Saturday, December 18, 2010

Value of Education

Earlier this week, I advised a student against attending graduate school. The reason? The student wants to be a writer and I told the student that in my opinion it is more constructive to intern, take entry-level jobs, and do anything you can to write daily. Write and write some more. My experience is that four years in the workplace, as a writer or reporter, is likely to be more constructive than four years spent in graduate school.

However, I would not tell an engineering student there is more value to work than school because the graduate education is different in various fields.

Even in many MFA programs, graduate school courses in writing and communications are theory-driven, as opposed to practice-driven. Honestly, I don't know that theory has made me a better writer. If anything, I find myself slipping into an "academic" language and style that is inappropriate for most audiences.

If you want to be a scholar of writing, then graduate school might be ideal. If you want to be a writer, it isn't where you'll do the most learning.

The grand exception is if you want to teach others about writing. Teaching at the college level requires the degree, unless you're a published author asked to be a visiting lecturer or resident author at a university.

The only reason I completed graduate school was a desire to teach. I am only a scholar tangentially to practicing the craft of writing. As it stands, I probably learned far more writing for general publication than writing academic papers.

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