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Professional Development Certificate vs Master’s Program: Which is Right For You?

Earning a Master of Science degree in Communication from Purdue University’s Brian Lamb School of Communication has made me a better public relations professional.

Unlike a one or two-day certification training course that provides students with new tips and techniques to help with a certain aspect of their job, this 20-month graduate program:

  • Examines research behind theories
  • Introduces various communication techniques
  • Prompts critical thinking
  • Allows for real-world applications.

The faculty didn’t just teach us a few quick tips over a couple of hours each week; rather, they provided us with:  

  • Hours upon hours of rich reading material
  • Thought-provoking questions
  • And online discussion.

I learned new ways to think about the challenges and opportunities we face as professional communicators that allow me to attack the work I do with greater knowledge and renewed enthusiasm.

Do Senior Practitioners Need a Master’s Degree?
Even as a senior practitioner with more than 30 years’ experience in solving communication problems, I found a myriad of situations in which the coursework became immediately applicable and helpful. Here are several, specific instances that were made easier with the knowledge gained in my MS in Communication program.

  1. Developing a corporate communication strategy utilizing Grunig’s two-way symmetrical model
  2. Improving social media measurement
  3. Dealing with activists in a crisis communication situation
  4. Averting an ethics issue
  5. Evaluating employee satisfaction using qualitative research

I know taking professional training courses or studying to earn a professional designation can also help a PR practitioner become better at his or her craft. I salute anyone who takes time to learn more about the subject of communication in any way they can. But for myself, I knew I wanted -- and needed -- the intellectual challenge offered through a master’s degree program.

I found the curriculum at Purdue to be exactly what I was looking for in terms of the advanced knowledge I wanted to master. The way that knowledge was delivered in the online program was precisely what I needed to rejuvenate my interest in this fascinating field – and it fit my schedule as a working professional. The dynamic interaction I had with the faculty and my fellow students was a gift each week for nearly two years, and I value every lesson they helped me learn and put to use.

References
Browning, E.B. (1900). The complete poetical works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Cambridge Edition. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Learn More
John Hoffmann is an alumnus of Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.

About the Author
John Hoffmann is Vice President of Corporate Communication for Think Finance, a fintech company in Dallas. He has been in the public relations field for 25 years after working nine years in broadcast journalism. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Communication from the University of Michigan in 1982 and a master’s degree in Communication from Purdue University in 2016.

*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.