When I graduated from college, most of my friends were talking about grad school. Some of them were going right away. Others were going to work for awhile while they figured out what they wanted to get an advanced degree in. But nearly all of them had a plan that involved going to grad school eventually.
And pretty much all of them have done so by now. Law school. MPA. MPP. MBA. A couple ambitious friends are even in the middle of PhD programs at the moment.
Me? I was NOT interested in grad school. I always said that the classes were my least favorite part of college. The thing I liked least about them (other than getting up early) was that even when you weren't actually DOING your work, you felt like you SHOULD be doing your work. So if you were out with friends or whatever, there was always a little niggling feeling at the back of your mind reminding you of all the work you still had to do. I HATED that.
So after college, I got a job. I was thrilled with it. It was a fantastic job in public health, and I found the work really interesting. And I loved that after you left at the end of the day, you didn't have to think about it again until the next morning and could enjoy your free time with a clear conscience. And I told everyone who asked that I was thrilled to be in a profession that didn't require a master's degree, and that I was never going to school again.
Except that by "never" I guess I really meant "for five and a half years," because guess what starts today? That's right: the first class of my graduate program.
I don't really NEED the degree for my career, per se, though it will certainly be beneficial. I'm really happy with my job and the work that I'm doing, and so far nobody has ever asked if I had a master's degree or implied that I should get one. But eventually, I think its absence would become more of an issue. And, I work with a bunch of really smart, educated people. Most of them have grad degrees, and it helps a lot. Not just for their career trajectories, but for their true and deep understanding of the science behind the work we do.
What I really want out of this degree is a theoretical foundation for my practical work experience. I've learned a ton about public health, social marketing (NOT the same as social media; see here for an explanation), and behavior change through my work in this sector. I've learned a fair amount about logic models and theoretical frameworks, too. But I've learned it piece by piece, as I've seen it in documents I've edited or discussed it in strategic meetings. And while I know a lot already, I want to connect the dots. I want to study the academic basis for these theories and gain a true, deep understanding of how and why they work. I want to be fluent in this language and instinctively know which framework we should propose for our latest project, based on the desired outcomes.
So I'm going back to school. I'm getting a master of science degree in health communication from Boston University. It's a program designed for students who are also working full-time. The other students in the program will also have demanding jobs and personal lives. So I won't be alone in my attempts to juggle work, school, and family. It will certainly be intense, but it will also be worth it. And hopefully it will be interesting, too. Health communication is the only field I've ever come across that has interested me enough to devote an entire degree to it. And I'm really excited to do it.
The program should take about 18 months. So you can all hold off on baby #2 watch until then.
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