So the question becomes, who is right?

Serton, Boatner and Gower said that neither is right nor wrong. There is no single answer. The decision is individualized for each person and should be based on the following circumstances:

· Personal financial state you are in post-graduation · Current economy and marketplace structure · Interest in furthering your education in the public relations field · Vision of what your future will look like

With these circumstances in mind, you can guide your decision based on the benefits of each option the professionals described below.

You’re Going for the Job

  • The classroom setting is a great place to learn; however, it doesn’t offer the enhanced experience that working for a real agency or organization does. You have the ability to take the skills you’ve learned about in class and develop them on the job.

  • It’s cheaper. You can earn and save money to pay back those student loans. You may even get lucky, and your employer will pay for your graduate degree in the future.

  • Starting out young in entry-level jobs can help guide you in the direction of public relations you want to go. You can determine if the career path is really what you want to do early on.

You’re Staying in School · The education you will have received in your undergraduate degree will be accompanied by in-depth knowledge of the public relations   field. Your management and critical thinking skills will be strengthened through applied research. · More job opportunities will be available for you once you finish the degree, and higher salaries will be rewarded. Having a higher     degree also makes you eligible to teach at most community colleges and some universities.

Whichever option you choose, you are making a decision to further your career. And if you receive your diploma and you’re still unsure, Serton, Boatner and Gower suggest applying to jobs and graduate schools and deciding from the options that are actually made available to you.

The plans you make when your four years of undergraduate studies end may be a harder decision than choosing an ice cream flavor, but hopefully this advice will make the decision easier.

-by Megan Perkins, UA PRSSA General Member

Megan Perkins is a sophomore studying public relations and management at The University of Alabama. She is a member of UA PRSSA and is currently the assistant account executive for The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations for Capstone Agency. Connect with her on LinkedIn or at mkperkins@crimson.ua.edu.

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