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The Big Picture
Rebecca "Becky" Coates Nee, a veteran TV news anchor/reporter, is a professional life/career coach. Check out her website at to take the coachability test, subscribe to her free "Beyond the Box" newsletter and to find out if you're an adrenaline junkie.

The Great Grad School Debate
By Rebecca Coates Nee
November 5th, 2001

Question: What do you do when the job market is tight and the economy is in a free fall?
Answer: Hide out in graduate school! Many people are getting the urge to go back to school these days. After all, what could be a safer place to ride out these uncertain times?

You donít have to feel guilty about not making any money because you are Ė after all Ė a student. Youíre supposed to starve! You can even postpone that job search a few more years, live off low-interest loans and put off deciding what you really want to be until later.

Iím not down on grad school. I did it myself, many, many years ago and have absolutely no regrets. Since my bachelorís was in political science, my masterís in journalism from Northwestern bought me some valuable training as a reporter.

My adventures in graduate school also got me a high-quality tape and the awesome experience of covering Capitol Hill. But before you start downloading applications and wistfully thinking of lunching at the student union, take some time to clearly identify why you want more education and assess all the costs you will have to exchange for the benefits. If youíre choosing grad school out of fear or indecision ó youíre just postponing the inevitable.

Chances are you wonít be any more mentally fit to hit the job hunting road after youíve completed your thesis. Figure out what you really want your career and life to look like. Then decide whether graduate school can help you get there.

Will a masterís degree really make you more marketable to employers who hire people for your chosen profession? If you want to work in broadcasting, for example, most news directors will tell you a good internship ó where you did some actual reporting and producing ó is often more helpful than a masterís degree.

The internship idea can work in other professions as well. I made my first switch from TV to public relations by offering to work for free at the City of Palm Springs. Not only did they pay me, they offered me a permanent position just a few months later! Research your career choice.

Get yourself in the door by volunteering to help out. Thatís the best way to decide if the career is really for you. Also, check out the alumni of the school youíre considering. Where are they now? Are those with advanced degrees making any more money than those without? Remember the cost of graduate school isnít just tuition. Itís also the loss of two years of salary and the experience you could be getting on the job. Donít forget that some employers will even pay for you to take classes ó some stipulate the subject matter, others do not. If you just want to go to grad school for the sake of learning, a few adult education classes may be all you need. Donít skip the great grad school debate before you enroll. If youíre headed nowhere Ė thatís exactly where youíll end up, with or without a masterís degree!