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Advice to journalism students: Forget grad school!

While my internships post is still relatively fresh, I’d like to offer something else to journalism students who are really keen on becoming journalists — and maybe some of you in the newsrooms will weigh in as well.

Dear students:

This post is for your mom and dad, who are pressuring you to go to grad school immediately after undergrad.

I don’t know why your parents think that’s a good idea. Maybe in whatever field they’re in, it’s what people do. Like law. Like medicine. But not in journalism. Not usually.

Inside the university, we have seen a new student groupthink in the past few years — that groupthink is: “I must go to school for two more years after I get my bachelor’s degree, so I can get my master’s degree right away.”

This is sheer frickin’ madness if your undergrad is journalism — unless you DON’T want to be a journalist. If you want to be a lawyer, heck, sure, get out of here and go to law school. But if you want to DO JOURNALISM as your career, your calling, your mission in life — then GO GET A JOB. The sooner, the better.

If you did your undergrad in English, or basket weaving, or political science — then maybe you would benefit from two years in a professional journalism master’s program. That is, the kind of master’s program that is really a lot like the undergrad journalism programs. But if your undergrad is already in journalism, let me wise you up about grad school. You and your parents. Please.

Grad school programs in mass communication come in two flavors. One is a traditional scholarly program. Most people who want to become a journalist totally HATE this kind of program. And they make pretty poor students too, because they HATE their classes. A traditional master’s program is about scholarly research and statistics and mass communication theory. It is not, in fact, about how to be a journalist.

The other flavor of master’s degree program is the professional program. And guess what? It’s very, very similar to most undergrad journalism programs in North America. So you would be, duh, taking the same classes AGAIN. How boring would that be? You would be wasting two years of your life not learning anything new. For what? For a degree?

Let’s talk about how highly editors in newsrooms (print, online and broadcast) value that master’s degree.

Not. One. Bit.

Go ahead, make your mom and dad call some people who know some people. Ask a few real live editors what they look for when they want to hire a new, entry level person. This is the list: Skills, internships, clips, URLs. That’s what they want to see. That is the whole list.

What’s not on the list? Your GPA. No one in any newsroom anywhere will EVER ask you what your grades were. NO ONE CARES out there in the world. (No one except the grad school admissions people, that is.)

And guess what? Salary-wise, that master’s degree will make absolutely no difference in any journalism job. In fact, the other 24-year-olds will be making more money than you — yes, you, the dolt who stayed in school for two extra years.

Grad school has value in other situations. For example, after you have worked in journalism for five or 10 years, you might actually know what you what to study next — maybe political science, sociology, criminology, database design, public health, international policy, or another subject area that would make you a better journalist in a specialization. It takes a while to discover what you like in journalism. Most 21-year-olds don’t know yet. They might think they know (and some do), but give them five years and then ask them.

(I went back to school for a master’s degree when I was 30, and it was fantastic. I took six credits in computer animation, learned about guerrilla documentary video, studied human-computer interface design, and read British media studies scholars and French deconstructionists. I would have hated most of that stuff when I was 21, believe me! But everything’s totally different when you’re 30 — my whole approach to school was different.)

I know you love your parents, and they’ve taken good care of you all these years. But this time, they’re wrong. They’re wrong because they have not spoken to any TV news directors or newspaper editors or online managing editors or producers. If they had, they would be hearing what I just told you (and them): No one in a newsroom will respect your master’s degree, and what’s more, there is no reward at all for having it. So why do you want it? Now, when it won’t do you a bit of good? Later, when it would mean something, you won’t want to go back and get a second one.

Journalism is not rocket science. You don’t need a master’s degree to know how to do it, and you won’t do it well until you haul yourself out of school and into a working newsroom. Journalism is learned on the job, and if you’re not prepared to go out and do it after four years in undergrad, maybe you should just give up on it — and go to law school instead.


Categories: teaching


65 Comments

  1. Dave Lee says:

    Yes Mindy! This is the best post I’ve read all year. I had a discussion come argument with a professor at my university who asked me if I wanted to do a masters. Absolutely not, I said, I want to DO journalism, not talk about it. Thanks for this post. I’m in my final year now and I’m going to send it to all my coursemates. You’ve done us all a huge favour.

