Sorry Mom

Oh Great Dark Lady of Snark Whose Chic High-Heeled Footsteps Shake the Very Foundations of the World;

Your Snarkishness, I

'm near finishing a B.A. in English and I really feel that I've had it up to my aureola with writing interminable essays and dry research papers. My hope is to someday work in the book business (agenting, editing etc... I don't care, I love books and want to work in making them happen).

I've read somewhere that you don't need more than a B.A to make it in the field. On the other hand, my dear mother is applying quite a lot of pressure to make me move on to a Master's degree immediately after I'm done with the B.A. She is adamant that nowadays, a B.A. will at best get me a job as the assistant to the secretary's secretary. I've always done as she told me (I mean...she's the one who pays for it all after all...) but just the thought of writing a 40+ page thesis makes me want to rip off my feathery white wings and join the pot-smoker behind my metro station...

Is she right? Should I go on to a Master's? Or will it hinder more than help me? Will I be stuck in the lower echelons if I don't? Or will I stand a chance to hope to reach the top (perhaps as high as the great and powerful Miss Snark?)?

I bow to your superior knowledge and am humbled in the light of your flaming hair,


Far be it from me to tell your dear mother she's all wet, but hand her a towel and say "Miss Snark says hello".

The point you're missing is that you don't have to get an MA directly after your undergraduate work. In fact, you'd be very very very smart to get a couple years of experience, then decide about your masters.

You're going to start out in the mailroom (or job equivalent) no matter how much education you have.

Some publishers will pay for employee's education as well, and there are publishing certificate programs at NYU and Pace that are pretty valuable without costing what an actual Masters does.

Short answer: get a job.


ORION said...

Right on Miss Snark.
This is the very same thing I say to my students.
Get experience first.
I am in a doctoral program. I see these people all around me. Everyday.
There is nothing more useless than someone in graduate school who does not know what it is like in the real world.
It is almost as useless as a person who does not know EXACTLY what they "want to be when they grow up."
"something in publishing" is not a career goal.
It is a vague desire.
An idea.
Until you work at a specific job and understand what you have to do - day in and day out-- you have no understanding of what it entails.
So do what the mistress says...
Get a job.
And good for you for asking this question.

Anonymous said...

From personal experience, I'm with Miss Snark on this.

While I don't regret my path, I could have saved a lot of time and money by going to work in publishing right out of undergrad. Instead, I chose the MA route (taking a year off between undergrad and grad to goof off...er...work for my dad) and ended up getting paid the same as my BA-holding co-workers to discover that I actually probably wasn't cut out to be a copy editor.

If you decide you just want the MA, go get it. But if you're going to get it for better job opportunities, well, it's not really going to help you out. It might be fun (mine certainly was), and it is kind of comforting to know that I can always go teach at a community college somewhere, but it won't shortcut you up the totem pole.

(Unfortunately, I still haven't learned my lesson: I'm in law school now even though I finally figured out that agenting is what I want to do. I need a good kick in the head.)

Bernita said...

A 40+ page thesis makes you blench?
Mine was 92 pages and considered really short.
Listen to Miss Snark.

Anonymous said...

I recently completed my MA in English and now work in tech advertising. I have another co-worker with the same recent degree. Here's the thing though: we both got our Masters to 1. CHANGE careers from what we were doing before and 2. we both wanted the degrees for personal reasons as well. We also both took about ten years between BA and MA.

Take some time to get a feel for what you really want to do.

Yarn and Food said...

Thank you Miss Snark, this is very reassuring to me.

I guess it really is time to stick the harp back in its case, fold up the dry-clean only white tunic and do my own thing in spite of the Motherly Commandments.

I love the smell of sulfur in the morning. Smells like growing up :D

Alfie - the fallen daughter ;)

Stephen Parrish said...

You don't make a major educational decision by writing to a blogger, no matter how brilliant she may be. Nor do you listen to your Mom, unless she's telling you to brush your teeth after meals.

You do what your guts tell you to do. If they're not yet speaking, you wait.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Alphecca, tell your mom you appreciate what she's trying to do, but that until you're certain of your career path, it'll just be a waste of time and money.

And if it's her money that would be wasted, that should help bolster your case. Ask for a rain check. Reminder she doesn't want to pay for something that you'll never use, right? And Miss Snark is right that some employers will pay or assist with grad school expenses, so it could be a cost savings to your family, if they were the ones who were going to foot the bill.

One thing, though-- if you haven't already, DO take your GRE now, before you have a chance to forget your higher math. You probably won't be sorry for waiting on grad school, but if you wait until you've forgotten all but your basic polynomials, you'll be VERY sorry you didn't take the GRE while you still knew what to do with a square root in the demonimator.

