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Grad school?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by young effin dud, Jul 11, 2007.

  1. young effin dud

    young effin dud New Member

    Longtime lurker, first-time poster here.

    Yes, I'm actually considering graduate school...for journalism. I've devoured every other related thread I could find by using a search, but I thought I'd ask some questions of my own. I graduated last December and have been covering preps and outdoors for a 90,000-circulation daily since then. I'm considering a Master's in journalism for several reasons.

    1. I'd like to move into magazines (not necessarily in sports -- I have no delusions of a degree from Columbia or Mizzou delivering me straight to SI). I'm probably getting married soon, and I would much rather work typical daytime hours with predictable days off. Also, I love long-form features and narrative stories, and I would love any job that allows me to write that type of story, even if it's not in sports. So if I went to j-school (at least one of the prestigious ones), I would specialize in magazine writing/editing.

    2. I think I could really learn something. My undergrad degree is in anthropology (no j-program at my small school), and while I do have great editors and writers around me right now, I think I could really benefit from someone ripping apart my stuff over and over again.

    3. If I fail in this business, or if the whole industry just crumbles around me, then I'll just get the Ph.D. and become an academic. Both my parents are faculty members at universities, and it's a pretty sweet life if you have tenure. Even if I am successful, I think I'll want to teach at some point. I would love to teach at a small school like the one I attended, where I could give students the practical advice I never got.

    Obviously, given the state of the business at this point in time, this may seem crazy to some, and I spent all four years of college debating whether or not entering this business was a risk I wanted to take. But I've decided that I just have to give this whole journalism thing a shot, and I have to do whatever it takes to succeed. This has been my dream since middle school, and I just can't live the rest of my life knowing I didn't do everything I could to be a success in this field. If after ten years or so, I feel like I'm stuck, then I'll seriously consider a career change. But until then, I've got to pursue a career in this field. All that said, I'm still not sure if j-school is the best option for me right now, and that's why I'm looking for advice.

    At this point, these are my top choices.
    1a. Berkeley -- outstanding magazine faculty
    1b. Mizzou -- hands-on program, Mizzou mafia
    3. Columbia -- it's Columbia
    4. Northwestern -- great magazine publishing program and very good international journalism program

    Is anyone very familiar with the admissions standards at these schools? With a 3.72 GPA, 1450 GRE score (670 verbal, 780 quantitative -- probably the best thing I have going for me, but I've heard some schools couldn't care less) and the afore-mentioned experience, how competitive will I be? Is this a stupid thing to consider at this point in my career, given the state of the business? Does anyone have any other recommendations?

    And yes, I consider "go for the MBA," "get out as soon as you can," and "fetch me a beer, and then go fuck yourself, you arrogant little shit" to be valid responses. I'd love some more substantive advice too. Thanks a lot.
  2. young effin dud

    young effin dud New Member

    Only at Missouri, and maybe a few other schools. I was thinking I'd probably go the Communications route.
  3. In Cold Blood

    In Cold Blood Member

    one word of advice from a guy fresh out of school:

    If you want to be a teacher someday, which from your post, sounds like a real possibility, get as much practical experience as you can.

    When i was in school, our (small) journalism program had two full-time faculty members... one had a PHD, one a masters, but the one with the masters had years of experience at about a half dozen newspapers and mr. phd had very minimal real world experience, he was more of a lifetime academic.

    I always felt like I learned a lot more from, and had more respect for, the professor who could tell the war stories from her years in the business. Many of those stories seemed more useful than the theory we were learning in the other guy's class.
  4. sportschick

    sportschick Active Member

    Before you run up debt getting a Master's, make sure it's worth it salarywise at magazines. If they make what most newspaper folks make, I don't know that it's worth it.

    Oh, and fetch me a beer :D

    EDIT: PM Cadet. She's got a J Master's. She's probably better for advice on this topic than a lot of us.
  5. I think it depends on your financial situation. If you come from money and you won't have to take out $80K in loans, go for it. If you'll be sending yourself through school and want to work in journalism after, think twice. Especially if you're getting married soon and plan on having kids. Having $500/month in student loans will be tough to deal with if you're married and working at a magazine (very likely in NYC if you go to Columbia) making less than $50K/year.

    Have you thought about spending more time at your current paper and trying to get in with a magazine eventually? You'll learn more there than you will at school. Then again, if I came from money I would have already gone back to school. You can't duplicate the experience of being a student.
  6. Some Guy

    Some Guy Active Member

    I remember my roommate in college telling our J-school advisor he was thinking of getting his master's.

    Advisor said, "Why on Earth would you want to do that?"
  7. ChmDogg

    ChmDogg Member

    You'd be crazy not to include Newhouse at Syracuse in the places you apply.
  8. In Cold Blood

    In Cold Blood Member

    i think that's a really good point. And coming from a small, unknown college, I've already had some of that experience as I've gone up against some big school kids for internships etc..

    How long in a person's career do you think that holds true though? I can understand that argument for the first job, maybe the second, but if I've got eight years in the business and some kick-ass clips, will going to Podunk College almost a decade ago matter to hiring editors?

    (and in case this sounds like I'm arguing with you, I'm not. It's an honest question.)
  9. Some Guy

    Some Guy Active Member

    The point my old advisor was trying to make is, if all you want to be is a writer, magazine or otherwise, nobody gives a rat's ass where you went to school or what kinds of degrees you have. All they care about is, "Can you write?"

    Now if you want to be a teacher or professor at some point, grad school makes plenty of sense. At most schools and school districts, having that degree automatically bumps you up a pay grade or two.
  10. Some Guy

    Some Guy Active Member

    In all my years in the business, OK, it's only 10 of them, I've only worked with one dude out of the Ivy League. He was hired because of his clips. They were good. He also turned out to be a total douche. So, if I'm hiring someone today, an Ivy League education might actually be a strike against ;)

    No, seriously, in all the hiring proceedings I've been involved with, I've never once seen a person's alma mater made into an issue. We've hired people from huge schools and tiny schools and schools nobody has ever heard of. If you're clips are good enough, you'll get a look.
  11. devils_claw

    devils_claw Member

    And that is a perfectly valid question if your undergrad degree was in journalism. Let's face it--if your first degree didn't teach you what you needed to know, the second one probably won't do you much good.

    In this case, however, his degree wasn't in journalism, and I think having the masters could be beneficial. There's a lot of stuff you can do in school that you can't do even in the best newspaper: you can take photo or design classes, you can work in different positions on the school paper...while you might end up just being a writer, having some of those skills in your back pocket can be very beneficial. And if you happen to like photo or design or copy editing, you have a lot more options in terms of jobs if you're looking to stay where you're at.
    (I am speaking from experience on this one.)

    I'd say the money is definitely a major concern. We all know our salaries aren't skyrocketing up any time soon. If you can afford it, though, and you're ready to put in the work, I say go for it.
  12. Some Guy

    Some Guy Active Member

    That's probably true. I still think real-world experiece is 100 times more beneficial -- and more attractive -- than anything written on a diploma.

    One of the best sportswriters I know was a history major.

    Let me say I'm not discouraging the OP from grad school, especially if he plans on being a teacher some day. I wouldn't recommend it, however, if all he ever wants to do is write.
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