  2. I agree with your entry despite having gone to grad school a year after finishing my Bachelor’s.

    My situation was a little different since I studied public relations as an undergrad and journalism as a grad student.

    I don’t regret going either because it opened many doors for me. In fact, it is the reason I got into online media despite the program being more of the traditional type that you mentioned.

    I would not have gone to grad school had I majored in journalism as an undergrad. I had colleagues in the program that did, and they often lamented the type of classes that were required (as you stated in your entry).

  3. Andria says:

    From the perspective of someone who rushed to get into the real-world job 27 years ago:

    1. Yes, you DO want to go to grad school right away if someone else will pay for it. (I’m not talking about Mom and Dad. They need to save for retirement, so they’re not living with you later.)
    2. Yes, you DO want to go to grad school right away if it will give you the chance to travel more widely.
    3. Yes, you DO want to go to grad school right away if you already have a strong idea of what you’d like to specialize in, but you ought to get those clips and urls while you’re at it.
    4. Yes, you DO want to go to grad school right away if your undergrad j-degree was just about avoiding math classes. Go get the math, and the database and business skils, and the multimedia skills.
    5. And yes, you DO want to go to grad school right away if the business is in such turmoil when you’re getting out that your only job choice is at a word factory where your gas costs more than your paycheck and you don’t get a chance to continue to learn.
    6. And yes, you DO want to go to grad school right away if it will give you a Plan B in teaching or another field in case decent-paying J-jobs evaporate.
    If you DON’T want to go right away: Go back, like Mindy, when you’re 30. Or even when you’re 50. (Yes, you will be 50 some day, if you’re lucky.)

  4. Alex Gamela says:

    What about a 30 year old – out of college for 8 years now- from Portugal, with a fellowship? Where could he find the best grad programs in (modern) Journalism , in the United States?

  5. Mindy says:

    @Andria, I agree with some of what you said, but I strongly disagree with going to grad school because you can’t get a job. A lot of students do that — far too many. But using grad school as a holding pattern on your life is another way to waste the opportunity — we see too many students who are obviously marking time in grad school instead of growing or expanding their horizons.

    You did remind me of one good case for going straight to grad school, and that is the student who studied journalism at a very small school or one with a very backward journalism program. If that person has an opportunity to do a master’s at a bigger, better university with a high-quality professional program, it would be worth it — particularly if the program teaches the digital skills that newsrooms are looking for.

  6. Mindy says:

    @Alex Gamela: You will probably enjoy the grad school experience and get a lot out of it. The important thing is to examine the program offered very carefully — what are the courses (classes) offered, and who are the instructors (what is their experience)? If you have been working in journalism already, you might want a program that mixes professional training and mass comm. theory (University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill; University of Florida), and if you’re on a tight schedule (one year), you might want an intensive training program (Northwestern University, in Chicago). For strong multimedia journalism training, try University of California – Berkeley. Some other interesting programs include University of Nevada – Reno, Michigan State, and CUNY. The Northwestern degree is very expensive, as is the degree at Columbia University in New York.

  7. Sue Burzynski Bullard says:

    As someone who hired dozens of journalists at a major metro paper, I can attest that everything in Mindy’s post is absolutely true. The only time I suggested someone go directly to grad school was if they had no undergrad journalism experience. You will learn far more on the job than you will in school. I was even older than Mindy when I went back to school (at night) to get a master’s in management. By then, I knew what I needed to specialize in and why. In the meantime, get some experience while you’re working on your bachelor’s. And be open to learning new things because everything is changing rapidly so you need to be flexible and eager to try something new.

  8. @Mindy:
    I agree totally with your original post, but I disagree with the part of your reply to Andria in which you say students should go to grad school if they studied at a very small school. I don’t see how size has anything to do with it. At my college, we have an enrollment of 1,000 students, about 30 of whom are journalism majors. We have a weekly paper, a yearbook, a TV station, a radio station and a Web site. Students are instructed in all media – out of sheer necessity, if nothing else. How else do we operate all those media with just 30 students if they don’t learn to capture audio, shoot video, etc. I graduated from a “bigger, better university.” The quality of education I received at the larger institution is no better than what you can receive at small schools (assuming they aren’t backward). In fact, at the liberal arts school where I teach, students are encouraged to double major so they’ll know something else than journalism and so they’ll know how to think critically, think on their feet and possess a world view beyond the narrow scope of their discipline.

    I spent 23 years in newsrooms on five different dailies in four states before I got my master’s degree at the age of 50. I got my master’s degree to continue to teach at my institution. Otherwise, I was having a successful career as a journalist, sans master’s degree. In the last four years, though I don’t have a degree in it, I’ve been learning an entirely new way to practice journalism, using new media. Just like in my newspaper career, I’m learning new media by doing it (and reading your blogs!), not by getting an advanced degree.

  9. TeachJ says:

    I would add that getting a master’s in something besides journalism might be helpful, especially if it is a tech field – web design, film making, etc. might be particularly useful. Or if you actually plan on a career in academics.

  10. Pat Thornton says:

    Most students who want to get a masters in journalism right after undergrad probably just don’t want to work yet.

    Honestly, you don’t even need a journalism degree to be a journalist, let alone two degrees. You just need the skills, and many graduate programs won’t hone a student’s multimedia and online journalism skills that much.

    Heck, some newsrooms still have people working in them with just a high school diploma.

    Excellent advice all around Mindy. I’d hate to see people (their parents in many cases) wasting money on something they don’t need. If a student really wants a second degree, I’d strongly consider waiting a few years and getting a masters in another subject.

  11. John Kroll says:

    I want to agree with you. I do. Because that’s the route I took, partly because by senior year I was itching to get out into the real world.

    But … stuff happened. Working in a small town without a great college nearby. Working nights and being zonked out days. On and on.

    Now it’s been three decades, I’m working around the clock to feed the online beast, and I still don’t have that advanced degree. It’s never made a difference in the newsroom; you’re right. But it certainly does reduce my options. If I’d gotten at least a master’s back when, I’d have teaching choices that just aren’t open to me now.

    I admire people who can go back to school later in life, whether that means putting everything else aside or working at the same time. But not everyone will manage to do that. I wish I’d picked up that degree.

  12. Mindy says:

    @David: You’re right, I was sloppy in my writing when I said “a small school.” Some small colleges are great training grounds for journalists — just as some large universities have poor journalism programs. What I should have written was “a school with limited resources.” That can mean simply a lack of faculty, tools, or opportunities.

  13. Joe says:

    Amen! Even though my undergrad degree was not in journalism, but getting a professional-track master’s from a large land-grant institution in the Midwest didn’t help my job prospects one micron after graduation. I would’ve been better off taking a year-long unpaid internship somewhere fetching coffee for a graybeard than getting my M.S. in Journ. The program was anachronistic (I bet I would do splendid work in an early-1980s era newsroom!) and the professors were uninspiring dinosaurs. The career services person was as good as useless, too.

    I could go on, but I’ll spare everyone the bile. Basically, it was like compressing two to three years of undergraduate study into two semesters and a summer — a drive-thru master’s program not tailored to anything useful. I felt like an undergrad all over again — and not in a good way.

  14. gabriel says:

    grad school is for all kinds of different things including learning, meeting people, honing skills, etc.

    there are lots of bad reasons to go to grad school. mindy hits some of them.

    there are many good reasons to go to grad school that have been mentioned too.

    for most, going back to school is less and less of a realistic option as they get older. many people have told me that they wish they had gotten their master’s when they were younger.

    one thing seemingly being overlooked is this:
    it’s an excellent idea to go to grad school if you think you can sharpen up some of your new media skills. if your undergraduate journalism degree is a traditional print degree, and you are unfamiliar but interested in a lot of new media opportunities, now is the best time to get that kind of skill set. realistically, you will not be able to pick these skills up on the job.

    if you are interested in being a print reporter, then grad school probably will not give you the edge you’re looking for.

    if you’re looking to expand your skills and learn new technologies, don’t count on on-the-job training because that’s going to make your life very difficult. take a couple of years – or one – and really immerse yourself in a new media grad program. the connections and skills you gain will be well worth the time.

