We’re often asked by undergrads and recent LA transplants if grad school is necessary or helpful for a career in entertainment. Is it a good idea, or is it a waste of money? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer here – the decision to attend grad school is a very personal one, but if you’re struggling with the question, there are a few things you should take into consideration.
In most cases, a graduate degree is not necessary for a career in entertainment (unless you’re trying to get into entertainment law or another specialized position). For those interested in business development, an MBA or similar degree might be something to consider down the line, but for creative positions, an undergraduate degree is enough. In a competitive industry where everyone starts from the bottom, a graduate degree isn’t going to help you negotiate a higher salary, and it can be frustrating when your friends start getting promoted to coordinator positions while you’re still an assistant because you got a late start. Even worse, sometimes your internship supervisors will be younger than you are. Grad school is also expensive, and scholarships are rarely available, so if you don’t have parents willing to help you out, you’ll be paying off your student loans for years to come. If you don’t particularly love school, a graduate degree might not be for you, especially if you’ve already had the opportunity to complete entertainment industry internships where you were able to learn about the business and build up a network. In this case, you’ll probably be able to land a pretty solid assistant position right after graduation and get a head start on your career.
However, for some people, a graduate degree will be extremely valuable. If you have a passion for learning and have always wanted to continue your education beyond college, grad school can be very rewarding, especially if you enroll in one of the top programs in your field. Master’s programs provide the opportunity to pursue a course of study that personally interests you, and professors will encourage you to tailor your program to support your individual career goals (unlike the undergrad experience that often forces students to take core courses across disciplines). These programs can be hard work, but you’ll feel proud of your accomplishments and will develop some extra expertise that could help give you an edge over other candidates once you start the job hunt. Plus, if you decided to get into entertainment late in the game and didn’t complete any relevant courses or internships during undergrad, you’ll have a chance to learn about the industry and develop the skills you need to succeed. Many graduate programs offer evening courses, allowing you to take on internships, build your network, and gain practical experience, so if you’re coming to LA with no idea how to get started in the industry, grad school can help you forge a path forward.
At the end of the day, you’ve got to decide what’s right for you. Grad school can be an exciting and useful experience for some, and for others it may be a waste of time. Weigh all factors to determine how much you need grad school and how much you want it, and if you feel strongly that it’s going to be beneficial, it might be a good thing to consider.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan