Media Communications Career: Three Ways a Master’s Degree Helps

Lisa Messinger

Lisa Messinger, Student & Alumni

My Media Career Before Graduate School

Although it was more than two decades ago, I remember it clearly. I was flown to appear on two occasions of “The Sally Jessy Raphael” nationally syndicated talk show (Rocher, 2016). This is due to a book that touched upon eating disorders that I wrote, beginning at the age of 15 and published after graduating from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and a certificate in women’s and gender studies, called SWMS, the Study of Women and Men in Society. The first appearance was to debate a man who started bulimic behavior on purpose because he thought it was beneficial and the second was to debate a woman who argued that, like her, some people find it difficult to gain weight and their problems should be spotlighted as well.

This was heady stuff for a young person, and was on the heels of prior appearances on “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee” and CNN, each featuring half-hour segments answering live audience and call-in questions during a cross-country book tour. In cities along the way, I also spoke at hospitals, schools, and nonprofit organization meetings, which meshed with my background in high school as a state finalist in forensics in original oratory and impromptu speaking.

Soon, I was following my dream of becoming, at the time, the youngest editor/writer hired by Prevention Magazine Health Books, then a newspaper health editor/reporter/columnist, who was then recruited to be a syndicated columnist and then recruited to be managing editor of a company that was publishing books and reviews at the time in association with America Online (AOL). In addition to my syndicated writing, my career became more supervising copyediting and writing style, including the last nine years promoted to a position created for me as manager of editorial quality assurance within iHeartMedia, Inc., the media company with the most reach in the country (2016). Communicating with work teams thousands of miles away from a solo office via text messaging, I knew that my presentation skills had not kept up with my editorial ones.

I was confident I could update and enhance my communication proficiency on all levels as part of the online Master of Science in Communication at the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University. After all, the then-inaugural online program, of which – after researching master’s programs for months that paled in comparison – I became one of the first 100 students accepted, stemmed from the Brian Lamb School of Communication, whose doctoral and graduate programs are ranked among the top in the country by the National Communication Association (2016).

Three Ways A Masters Degree Can Help Your Media Career

1.) Increased Competitiveness in My Media Career

Initially, I decided to earn a Master of Science in Communication (and the graduate certificate in Strategic Communication Management that can be applied for along the way) because I wanted to be even more competitive in editorial media management positions.

2.) Improved Writing Skills

However, although I have been writing professionally since I was a teen, including six additional published books, I was first surprised to see my communication skills quickly and consistently evolve at the online Master of Science in Communication at the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University through constant writing on the daily graded discussion post boards, which stressed cited critical thinking as we also pursued lively intellectual interaction with our classmates. I had considered getting a master’s degree in writing from top universities, little did I know that the Brian Lamb School of Communication writing discussion post boards, as well as regular written assignments, would develop the critical thinking needed for my writing in ways that I now feel confident to pursue organizing, researching, and writing the type of serious nonfiction books I had not felt ready for previously.

3.) Effective Public Speaking Skills

Equally, since instructors allowed us in my courses to put forth our final presentations either on PowerPoint or as uploads via webcam of us speaking to the class, I chose the latter in order to begin to get up to speed in that arena, like I had been years ago when pursuing public speaking and talk show appearances regarding my published books. A helpful tip was from the instructor in the first Core Seminar in Strategic Communication who advised us to speak as though we were giving a professional presentation on our topic to a group of peers at a strategic communication conference. I have given each of my final graded webcam course presentations this way (for which fellow online graduate classmates – all of whom are employed in the media or communications industries -- also post critiques). In addition to the immense amount of high-level, critical thinking-based writing in this program, those virtual presentations are the rewarding reasons for the evolution of my communication skills.

Brian Lamb School of Communication, Purdue University. 2016. Our reputation: Reasons to consider Purdue University for graduate study in communication. Retrieved from

iHeartMedia, Inc. 2016. About us. Retrieved from

Rocher, J.M. (2016). Sally Jessy Raphael plot summary. IMDB. 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.