  15. [...] McAdams tem hoje um post bastante provocatório no seu blog que vale a pena ler – Advice to journalism students: Forget grad school! Eu, que venho de Línguas e Literaturas Modernas, jamais teria seguido jornalismo se não tivesse [...]

  16. Tim Gruber says:

    Interesting post Mindy with some valid points.

    From my own personal experience as a grad student in the Visual Communications program at Ohio University I can confidently say grad school for me was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

    Environments like the ones at OU don’t exist in newspapers and if your undergrad wasn’t in journalism or in a program that had a weak journalism or photojournalism program finding a place like OU can be a tremendous asset to your growth.

    This is the most intense and fertile environment I’ve ever known and nothing my internships have come close to matching.

    Sure working in the real world is great, but don’t dismiss what surrounding yourself with passionate and driven people can do for your growth.

    For example last year in my video class two of my classmates included Bob Sacha and Chad Stevens both of whom are now working at MediaStorm as producers. Talk about setting the bar high.

    I don’t know many environments like this that fosters creativity, critical thinking and promotes strong quality storytelling. Just how many newsrooms can say they do that on a regular basis?

    I have to disagree with not doing journalism well until you leave school. How many newspapers do you see doing work on par with what my classmates did with Soul of Athens? Or doing what my classmates and I did for our capstone class? (If you’re interested a few links to the projects we did for the class – A multimedia piece on Mental Illness in America’s Prisons – http://indepth.jennackerman.com/trapped/feature.html — my piece on Snowbirds in Quartzsite, AZ – http://www.timgruber.com/moment —– and a print piece on the public housing crisis in New Orleans – http://kainazamaria.wordpress.com/2008/04/01/right-of-return/)

    So basically what I’m trying to say with all the shameless plugging of my friends and peers is that graduate school is more than just a piece of paper and I wouldn’t expect anyone to respect the fact that I have a masters degree, but with time I hope I’d earn their respect with the skills and knowledge I bring to the table.

    The skills and knowledge that took birth and grew in grad school.

  17. This is something I’ve been telling my friends for years. I did not come into college thinking I would go on to get my masters. I tried to explain to them why it wasn’t necessary, but they balked at my explanation.

    This idea goes with my explanation about why we get a B.S. instead of a B.A. We are, for all intents and purposes, learning a trade. We need experience, because when we get out into the “real world,” a lot of that theory stuff goes into the gutter. It becomes a struggle between trying to figure out how to handle a situation and already knowing how to handle it. I don’t think you’d really get a better grip on the latter in grad school.

    @David
    I do agree however, with the idea that as long as you’re in school for your undergrad, you should take time to culture yourself and learn about things other than journalism just to have a better grip on the world and people when you get out there. Sociology, history, language, it’s all a part of cultural literacy, which I find that my generation is lacking. This is a must-have for journalists.

  18. Brendan says:

    I went to graduate school immediately after finishing my undergraduate degree because I figured I had two options: spend two years in school, or spend two years in a dead-end job at a small, so-so newspaper to get more experience.

    My decision to go to graduate school and get more internship along the way paid of handsomely.

    I landed at a much better newspaper, making more money than I would have otherwise, making up for the cost of my master’s degree. I also took a scholarly approach to my degree, giving me a depth of understanding of the changes taking place in our industry and a sense of perspective that I would not have had otherwise.

    Such a perspective has allowed me to feel that I had tools to help be involved in steering conversations about the future of the industry, instead of simply feeling that I am a victim of the changes taking place as many of my colleagues do. It also allowed me to get additional hands-on experience with new media that allowed me to enhance my professional opportunities. On-the-job learning is almost always more difficult, and I would have been largely lost without this added foundation.

    Sure, a master’s degree isn’t magic. It’s not going to make things instantly easier, or provide someone with all of the answers. And whether it’s the right decision is a mater of one’s personal circumstances. But I strongly disagree with your blanket advice. My choice provided me with much greater professional opportunities, and more importantly extraordinary intellectual growth.

    And I will use my professional experiences to enhance my education when I return to school to start work on my Ph.D.

  19. Mark Johnson says:

    You know, until I was interviewing for my last newspaper job, no one even *asked* me if I had graduated, let alone what my GPA was.

