To go back to school or to not go back to school: that is the question.
And this is the very question Jason blogged about recently — one that almost every working professional grapples with at one time or another. Especially in the communications field, if you’re already gainfully employed, you wonder how anything learned in a classroom could possibly trump real-world experience.
And then there’s the prospect of giving up said job to go back to school for two years, or, better yet, having to relocate to chase a master’s degree from your dream school on the other side of the country. Online education, however, has been a complete game-changer in terms of flexibility, and we’ve seen the quality of the experience elevated to meet — and in some ways exceed — the on-campus one.
I’m totally biased on this front because I work on behalf of an online program. Newhouse School recently announced a new Master of Science in Communications delivered online: Communications@Syracuse. Specializations include public relations, journalism innovation and advertising, taught in live classes by Newhouse faculty. But this post isn’t about me.
It’s a great time to be in this field — employment of PR specialists is projected to grow 12 percent through 2022 (from 2012).
And let’s face it: communications and public relations are constantly evolving. Tactics that worked for PR pros even five years ago may seem antiquated today. Attention spans are short and competition for real estate on the web and in print is more intense than ever. Creative storytelling and unique content is paramount to separating your client from its counterparts.
“It’ll be back to the future for PR in 2015,” says Ellen Ryan Mardiks, vice chairman, Golin. “As the PR business grows and expands its remit, we’ll keep doing more, better. Clients will turn to us at an even greater pace for compelling content delivered across all forms of media.”
As a modern-day professional, you want to remain grounded in the fundamentals, while also staying up-to-date with new strategies and tools. To stay competitive, in some cases, advancing your degree, online or otherwise, is the next logical step to help hone your skills and position yourself as a leader who gets results for clients. But, as Jason wrote, you have to ask yourself if continuing your education will be worth the inevitable sacrifices you’ll have to make. It’s not a decision to be made lightly, nor should it be made based on what anyone else thinks — “do it for you.” Other things to consider:
- Accreditation: Is the institution accredited? This is something employers care about and, if it’s not, could hinder your chances to advance.
- Credit-transfer policies: Make sure the previous credits you’ve earned and the work experiences you have are taken into consideration.
- Faculty and student support: Are your professors invested in your success? Will you have access to the resources you need?
Bottom line: There are pros and cons of on-campus versus online — both offer a unique set of challenges. The key is to prioritize what’s important to you (staying put versus relocating, etc.) and commit to the decision 100%. Success in today’s public relations environment will require innovation, adaptability and greater accountability — it’s up to you how you get there.
Erica Moss is the community manager for Communications@Syracuse, a masters in communications online program, offered from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. In her free time, she enjoys all things pop culture and connecting with people on Twitter @ericajmoss.