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Amanda asks, "I am about to graduate with a BA in Sociology. I am interested in pursuing a career as a magazine staff writer. I have had one internship with an online magazine and have acquired a couple of clips. I have also been accepted to a couple of master's programs in print journalism and found some internships that interest me. I am currently trying to decide whether to get a masters or do an internship for a couple of months and then try to get a job. So I guess my question is: What matters more- experience or education? "
This is an excellent question. And there is no cut and dried answer. Experience counts a great deal but you already have experience with the internship and clips. Education counts if you want to pursue a career goal beyond the staff writer position. The basic law of these things says to get into your profession as soon as you can because you can always go back to school and return to the work world, especially if you have four or five years of work experience under your belt.
If you were to ask different editors and hiring managers at magazines they would give you different answers. Some would say that if you pursued a masters degree you would enter the magazine world at a higher level, for a higher pay. Others will tell you, no get into the business first, pay your dues, decide whether you really want to pursue this career by doing it day after day for several years, and then go back and get an advanced degree if that will help your career.
Two things would trigger the possibility for getting an advanced degree. One would be if you specialized in a certain subject and then got an advanced degree to make yourself an expert. And the other would be if you wanted to become an editor rather than stay as a staff writer. Magazine publishing is not as robust as it has been in the past. It has taken a large hit from the economic bust of the last several years. However, reports signal that it has bottomed out and is ready to swing upward again. So, it might be a good time to get into the business when staffs are expanding. You have a leg up with your internship and clips. From now until you get hired somewhere the two most important pieces of writing you'll do is a cover letter and resume. Start to study these things and how to prepare them. There are a lot of good resources to do that very thing.
Here is a quote from an old magazine editor who wrote a very good book on the business. "To find a good job opportunity in magazine publishing, you need time, energy and hard work to open doors. Then you need lots of perseverance, and hope for a dose of good luck. You'll need to plan, prepare and pound the pavement, all with a good measure of enthusiasm and commitment. If you do all these things with all your heart, you'll land a job."
The author of that quote is Ralph Monti and the book is "Career Opportunities in Magazine Publishing."
Folio Magazine is the chief magazine for the industry.
The path you have in front of you is a good one and you have set goals. An internship is a very good way to get a job so if you can get one do so. And you are still very young and can change more than a few times in the next ten years, so always keep your options open.
Again, the basic law of employment says to get into the profession you want to as quickly as you can. Take the advanced degree route if you decide you want a more management type of career like an editor-in-chief.
Good luck in your pursuits!
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