Experience vs. Education: An Analysis for Young PR Pros

Which career path is best for you?

If you graduated college in the last two years, you know how bleak the job market has been.

Searching for post-college internships and job opportunities can be full time work on its own. Many have resorted to applying to graduate school as a “last resort option” because work is scarce. However, as a graduate student in public relations and a young PR professional, I believe both are important; and one should not be treated as means to end for the other.

My decision to pursue a master’s degree was made long before my college graduation. My PR mentors politely told me how important it was to get experience, but obtaining my master’s degree is a personal goal that I am dedicated to. Although, I realized my mentors had a point and I needed to find a program that valued experience with education, not one versus the other.

My graduate classes love using the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis, so in a tribute to my professors, here is a SWOT analysis of what it is like doing both graduate school and working full time:

Strengths: I am able to pursue both my personal and professional dreams at the same time.

Weaknesses: Time management. Both school and work are very demanding, so I really have to be on top of my game with all of my projects. You have to be honest with yourself about the amount of work you have time for and are able to do well.  Also note: with lack of time management you will lack of sleep, they somehow always come hand-in-hand.

Your education and experience complement each other very well, you are able to bring your experience into the classroom setting, and your education into your professional environment. I find it so rewarding when these two worlds meet, and I am able to really contribute to the conversation, project, etc. in a way that really stands out.

There can be threats to your professional or academic career if you find yourself in a situation where one does not value the other.  That is why it is so important to really research your options and if you do decide to do both and school, that you have a program and an employer who will truthfully value your dedication to both.

Bottom line: it is definitely possible to do both at the same time and if a graduate degree and experience are high on your goals, then I definitely recommend it.  It is all about where your aspirations lie, and the amount of time you’re willing to contribute to them. I am fortunate that I have found both a career and a graduate program that allows me to do so.

About the Author
Julie Walsh is a Media Relations Specialist for Walker Sands and is currently working on her master’s degree in Public Relations and Advertising at DePaul University. As a Media Relations Specialist for Walker Sands, Julie supports the team and their clients by developing pitches, securing placements, building media distribution lists, and research. Julie received her bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University in Strategic Communication. Connect with her on Twitter via @JWalsh254.


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