    As with Mindy, I did my masters when I was 32 after more than a decade of working in the field. I sat in that first comm theory class and had one of those moments: So THAT’S why we always did that!

    The theory makes little sense if you have no practice to compare it to. Of the ten students I went through grad school with, only two others were over 25 years old. One had been out of journalism for 20 years, the other was moving from PR to photojournalism. Guess who got the most out of our time?

    If you’ve got an undergrad degree in journalism and can’t find a job, well … maybe there’s a reason for that? And maybe grad school is an opportunity to explore some totally new material that you can become an expert on and then report on.

    One last thing … a friend refers to 23-year-old grad students as “third year seniors.”

    -mark

  20. Rich says:

    I agree with most of Andria’s points. The biggest reason I went back to journalism graduate school after graduation was because I had a tuition waiver, and because I couldn’t find a reasonable job in online journalism, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because of a lack in skillset.

    How many news organizations 1) “get it” and 2) aren’t bound by slow, corporate oversight and bureaucracy? I felt that by going to graduate school, I could learn more in exploring online by myself (which a decent graduate school will allow you to do under independent studies) than I could with a news organization.

    Ultimately I found a pretty good news operation that understands online, but I had to take advantage of my time as a graduate student; if think you can learn more on your own, then you had better hold to it.

  21. Mindy says:

    Gabriel knows what he’s talking about — no arguments. (Thanks for the comment, man!) If you lack digital journalism skills, by all means, find a program that will teach them to you, and enroll in it. But if you already possess those skills at the end of an undergraduate degree program, go forth and earn a paycheck.

  22. Mindy says:

    @Tim: You had an awesome teacher in Zach Wise (now at the Las Vegas Sun), and I think that sometimes a whole crop of students inspire one another in a remarkable way, when conditions around them foster a strong work ethic and creativity. Some schools have great faculty and few resources, while other schools have fabulous multimedia facilities and no visionary instructors.

  23. cyndy green says:

    I started reading the comments and almost lost my train of thought…so will return to them later.

    Work does get in the way of life…while I desperately wanted to go to grad school I ended up settling (and not regretting it too much) for a year and a teaching credential.

    TV news photogs getting higher degrees is…well, kinda futile. Who needs a lenslinger (thank you Stewart) who not only knows more than the talent but is better educated? But from my stance the degree allows you to really research and reflect on your years of learning. And with the changes in technology…wow…to be in the field again…to be in school again. Anyone out there wanna hire an old former camerachick with aspirations to change the world?

  24. Dave says:

    “A traditional master’s program is about scholarly research and statistics and mass communication theory. It is not, in fact, about how to be a journalist.”

    Isn’t it a little bit strong to say that mass communication scholars can’t teach everyday journalists ANYTHING about how they can do their jobs better? Is it too much to ask that journalists can have experiences similar to Brendan’s, mixing scholarly background with their work?

  25. [...] Teaching Online Journalism: Let’s talk about how highly editors in newsrooms (print, online and broadcast) value that [...]

  26. Mindy says:

    @Dave: As a professor who teaches graduate courses, certainly I believe I and my colleagues have something of value to offer. Students, however, adopt all kinds of approaches to their education. If one looks at theory or research methods as unrelated to the practice of journalism, then one might suffer through classes, waiting only to be done with them. Another student in the same class might see everything in relation to real-world journalism and have an entirely different experience.

  27. This is so darned depressing Mindy, that an academic such as yourself would publish a blog advocating that the academy restrict itself to supplying the commercial needs of an industry sector. Our journalism industry in Australia is as anti-intellectual as your’s, so it seems, but that is no reason for us who see the value of learning to cave in and say “well, that’s all right then!” You should be ashamed.

  28. [...] McAdams had a post this morning that as a grad student I thought is worth sharing. She writes about a topic I’ve [...]

  29. Stefan says:

    I think people here have posted compelling and valid reasons for both approaches and the choice seems to vary considerably with individual circumstance.
    Im not very impressed with what comes out of J school these days at either the undergrad or grad level. I’d suggets if youre getting a masters get it in something very interesting: history, communications, sociology, philosophy — almost anything BUT a graduate journalism degree, especially if you have an undergrad degree in journalism. I want people with diverse interests form their orginal degree becasue that kind of thinking tells me that peropsn is making all kinds of unique connections in their thinking and their disciplines — and web information is a *lot* about the connectivity: connecting information to other information, connecting people to it and to each other, etc. Thats the kind of brain i want working for me.

