PR pros considering graduate programs to grow their careers must consider a host of factors before they commit their time and money to any given program. So how do you ensure that you make the right choice? By reviewing those factors against the following checklist:
1. Core Curriculum – Do the required classes cover the foundations of integrated marketing communications in a meaningful way? Do they prepare you for the realities of today’s business environment, including the need to work with finance, HR, operations and other departments?
2. Final Projects – The best programs culminate in a real-world final project, usually the creation of a PR or IMC (integrated marketing communications) plan for a company. Some schools have every student develop a plan for the same company, while others afford more freedom of choice. Ideally, students can pick a project they’re passionate about (including one for a current client or employer if they chose) and then have an opportunity to present their plan as they would in a business setting. The final project’s a valuable portfolio piece, especially during job interviews after graduation.
3. Elective Offerings – Look for a depth and breadth of courses that covers your areas of interest. Focus on how current the descriptions sound, and if they seem to align with today’s evolving business and technology environments.
4. Caliber of Faculty – Closely evaluate from whom you’ll be taking classes. Do they have real-world experience? What are their academic credentials? Have they worked at top agencies or companies? Has a member of the faculty engineered (created) the PR or IMC program? Look for a mix of adjunct faculty currently working in the field, and full-time faculty members (both academically and professionally qualified) who have experience in advertising, marketing, strategic communications, public relations, media buying, corporate finance and digital media.
5. Global Features – Companies operate, and communicate, at an international level today—and your Master’s should, as well. Look for programs with global opportunities, like an international student body, study abroad programs with ”live-client” PR or IMC consulting initiatives, and global internships at multi-nationals. Additionally, look for courses that focus on international issues and/or multi-cultural activities. After all, that’s true INTEGRATION.
6. Alumni Engagement and Support – Never underestimate the power of networking. Schools with active, supportive alumni networks can be integral in helping your career. Look for programs where you get an opportunity to forge strong connections to your classmates and faculty—they’ll be invaluable resources for learning and advancement. Also look for programs that provide career support—from job listings and networking events to resume workshops and cultural training.
7. Continuing Education – After graduation, what opportunities does the school provide? Some programs will allow alumni to take additional course work—like a refresher in social media, or a business law class—at a significant discount. Others provide informative resources, from blogs and newsletters to online forums and discussion sessions. Look for a program that will be an educational resource long after you’re out of class.
8. Cultural Environment – The culture of a school and program, whether it’s online or in-person, will strongly influence your experience. A highly competitive, individualistic program feels different than a collaborative, team-based one. Speak with current students and faculty to get a feel for the people involved in the program, before you decide if it’s a fit.
9. Class Format – Don’t discount the power of in-person learning, for comprehension, for communications/presenting skills and for networking connections. But online programs have a lot of benefits, as well. Consider how the classes are taught—will they have a required Skype session? Do the faculty have virtual office hours? How will you present to the class?
10. Costs – Carefully consider what you can afford, and the additional costs beyond tuition. Graduate school’s an investment in your career. It will pay off when you pick the best program that fits your needs, and your budget.
Explore the opportunities that wait for you in the IMC program at St. Bonaventure University.
Or, if you’re ready to take then next step, contact us to get started with your master’s degree in IMC.
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