Is graduate school journalism a good idea?
Ask yourself whether you’re considering a master’s degree because you want one or because you need one. If you have always wanted to get an advanced degree, you are acting on personal reasons quite distinct from career considerations. That’s fine. If a master’s is very important to you, perhaps that’s reason enough to go for it. If you’re looking into a master’s degree, decide whether you need to concentrate on theory or practice. If you are looking to report and write better, to become a better visual journalist, or to grow in your news judgment and newsroom sophistication, find a grad school that focuses on the practical. If it is less important to you to gain practical skills, but you still want to get a master’s degree, look at programs that focus on research and theory.
I already work in a newsroom. Is graduate school journalism for me?
If you’re a practicing journalist, what are you expecting to learn in a classroom that you haven’t already learned in a newsroom? You may be able to benefit from a course in narrative or investigative journalism, but do you need to buy the whole program? Would a degree in law, politics, management, economics, criminology, or another specialty help you more? A great many editors will be more impressed if you add training and a credential in a supplemental area, rather than deepen your journalism.
Gaining entrée into the business necessitates not only classroom training, but also practical experience working for a college newspaper and, increasingly, multiple internships in professional newsrooms. For rising college seniors and recent graduates who have limited campus newspaper and internship experience, and those making career switches, graduate school journalism provides the opportunity to develop the essential experiences that will allow them to cast themselves as competitive candidates for newsroom jobs and perform well in the entry-level positions they will be hired into.
Young journalists who have spent two or three years working in small markets, weeklies, and alternative media can also benefit from graduate school journalism to rapidly expand their repertoire of reporting and writing skills away from the fast-paced workings of the newsroom. In addition to strengthening and advancing their fundamental reporting and writing abilities, graduate schools offer instruction in covering specialized topics such as business, the environment, and health, as well as courses in column writing, essay, long-form
magazine pieces, multimedia storytelling, computerized data-based reporting, and advanced Internet research methods.
The rest of the newsroom:
This advice comes directly from my book Breaking In. It contains everything I know about landing and acing your journalism internship. I’ve been a journalist for a long time, and spent nearly 20 years recruiting and editing at the Detroit Free Press. For more tips and strategies for landing journalism internships and jobs, check out these resources:
- Related article: Landing the internship.
- Breaking In