Choosing a Graduate Degree for a Career in Media

Lisa Messinger

Lisa Messinger, Student & Alumni

I knew from when I was a 16-year-old high school student shadowing for a day a CBS Los Angeles affiliate television reporter for a class “assignment” that there was a big difference between a career and a job. I put the word assignment in quotes because, although I was in my second time in my high school’s broadcasting class elective, it was really an extra endeavor I dreamed up, along with letters I had written to broadcasting chiefs 3,000 miles away in New York City, about becoming a teen correspondent, and hadn’t yet told my very supportive broadcast journalism instructor about. Although I also had been elected my high school’s first editor-in-chief for its new newspaper, I hadn’t told my mom about my shadowing idea yet either when she was startled by a phone call at 11:40 p.m. one night by the popular Los Angeles NBC affiliate anchor Tritia Toyota, who she had just watched on television delivering the news live minutes before.

Toyota was returning my call and told me that, although she couldn’t be shadowed, she wanted to answer all questions I had about the profession: Give it a go, she said. After that impromptu interview conducted in my nightgown while sitting on the side of my parents’ bed, I got my shadowing day at the other affiliate TV station, as well as in the process meeting then co-anchors Connie Chung and Maury Povich before their later national debuts. That day riding around in the news van covering local stories with my favorite reporter Pete Pepper and him answering all of my questions about the journalism profession, along with my background of news reporting and public speaking wins in high school, convinced me that journalism would be my career.

Soon that career was in swing and taking turns, including switching my undergraduate major from broadcast journalism to print journalism while at the University of Southern California when I knew I wanted to continue with my strength of writing courses over broadcasting ones. What it’s always remained, though, is a career, never a job, in media as a journalist or external strategic communication specialist serving mass media audiences.

Every prong of my career has been serviced by the Online Master of Science in Communication at Purdue University’s Brian Lamb School of Communication. The strategic communication management bent of all of the Master of Science in Communication classes, and for which we can apply to earn a graduate certificate in strategic communication management after the first three of 10 classes, is strategic communication that can be used in any facet of the media or the increasingly connected global business communication community that we studied in our courses (Friedman, 2007; Khanna, 2016).

Flexibility is key. What I knew when, after extensive research, I chose to apply only to the Online Master of Science in Communication degree program at Purdue’s Brian Lamb School of Communication (2016) due to its stellar national reputation was that it fit with my past career, dovetailed exactly with my present career, and would assist effectively with my future career goals. As for those, I had them planned in tiers when I found the Purdue University degree that would move gracefully in unison with each one. I am already a manager of editorial quality assurance of websites for a major media and broadcasting company and I apply specifics from the core Seminar in Strategic Communication and Social Media and the Leadership and Global Strategic Communication elective to the national team whose work and style guides I influence, as well as knowing I will continue to do so in even more impactful positions of management in this organization or elsewhere – many of which I notice state that a master’s degree is preferred or required.

I am already a longtime nationally syndicated columnist, book author, and contracted consulting development author for a book publisher, and a number of the projects are external strategic communications for mass media audiences delivering organizations’ key messages, like we learned about in our core Seminar in Strategic Communication. The extensive writing I did in every course for discussion posts I chose to turn in five times weekly including references for a core requirement in the Online Master of Science in Communication program at Purdue University’s Brian Lamb School of Communication, as well as additional research papers and presentations, I think improved and deepened my writing more than an intense Master of Arts in Writing would have done. I already have applied these skills to pitching and writing an additional bylined personal communication column for the website of the country’s number-one relationship broadcaster, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, on real connections versus social media (Messinger, 2016).

Previously, much of my professional writing and editing for the last decades has included traveling around the world for a Pulitzer Prize-winning national news service for food writing and health and fitness writing, as well as having been a managing food and health newspaper section editor for major daily newspaper groups. The Master of Science in Communication studies are giving me the added credibility to make a strategic move to writing about social media and strategic communication management, for which, while undertaking these studies, I also have planned the first of a series of extensive nonfiction books.

My final career tier plan in the distant future always has included eventually possibly switching my decades-worth of professional writing not to be done in conjunction with a hard-charging editorial management full-time position, but possibly to instead be done in conjunction with giving back (which I have learned much more about in my Strategic Communication and Fundraising elective course). This would be by not only immediately volunteering my strategic communication management skills for a global organization I researched for my self-created project topics in my last few Purdue University Brian Lamb School of Communication classes, but also in the future teaching writing, journalism, or strategic communication management in a campus or online college setting.

I couldn’t have known all of this when I was a teen in my nightgown sitting on the edge of my parents’ bed interviewing the woman who had just delivered the news on television to my family all those years ago. What I did know then, though, was I wanted a career, never a job, in media, and the Online Master of Science in Communication degree from Purdue’s Brian Lamb School of Communication has further illuminated the rich and satisfying career path on which those helpful journalists guided my first steps.


Brian Lamb School of Communication: Our reputation. 2016. Retrieved from

Friedman, T. L. 2007. The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. New York, NY: Picador.

Khanna, P. 2016. Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization. New York, NY: Random House.

Messinger, L. (2016). Real connections vs. social media column: Are you a thought leader in your own home? Retrieved from

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Lisa Messinger is a student in 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.

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