Getting a Master’s Degree While Working Full-time - Oh What a Year it has Been

Graduate Year: 2016

Getting a Master’s Degree While Working Full-time - Oh What a Year it has Been

Twelve months ago I was an Army Officer and participating in the first Brigade-level deployment to the Republic of Korea. There is a lot of jargon in that sentence, but the punchline is that I was extremely busy, thousands of miles away from my family and questioning my decision to enroll in graduate school.

American University’s Master of Arts in Strategic Communication is marketed as a program for fully employed professionals and that is one of the main reasons I chose to apply. I began to doubt the validity of that claim as my start date approached. I learned the very first day that all of my concerns were for nothing. My professor was very candid about the requirements and expectations, but also about the willingness to accommodate hard-working students.

The course work has been both challenging and enriching. I have been able to immediately incorporate lessons from each class to my tasks and projects at work. The relevancy of the content and the support from the professors has exceeded my wildest expectations.

I presented my practicum project to my client recently. She is the Director of Public Relations for a nonprofit children’s healthcare network. She has her Accreditation in Public Relations from the Public Relations Society of America and is very active in the Georgia chapter. The pressure to create a quality product was strong, but I had confidence in my work.

The scope of the practicum was impressive. I was able to take a communications challenge, analyze the situation, define the target audience and identify objectives. After I developed clear, measurable objectives, I developed strategies and tactics to accomplish the objectives, and a plan to evaluate success. My client had a big smile on her face when I completed the presentation. She said the work was exactly the type taught through the APR certification process.

I felt like I was on top of a mountain looking back at my starting point. I worked hard to create the plan, but guidance from my teacher was incredibly valuable. My professor was accessible all the time. She let me know when my analysis was clearly presented and when it wasn’t. She coached me through developing actionable strategies. But most importantly she was there for me when the figurative weight from work, family and school all became nearly too much. She encouraged me to keep going and helped me through it. She did not lower her expectations for my work, but she dedicated extra time to make sure I made it to the presentation with my emotional health intact.

I am no longer in the Army and I get to see my family every evening. I am also three and a half classes away from having a master’s degree. I am much stronger than I was when I began, and I have developed skills that make me standout in the communications industry. If I knew then what I know now, I would absolutely do it again.

To learn more about American University's online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication, request more information or call toll free at 855-725-7614.

  • About the Author

    Jackson McGehee

    Jackson McGehee is a veteran of both the Army and the Navy and is currently a Communications Strategist in Atlanta, Georgia. He studied International Affairs and Human Geography at the University of Georgia and graduated in 2009. Jackson is married to Teela and they have a three-year-old son named Reed and a one-year-old daughter named Libby. Learn more about Jackson here.