Five Reasons a Master’s Degree is Valuable at Any Career Stage

By Dawn Doty

I recently completed my master’s degree at JHU and wrote about the experience for my firm’s blog. Folks at JHU thought it might be interesting for regular readers of the career blog, too, so I updated the post.

Over the past 3.5 years, I took one class at a time, year-round, to complete my degree while working full-time. I often was asked, “Why are you getting a master’s degree now?” It’s a legitimate question. I’m a VP/Partner at Linhart PR and have had a nearly three-decade career in public relations. What could a degree give me that “real world” experience had not already provided?

Here are five reasons I believe getting an advanced degree can be valuable…at any stage in your career:

  1. You can apply what you learn in school at work…every day: I studied persuasion theory with Miscally and applied it to how to encourage Moms to think differently about Crocs shoes. I researched online influencers for a Jeni’s ice cream project in Tracey Schroeder and Kelly Hur’s digital media class, which helped me learn to do something that at my level is tackled by junior colleagues. Bottom line: learning was relevant to my day-to-day career life.

     Given the vast changes that have taken place in the past five years in the communication industry, I’d argue that learning is more important now than ever before. The environment has required experienced pros to learn new skills. It’s an exciting time to be working in this industry and it requires more learning than ever before to stay competitive.

  1. An online degree is a great option for busy professionals: Think about how work gets done in the real world. Do you have conference calls frequently or write plans via Google docs that you edit and review with colleagues? Do you share/discuss substantive information over email? If you answered yes to these questions, this mirrors how you study in an online environment.

     In addition, I actually found the online learning environment freeing. It allows you to study when it fits your work and family schedule and it doesn’t require time on the road, gas in your tank, or a babysitter for your kids.

  1. Academic rigor is good for the mind: The ability to synthesize tons of data and argue a point of view regularly in a succinct two or three-page paper made me a better thinker and writer. The critical thinking skills you learn and apply consistently in graduate school are valuable ways to stretch your mind which ultimately sharpens your work.
  2. Are you craving work that you can’t (yet!) do in your current position? I’ve always wanted to work internationally. But I don’t. A public diplomacy class gave me the opportunity to analyze the American Corners program operated by the U.S. Department of State and interview people from all parts of the globe. While I craved getting As in school, the A+ I earned in Joan Mower’s class paled in comparison to simply being able to work on an interesting project beyond our U.S. borders.
  3. Personal goals have professional value: I told myself for years I wanted a master’s degree. It was a personal goal. As we take on more work and family responsibilities and focus on career growth, it is easy to put the brakes on personal goals that are time consuming outside of the office. That’s what I had done.

     I’m grateful to my husband and work partners for supporting my commitment to achieve this goal. It required me to reduce my community service commitments and to study on vacations in Croatia and Ireland. However, it rewarded me with the energy to continue to “lean in” to my career. I believe the personal goal I achieved will have professional value for decades to come.

JHU grads and students, what do you think? If you are still taking classes, what advice would you add? Most importantly, if you have resolved to start (or finish!) a degree program, as Nike would say, “Just do it!”

Dawn Doty/Vice President/Partner

Linhart Public Relations



Filed under Uncategorized

4 responses to “Five Reasons a Master’s Degree is Valuable at Any Career Stage

  1. Thanks for the encouraging post, Dawn.

    This confirmed and paralleled why I’m pursuing a MA in communication with Johns Hopkins. The fact that the vast majority of my public affairs/communication training is “real-world” and “on-the-job” actually blinds me to important strategies and useful trends in our field that I’m discovering through the program.

    Thanks again for the solid post,
    Will Martin

    Twitter: @wmartin89

  2. Summer Nix


    I, too, appreciate your post Dawn! While I am at the very early stages of my career, people still ask me why I am going back to school. I was a business major in undergrad and realized my passion was in the communications/marketing/public relations side of business. Now through my MA in Communications program, I know I am on the right track! This is knowledge I can apply regardless of my job or company.

    Thanks for posting!

    Summer Nix

  3. Taylor Bicho

    Hi Dawn,
    I really enjoyed your post and am so happy to hear we are both “just doing it!” I think a lot of people get tied up waiting for the perfect time to obtain their Masters, but unfortunately there is no perfect time. Similarly, graduate school is a personal goal for me as well, and I’m happy to finally be acting on it. It can definitely be challenging at times, but I know that it will pay off in the end both personally and professionally.

  4. mandymercurio

    Hi Dawn: I loved reading about your schedule…one course per semester year round until you finished. And that it only took 3.5 years. I am taking two classes this and next semester, but have thought about only taking one class. This is my second masters degree (MA in communication), and a little more intense, especially being a working mom to sons who are in competitive sports year round. My first masters is a MFA in Motion Pictures and Television (emphasis production design), so two entirely different fields.

    Also, I am assuming you work for Linhart PR in Denver? I live in Broomfield CO, just north of Denver. Maybe a 20 minute drive. Small world! 🙂

    Thanks for the post.

    Amanda Mercurio

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