Newspapers are dying. Bloggers are journalists. Journalism is done.
Every journalism student has been met with these claims. Yes, every one of them. Probably multiple times. It’s hard telling people your major is journalism and receiving the response, “why? Don’t you want a job?” This is hot-button issue across the web, as anybody can now publish content with the help of the Internet.
Journalism is often at the top of lists of 20 Most Useless Degrees. And, some journalists don’t even need degrees to get into the business. So why waste four years on a degree that most likely will not pay well and will definitely result in tons of student loans?
Elana Zak over at 10,000 words defends her journalism degree after the Business Insider ran the article “Degrees Are Useless And Other Tips For Aspiring Journalists,” by Jean Prentice. Zak says,
“For me, perhaps the most important reason my journalism degree isn’t useless is because I had fun studying it. Just because someone likes reading and writing doesn’t mean they should be an English major. Instead, my homework assignments meant I got to go out and report on actual events. It was hard and stressful at times but I loved every second of it.”
It’s hard enough to defend your reasoning for getting and undergraduate degree in journalism, but how can you begin to argue for a master’s in it?
Patrick Thornton, a blogger, wouldn’t.
“I would personally not get a graduate degree in journalism. Journalism is not one of those fields where practicing journalists will see a big benefit from additional schooling. In fact, work experience and skills are what ultimately matters, which is why so many journalists do not have journalism degrees — let alone more than one.”
Matt Bigelow, a digital media manager, is more on the fence about his decision.
“Am I happy I went there and got my masters? Eh…yes and no. Yes, because I had some incredible experiences, met some amazing (and amazingly talented) people, made some great connections and, to be honest, just plain had a lot of fun. No, because I think it’s overpriced, and that a lot of those experiences can be had, people can be met, connections can be made and (probably) fun can be had without the degree.”
Over at the Huffington Post, Justin Cox justifies his decision to shell out the extra cash for his degree because of the value.
“By going to school, I paddled into a quickly moving wave. And now I’m riding it, and although I’m unconvinced the dollar amount attached to the diploma is completely justified, I’m happy I decided to go.”
While it’s not necessarily financially sound, and it’s not easy, I think the master’s degree adds a new layer to one’s education. The value that a master’s degree adds is the ability to think critically.
Dr. Steve Urbanski, director of Graduate Studies at West Virginia University said,
“Whenever students inquire about getting a master’s degree in journalism, I try to stress to them that I consider the ‘journalism’ part of the MSJ degree to be secondary to the skills of critical thinking, writing and research that we push so hard in the program.”
For journalists, the ability to think critically can be the difference between an average news story or a Pulitzer-winning one.
“Students certainly can choose to specialize in broadcasting, PR, writing or advertising, but the faculty members who teach in the program try to position those aforementioned skills as a foundation that underpins the specific areas of interest. By doing this, I truly believe an MSJ degree from WVU equips our graduates for media jobs as well as jobs in other areas of the marketplace. And our impressive job placement rate over the years is evidence that this philosophy is working.”
Having the capability to look at news stories from a different angle or having the knowledge to dissect information necessary to a story puts you ahead of the competition. And while the ability to think critically is the main draw, for me, to journalism graduate study, other perks include having the ability to go the route of academia or obtain media positions within other organizations. A master’s degree shows the employer that you have learned on a different level and have, well, “mastered” that higher-order education.
Do you think a master’s degree is worth it? Why or why not?