Q: Thanks for the excellent Web site. It's no exaggeration to say it helped keep me sane during my long, difficult job hunt.
My question is about the value of a master's in journalism -- the dollar value. This bears some explanation.
I got my bachelor's in political science, then landed a reporting job at a well-known news organization. After two years, I left to pursue a master's in journalism to become a better reporter. I joined a well-regarded program, which included a semester of news reporting that almost equaled a full-time job, plus a part-time internship the previous semester.
I was hired to my current reporting job on a probationary basis. Before bringing me in, my editors said they would consider renegotiating my salary if they decide to hire me permanently. For now, I'm being paid slightly less, adjusting for inflation, than I was paid in my first job -- even though I'm much better than I was back then. The question is, how much leverage, if any, does my master's degree give me in negotiating a raise?
A: While is easy to determine the cost of a maser's degree, it is hard to affix a value to one.
Essentially, a master's degree in and of itself does not have a straight monetary value in journalism. Some teaching contracts pay more for advanced degrees. (And the higher cost can make it harder for those people to get jobs.) A master's of library science opens doors in that field. The business world seems to appreciate and pay for an MBA. Lawyers must get through law school and doctors have to go to med school.
But journalism is still caught between being a profession and being a craft. We want to be both. This is one of the fundamental struggles between the classroom and the newsroom.
I know of no newsroom pay schedule that pays more for an advanced degree. It will come down to how much did grad school deepen or broaden your skills, how well you demonstrate those skills and how well you negotiate. You also are sailing into an industry economy that is tighter than it was two years ago.
Some newspaper contracts pay you according to your experience, but they tend to count a semester of news reporting as school, not full-time experience.
Journalism programs that issue reports comparing salaries for graduate degrees and undergrad degrees typically fail to credit the full-time experience, like your two years, that can buoy salaries.
Your question is best asked before one goes through the program, obviously. At this point, you have to do the best you can with what you encounter. If you are looking ahead to a decision on hiring and wages at the end of a probationary period, your work will count for a lot more than your degree. Show in your work how the degree made you stronger and then talk about the work.
Does anyone else have a perspective on this?