  30. Mindy says:

    @John Cokley: I didn’t mean to dictate to the academy but rather to caution the prospective grad students — to understand what they are signing up for.

    There’s nothing wrong with pure scholarship — but it is not everyone’s cup of tea.

  31. @Mindy: a more positive approach might be to consider and discuss what would be “in” a perfect journalism graduate course, rather than “don’t bother at all”. This is something we could explore together, on/ or offline according to your preference. As it happens, my own university is in the throes of exactly this process and I think “we are not alone”.

    There are aspects of research which — believe it or not — can immediately benefit the daily grind of journalism.

    I have observed aspects of US teaching of journalism as a part of “mass communication” and I think your academy could do better, no doubt about it. But I look at some of the rote, hard-head old fashioned trade journalism courses which are evident in the US, UK and Australia, and I find these just as wanting.

    As a long-time practising journalist for big mainstream publications as well as one who has freelanced and edited targeted niche publications — and then moved into academic life and research — I am convinced the potential synergies have not been adequately explored, and this is to the detriment of both.

  32. [...] Abril 7, 2008 por Inês Aroso António Granado, destaca no Ponto Media um artigo de Mindy McAdams bastante provocatório – Advice to journalism students: Forget grad school! [...]

  33. [...] Journalism professor Mindy McAdams also advises students to steer clear of graduate school: This post is for your mom and dad, who are pressuring you to go to grad school immediately after undergrad. [...]

  34. [...] Berikut ini terjemahan dari sarannya yang berjudul Advice to journalism students: Forget grad school! [...]

  35. [...] Advice to journalism students: Forget grad school!, Mindy MacAdams [...]

  36. Erin says:

    I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. I started out as a journalism major in undergrad but ended up graduating and working in the psych/social work field. The last time I was really passionate about what I was doing was when I as involved in journalism. Right now the plan is to go back to school to get a degree in journalism as I’m having trouble finding jobs/internships in the field that don’t require you to be enrolled in a program or have a degree in journalism (I was willing to work my way up but it doesn’t seem like that’s an option). I’m in Chicago but can’t afford Northwestern and there’s really no other option nearby so I’m looking for other professional programs. I’d prefer to stay in the Midwest. Any suggestions on good/affordable schools? Would it make sense to go back and get another undergad degree in journalism or should I look for a master’s program?

  37. Mindy says:

    @Erin: You’re the classic example of a person who should find a good professional master’s program in journalism and sign up.

    There are VERY FEW cases where anyone should get a second undergrad degree. No point to it.

    You might look at UNC Chapel Hill. If they offer to fund you in their Park Fellows program, you could afford to move and go to school full-time.

    The other Midwestern school you might consider is Missouri, but I’m not sure how professionally oriented their master’s program is. Also, check to see what they’re doing with the new digital skills in the master’s program and make sure it’s adequate.

    Try Ohio University and also Ball State. Again, I’m not sure what they offer master’s students in terms of professional training.

  38. Liz says:

    @Erin, Mindy: I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to play cheerleader for Missouri.

    I’m in the Masters program at Mizzou right now, working on a degree in convergence (multimedia). The school owns an NBC affiliate, an NPR affiliate, and a city paper, and students produce all of the work that goes out. In my time here, I have learned how to shoot and edit video, how to edit audio in multiple programs, how to create audio slideshows, and how to do basic Flash graphics. I’ve learned about investigative reporting from a Pulitzer prize winner. I am also connected to a wide web of alums willing to help out on the job front. About 1/4 of my credit hours are occupied by theory and research methods.

    I just don’t think practicing journalism at a paper or station gives you the freedom to experiment that grad school can give you. With budget crunches, people being laid off, and journalists expected to pick up the slack in the staff, how is that environment going to foster creativity and innovation? Grad school gives you a place to fail safely, something unlikely to happen in a workplace.