Take it from someone who knows this from personal experience. :-(

Laura(southernxyl) said...

Moms can give very good advice. I am sure the advice I give my daughter is excellent.

Don't know about the publishing world, but Ms. Snark is right-on about the world I inhabit. Entry level is entry level. We're worried about the master's grads who come in with no work experience, because our experience of that is that they expect the moon and the stars and are offended about having to prove themselves on a job. My motherly advice to the questioner here is: go for your masters IF there is a career path you want to be on that requires it. For instance, teachers nowadays pretty much have to have one if they're going to get and keep a job teaching English. Otherwise, go for it if you really, really just want to (which it doesn't sound like you do.) Otherwise, don't.

wind-up-bird said...

I agree with Her Snarkiness. Definitely good to get some experience, to figure out if academia, or whatever, is right for you.

I did an MA and am now doing a doctorate (all fresh out of college), and this is not something you want do to unless you are 105% sure you want to do it. If the thought of writing 40+ page papers (my undergrad thesis was 120! dear lord) doesn't entice you, RUN. RUN FAR. Because that is what you are going to have to do for ever and ever, amen, in an English (or indeed any humanities-related) grad program.

And right on with bunnygirl---definitely, even if you're in the least bit inclined to pursue grad work in the future in any field, doing the GRE's as close to college as you can will save you big headaches in the long run! It's a stupid test, but, the closer you are to having had math, the better.

On the other hand, I'm sympathetic here. I'm questioning everything, wanting to go into writing, etc. And I'm also realizing how grad school hasn't prepared me for the Real World one iota. We had a "meeting for heathens who might not want to go into academia," and they had to walk us through how to write a resume. So... :(

But good luck!

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything everyone has said so far, but I just wanted to point out that it can be difficult to get your masters later, depending on your work situation.

I only graduated with my Bachelor's a couple years ago, and it was a tough decision for me when I decided not to continue with the Masters right away. It turned out to be a good decision, because once I got out in the workplace my career goals completely redefined themselves, so the Masters I would have gotten would have been useless.

But now I'm in a situation where it is nearly impossible for me to go back to school to finish my Masters. Once you get out in the real world, real life can easily get in the way. The only way you'll get your MA later is if you are REALLY committed to it (which is probably better in the long run anyway).

Anonymous said...

It may be that what you really want to be is...

A librarian.

We do make books happen. That is, we get books into the hands of readers.

The Master of Library Science degree does not necessarily require a long thesis (may vary by program.)

Your mom will be happy to see her daughter earn a masters degree. You will be happy to be immersed in the world of books and literacy and enhancing people's access to information.

And it's not a bad route to a career in publishing, either. (Not the the most direct route, but still.)

Oh, and, it's a way to meet famous authors. They come and do programs at the bigger public libraries, and librarians get to pick them up a the airport, take them out for dinner, etc.

We also get lots of review copies of books and get to attend swanky conferences with all kinds of book people.

Anonymous said...

Work first.

This is true in any profession, and for any academic degree.

While it's quite all right for students to go straight from high school to college to get their undergraduate degree, given my choice of students (I teach at a university), I'd take a whole classroom full of "non-traditional" students, or at least students who have a work record or a serious volunteer record. Those who have been in the workforce come back to college knowing more about who they are, what they want, and they know that when the boss says "do," you "do," and you don't whine about it. And you never, ever tell the instructor, "I'm sooo busy!" or "It's so hard to get to this morning class on time!" because your instructor is even busier, but still is expected to get the job done AND be there on time every day.

This holds doubly true for advanced degrees. I went straght from an undergrad program to a master's in botany, but after being out of school for a while and going back for a master's in teaching, I had a whole different attitude -- and I was a much better student. I could see a marked difference in the MAT program between those who had been out in "real life" and those who had not. I'm now finishing a doctoral degree and again, real-world experience between my last degree and this one has made a world of difference for me.

Anonymous said...

As everyone else said, work first. I loved being in college and would gladly have been a professional student, if possible, but after my undergrad I worked some "real world" jobs for a few years. I'm just getting ready to get my MA now, and I'm so glad I waited. I now feel motivated and truly dedicated to earn a higher degree, and I have a lot of experince to back me up.

On the GRE: good advice on taking it earlier, but you should also know some schools won't accept scores that are more than two years old. Two years! (Most schools have a five year limit, I believe.) What's worse is the GRE will be totally revamped next fall, and I worry that within another year schools will start to want scores from the new test and not the old one. You don't want to take the GRE too early and then have to retake it and pay the evil ETS another $150 or however much it will cost in 2-5 years.

Anonymous said...

I have found my M.A. in English to be largely useless.

Anonymous said...

Is it werid that I loved writing the papers when I was a a english undergrad?