Adults return to school for many reasons, such as new professional opportunities or for personal reasons like maintaining intellectual stimulation after retirement. For some people, finishing and old degree or adding a new degree can lead to better job prospects in their chosen field. For others, they feel a new degree prepares them for a career change altogether.
Meet Dale Blasingame, social media director at Beacon Internet Services. Dale worked for 10 years in traditional broadcast media. His original degree was in journalism, but after one year in radio news and nine years in television news, he felt he was stagnating. “I was not a happy person in my old job,” he tells DegreeCast. “My new career is a complete left turn.”
Dale returned to his alma mater, Texas State University, to pursue his Master’s degree in Journalism with a focus on New Media. He defended his thesis in the summer of 2011, and he has already reaped the benefits of this new career path. “I don’t regret it at all,” he says. “I’m glad I made the decision I did. I’m more relaxed now, and I think I’m a happier person to be around. I really like the academic environment, and now I think I’d like to get my PhD. Not immediately, but somewhere down the road.”
Dale says returning to school wasn’t a higher calling, but a practical decision. For him, it was the right time and he was in the right place to consider a career change. It also enhanced his personal life by offering experiences he didn’t initially consider. His intention was to write his thesis on crime news in broadcast journalism, but he realized the topic was overdone. And then opportunity knocked.
Texas State University was offering a course on the popular South By Southwest music and media festival in Austin, Texas. Dale was among the students sent to attend the festival, and it wasn’t long before he had an epiphany. “I turned to my instructor and said, ‘I’m changing my thesis. This is what I want to do.’ It was eye-opening. Now I cover SXSW for one of the TV stations in San Antonio. Going to grad school gave me the breathing room and the opportunity to do SXSW, and it changed my life.”
Given his previous life and work experience in traditional broadcast media, working on the thesis was perhaps easier for him than for a student fresh out of the undergrad programs. “I had connections. When it came time to write my thesis, I had interviews lined up in 20 minutes. I knew the relevant people.”
He also credits his previous work experience with helping him through grad school as a whole. “I wanted to go to grad school when I was an undergrad, but I’m really glad I waited those ten years. I was one of the few people in our classes who had real world experiences with the stuff we were discussing.For example, we studied the media reaction to 9/11. I was working in the newsroom on 9/11. I had something to share that was relevant.”
The idea of returning to school can be a daunting one. When asked about this, Dale responded, “The first test, I freaked out. We only had to write short essays, but it was a feeling I hadn’t had in a long time. I had a couple of classmates older than I, and it turned out that age wasn’t a big deal.”
Is returning to school the right choice for you? We cannot guarantee it is, but we can leave with you Dale’s final thoughts on the matter: “I got so much more out of it because I did wait.”
Have you returned to school to finish or add a degree? Leave us a comment and tell us what your experiences were.