By Jessy Garza
Current School of Journalism and Mass Communication graduate students had many words of wisdom to share during Mass Comm Week’s ‘Testing the Career Waters? Go to Grad School!’ panel Wednesday.
Sandy Rao, Ph.D., SJMC professor and assistant dean at the graduate college, moderated the panel, asking questions of her own for the first half of the session and then opening the panel up for audience questions.
Seated at the panel were Andrea Alvarez and Nicole Hengst, who are both on the strategic communication graduate track, as well as Michael Coker and Storm Monteiro-Tyler, who are both on the global media graduate track.
Alvarez, who will be finishing her master’s in May 2017, encouraged students to apply for graduate school directly after receiving a bachelor’s degree.
“(Applying to graduate school directly after receiving an undergraduate degree) was very beneficial because you’re kind of still in the mindset of studying,” Alvarez said. “You’re in the mindset of being a student, basically. And I’ve heard from other people who have gone into the workforce and came back that it takes a little bit longer to get adjusted to being a student again.”
When the topic of financial funds arose, Coker was quick to offer an enticing suggestion.
“Another benefit to going to grad school is you can defer your student loans,” Coker said.
An audience member asked about the common myth that a student, if pursuing a master’s degree, should attend a different college than the one they went to for their undergraduate degree. Monteiro-Tyler was quick to dispel this myth and said that a student should choose whichever university they feel most comfortable at or the most confident in.
“Your degree doesn’t educate you,” Monteiro-Tyler said. “You educate you.”
By the end of the panel, the graduates agreed that while pursuing a graduate degree is not easy – both on an academic level and an economic level – it’s all worth it in the end for the knowledge one walks out the door with.
According to a 2015 study by Georgetown University, those with a bachelor’s degree have an average annual salary of $61,000, while those with a graduate degree earn $78,000 annually.
So, if a student is willing to put forth more time and more money for academia, Hengst said, it may all quite literally pay out in the end.
“If you’re not fired up, it’s going to be hard to get through grad school,” Hengst said. “You do have to want to go to grad school.”