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Learning for Life: Why You Should Consider Going Back to School


May 1, 2014

The class moaned, groaned and then booed at me. All I did was tell a group of university seniors that they need to go back to school.

And, in truth, you may need to go back to school, too.   

The new face of public relations is technology. By the time that my university seniors have been in the workplace for four years, they will be outdated. New professionals usually spend the first years of their career getting to know the company, the clients and their colleagues. They won’t always have time to keep up with new developments in their areas of expertise.   

Those students who are freshmen now will have just graduated and will be willing to take their places as professional PR practitioners. Further education can solve this problem.

Research indicates that a company will pay about $50,000 to hire a mid-level employee. This includes expenses for the search, interview and about six months of salary while the employee gets up to speed, and of course, the work that the more experienced employee left unfinished.

So, it’s less expensive to keep an employee than to replace an employee. One way to hang on to an employee is to provide an education that will allow them to stay abreast of the latest trends.

Providing additional benefits

Employers need to build continuing educating resources into the hiring package. That doesn’t necessarily mean graduate school. But, it can include PRSA meetings with speakers, seminars and other training programs. PRSA offers quality programs to help maintain your abilities and hone your skills.

In addition, the employer needs to fund this back-to-school program in order to keep employees up-to-date. Several employers in the academic community will support an employee’s education by paying for tuition and, sometimes, textbooks. Of course, the employee must take courses or work on a degree that will complement the employee’s job.

When people consider going back to school for a master’s or an MBA, I recommend that you investigate the programs and decide which one might complement your career best, as M.A. programs vary from school to school. Those who plan to only study for a master’s degree that will help them in their career might want to avoid those types of programs.

Other MBA programs might fit your career needs. Many MBA programs permit the student to take one or two courses in another department. That might give the student an opportunity to take an applied course in another academic area.

Going back to school provides an additional benefit: your classmates. Get to know them, work on projects with them and go out for a drink after class. These people are ambitious, too. Many will have challenging jobs in good companies. And others could recommend you for a new job. Networking before and after class can help renew your career.

Weighing your options

Don’t moan and groan. If you’re considering going back to school, then think about the following instead:

  • Join PRSA and attend Chapter meetings and seminars. Take notes on what the speakers say.
     
  • Contact the local college or university and ask about the graduate program in public relations and the MBA program. Review the literature that the school sends and schedule an interview with the head of the academic department about the program.
     
  • Spend time thinking about your career. Where do you want to be five years from now?  Ten years? On your retirement day? Which program will help you meet your retirement-day goal?
     
  • Be realistic. You must continue honing your skills. What is the best path for you to take?  You don’t want to regret doing something that would have lead you to your personal goals.

Remember, you are responsible for your career. You can’t shift the blame to anyone else.

So, as you walk across the stage, receive a diploma and shake hands with various dignitaries, think about what you need to do to keep your skills sharp and worthy of your dream job.

 

David Ritchey, Ph.D., is a professor in the School of Communication at The University of Akron. The Ohio Communication Association honored Ritchey as the “Distinguished Communications Teacher – 2001.” He taught in Beijing, Hong Kong, Bucharest and London.



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