This time two years ago I was writing a similar post about graduating with my Bachelor’s of Science degree in Mass Communication. It’s insane to think that only two years ago I hadn’t even started graduate school. I didn’t even know if my application packet had gotten through to admissions yet.
This time two years ago I was packing for Tennessee to go to Bonnaroo Music Festival and nervously awaiting to hear back from Towson’s admissions department on whether or not I was admitted into their Professional Writing program for that upcoming Fall. I applied way past deadline because my prior graduate school plans crashed and burned a few weeks before graduation. I had a school in mind and was enrolled but decided to take a new direction, so the panic was real.
Originally, I was all set to go to Corcoran School of Art & Design to study Photojournalism in Washington, DC. After spending some time going over the Master’s curriculum and financial costs I decided that it wasn’t for me. The number one reason being that I already had a degree in journalism and I didn’t feel that the $1356 price tag per grad school credit (at the time; three credits per class; 48 credits total) was worth it for me to repeat some classes in basic journalism. The second reason was the uncertainty that came with the merger of GW (George Washington University). I pay for my education myself, so a fluctuation in numbers could make or break my ability to continue study. I was unsure of what the outcome financially would have been of the merger, the numbers were not adding up correctly to me, so I decided to play it safe and withdraw. Corcoran’s photojournalism program IS painstakingly crafted to turn a student into a multimedia master, however, I felt that the program did not fit well with my vision and what I wanted to do in this field. Admittedly, I loathe having to shoot video so spending two years on learning it seemed like torture. If you love shooting documentary video and want to learn how to do it right, that program is for you.
I looked into Towson’s Master’s program because I had such a great experience there during my undergrad. I may be a bit biased, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many people doing big things that I meet in a business scenario are Towson alum. I received my acceptance into Towson’s PRWR Master’s program while I was at Bonnaroo and had the gut feeling that it was the right fit for me this time. I’ve worked as a professional in the journalism field for about five years now (three before graduate school) and it’s come to a point where all I can really learn is going to come from experience doing it, not sitting and studying it. We all know journalism is a volatile industry – it’s constant evolution always has holding our breath, waiting for the next big layoff, the next buyout, the next media platform shift. I needed to study something that I could use in the journalism field, but also in many other fields as well. Welcome to Professional Writing.
How does that have anything to do with journalism? Well, my focus on the program – meaning the classes you chose to take based on your interests in writing – was journalistic writing. I took classes like non-fiction writing, freelance writing, rhetoric, history of style and development in writing, grammar (yes, ew, it was a requirement), social media law, mass media and culture, business writing, editing, and document design and layout.
I’ll always be involved in photojournalism but now I have these other skills that allow me to enhance my abilities in that field as well as in others. For example, Document Design and Layout taught me how to efficiently use InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop in ways that helped me to create a complete product. I use those skills to help me visualize when I’m shooting so designers who lay out the paper can use my photos in a way that works with text and graphics. I also use those skills when I create newsletters, brochures and business documents for private clients. I wasn’t able to offer those services before but now I can, and since I can a higher monetary rate is involved. I also employ the skills from my rhetoric classes and my business writing classes to facilitate communication between myself and subjects, clients, potential new clients and everyone in-between. Any working journalist will tell you that 90% of your time is emailing and conversing with people and the rest of the time is the actual photographing/writing/designing. Who knew writing was such a powerful tool in everyday communication? 😛
I always get asked the question, “Why did you go to grad school? You’re already working in your field.” True but I wanted the ability to transcend what I do now as well as the ability to be able to leap from various opportunities. I hate boxing myself in and the more you know the more free you become in choosing what it is you want to do. While my undergraduate degree was beneficial in getting me started in my chosen career pathway, I felt that it only skimmed the surface. In graduate school, everything I learned in my undergraduate career was only elaborated on, and most importantly applied to real life.
My next favorite question is “If you paid for graduate school yourself, don’t you have a lot of debt?” Yep. I had student loan debt from my undergraduate degree as well. For many of us it’s an inevitable burden. I consider myself fortunate I’m not in the six-figure debt like so many of the graduates I know. Not everyone’s field requires college. Maybe an apprenticeship, a trade school, or a certification is all you need to work in your chosen industry and that’s awesome. However, that is not my path and I’m ok with that. If you chose to continue to graduate school after college and you’re paying for it yourself make sure it’s something that you can find enough work in to be able to pay back.
What’s next? Well for now I’m going to keep on doing what I’m doing – photographing for various news outlets and maintaining my private corporate clients. Just because my Master’s is in writing doesn’t mean I’m going to give up photojournalism. In my perfect scenario I’d combine both, which is exactly what I plan on doing. I have a few things lined up I can’t just yet talk about but I’ll be posting on here as I go.
Right this very second I am taking the first real vacation I’ve taken since Christmas time, so relaxing on the beach with my boyfriend is top priority. Thank you to everyone who has congratulated me and sent me well wishes. It is much appreciated!