Weighing the choice between grad school or entering the workforce

Young PR leaders share their thinking behind this important early career decision and what is driving their planning during a disruptive period.

As seniors embarking on their last semester of college, we’re faced with the daunting question: “What are your plans after graduation?” The ongoing pandemic is of course continuing to affect everyone’s lives and actions, but the two most common paths recent college graduates take is to either enter the workforce or to attend graduate school.

Each of us would like to share our reasons for choosing one of these options, to help others decide which path might be right for them.

Entering the workforce: Vivian  

During my time at Ohio University, I’ve worked hard to set myself up for success during and beyond my college experience. I worked a total of three jobs, had five internships, and have served on Scripps’ PRSSA executive board for two years. Essentially, all of the right steps to be successful following graduation.

Attending grad school has always been something I’ve been interested in pursuing, and up until last year, it was my plan after graduation. My change of heart came during COVID-19 when the whole world came to a standstill. I began evaluating my goals in life and what I wanted to do—not only to be successful but also to be happy.

During my internship this past summer, my supervisor gave me advice on attending grad school that resonated with me. She shared that sometimes attending grad school directly following undergrad can make you overqualified for entry-level positions. This isn’t always true and can be a different experience for everyone, but it made me realize how important getting tangible, hands-on experience after graduating was to me.

I’ve been interning with Belle Communication, a digital public relations firm, since September, and I’ve been able to extensively grow my PR and communication skills. This role has made me eager to begin working full-time at a PR agency or in corporate communications after graduation. I’m looking forward to establishing myself in the workforce and enhancing my brand and network.

Grad school isn’t completely ruled out in my future, but for now, I’m going to dive into the workforce in hopes it all works out.

Attending grad school: Mary Louise

As a first-generation college student, I came to Arizona State University wanting to absorb as much as possible. Public relations quickly emerged as my passion, and I sought extracurriculars and internships that could help me explore my interest. Over the past three years, I held four internships and three positions on ASU’s PRSSA executive board, including my current role as president. When deciding what to do following graduation, I had a lot to consider, but ultimately, with my mentors’ help, I decided pursuing a master’s degree was best.

Entering the workforce has been tempting, especially in my final semester at ASU, but I know a master’s will allow me to gain more specialized knowledge before entering the industry. For instance, my program at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication offers crisis communication and digital media courses that I could not fit into my undergraduate schedule. By pursuing a master’s degree, I can connect with experienced and talented faculty and tap into some of these specialized courses. By the time I am ready to enter the workforce full-time, I will have a deeper understanding of public relations principles and broader exposure to different fields within the public relations discipline.

With this greater knowledge, there will be a wider array of positions I can seek after graduation, and a master’s degree will stand out on my future résumé. I have seen jobs that interest me, but they require a graduate degree.

I officially decided to pursue a master’s degree in the Fall of 2019, after attending PRSSA’s International Conference in San Diego, California. Every opportunity I had to speak with professionals from PRSA and keynote speakers, I asked whether they thought a master’s degree would be worth pursuing immediately following undergrad. Overwhelmingly their answers were “Yes!,” explaining that there may be promotions I am otherwise qualified for that require a master’s degree later on in my career. I do not want the absence of a degree to act as a barrier to advancement.

Conclusion

Deciding whether you want to attend grad school or enter the workforce after graduation is a big decision to make, and there is no right or wrong path. Speak to your mentors and consider what is required for your dream jobs and go from there. It’s essential to evaluate your own goals and decide what’s right for your journey.

 

Vivian Moussa is the 2020-21 Chapter President of Scripps PRSSA at Ohio University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

 Mary Louise (Lou) Long is the 2020-2021 Chapter President of PRSSA at Arizona State University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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