  39. Mindy says:

    @Liz – This is awesome; I’m so glad you posted a comment. I’m very familiar with what is happening in the journalism master’s programs at Berkeley and at UNC Chapel Hill, along with a few others, but I have a big gap in my familiarity with what master’s students can do at Mizzou.

    Thank you for filling us in. It sounds really good!

    I talk to a lot of faculty from other j-schools throughout the year, but somehow I usually hear the research-and-scholarship side from the Missouri faculty I meet (except for people who brag about MyMissourian (http://mymissourian.com/), which I’m not too wild about).

  40. [...] Abril 14, 2008 por Inês Aroso António Granado, destaca no Ponto Media um artigo de Mindy McAdams bastante provocatório - Advice to journalism students: Forget grad school! [...]

  41. [...] Mindy McAdams: Going To J Grad School ‘Sheer Frickin’ Madness.’ [...]

  42. R G says:

    After 30 years in the newspaper industry, I simply tell students to change their majors before it’s too late.

    The newspaper industry is caught up in the dark ages in pay scale and the revoling door just keeps spinning. Good people generally leave one paper to go to another in a couple of years or are let go to bring in new hires “to meet budget.”

    I made a transition into public relations where the pay is – finally – on par and the hours and stress are a heck of a lot less.

    P.S. – Last journalism job I had was managing editor of a daily at $29,000 a year with a Kentucky-owned chain. My father made more a year on his Teamster’s retirement.

  43. Rob says:

    I wrote for various Canadian magazines while finishing my undergrad in Poli Sci and Philosophy. I’ve just finished my MA in political science and feel like I now have EXPERTISE/MASTERY of a discipline. If writer’s are encouraged to “write what you know” then i’ve now got plenty in reserve–no j-school necessary.

  44. Larry Vaughn says:

    I’m 52 and worked as a photojournalist in college at the campus daily and several Florida newspapers. I ended up getting an AS degree in Photography after my BA from USF. Why? Daytona Beach CC had a great program and used to send me offers to pay 1/2 salary for their grads that we hired. So after I felt the need to improve my photo skills to a commercial level I attended that program and worked for the Orlando Sentinel as a Volusia county stringer. I had the most fun during that time and got many, many clips and made more per week than I did as a full time chief photog at a small paper. I volunteered at an indy tv station and ended up being a one man band because they didn’t really need another shooter. With that experience I got a job as an ABC affiliate video news editor and shooter. I also had a contract with a regional theatre, strangely due to some photojournalism experience in Guatemala.

    I ended up getting another AS degree in computer network engineering about 10 years ago because I knew nothing about computers.

    Fast forward to today. I called UF about taking some masters classes (I now own a home in Gainesville) and was told not to go for a masters in broadcasting because no one cares.

    So after due consideration, I think I will pick up what I need to know online, to refresh my skills. No cost and more current.

    I’m also studying for the GMAT.

    Get your experience where you can, get it while in school if you can.

    When you are in school you might want to be working, but when you are working you might wish you were back in school.

  45. Mindy says:

    @ Larry Vaughn: The master’s in telecom at UF is very focused on scholarly research, so it would not help you get a job in a newsroom. It would, however, give you a credential for teaching undergrads as an adjunct, if you’re interested in that.

  46. Hilary says:

    My parents are journalists, so thankfully, I’ve never had this problem.

    But I see so many people in my classes who think going to grad school is going to get them somewhere. They’re typically the people who have never had an internship and have been published less than five times.

    So I wonder: when exactly are they going to get into “real” journalism? And how will they have a clue what to do once they get there?

  47. Richard Tomkins says:

    Dear Mindy: A very interesting article and great posts in response.

    I’ve been a foreign correspondent and political reporter and editor for 35 years. I recently completed six months in Iraq after spending seven years covering the White House.

    I never went to journalism school so my view is admittedly biased. But I believe studying journalism in an academic sense is on the whole useless and produces a lot of arrogant dunces.

    The best course of study is liberal arts with a few practical classes on news writing, editing, journalism principles and methods. Then go out and get a job under an editor who’ll splatter the newsroom with your blood when you blow it, but also pull you aside and show you your mistake and how to do better.

    Nothing beats practical experience.

  48. [...] forget about that graduate degree — just go out and start [...]

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