Monthly Mini-Post: Publishing Graduate Programs

With my graduation ceremony from Emerson College now behind me (and just two summer classes to complete before I finish my Master’s), I thought I would take some time to tell anyone interested about opportunities to pursue higher education degrees in publishing. Of course, publishing isn’t right for everyone. To work in publishing, you have to love books more than anything else—especially money. There’s little money in traditional publishing and it can be a frustrating industry. However, if you love books and want to be a part of creating them, it just might be the career for you.

Working in publishing isn’t the same as working full time as an author. The publishing industry is broad and comprised of many departments and it is a 9-to-5 gig that leaves any creative writing you might do to the evenings and weekends. Publishing professionals do have to enjoy working with authors, though…or at least enjoy working with authors’ books.

There are several categories of traditional book publishing—trade, scholarly/academic, and textbook, to name a few. “Publishing” also encompasses magazines, some corporate publishing, and electronic publishing. If you want to work in publishing, you can explore any of these—and many other careers—and a graduate program may be the first step towards learning about them.

Programs – What You’ll Learn

Master’s degrees in publishing are fairly new in the industry, but they can be a great way to learn about publishing before going into it. Remember, though: these programs are geared towards prepping for careers in the industry, not educating authors on how to get published. If you are truly interested in a career in publishing, these programs might be right for you.

There aren’t many Master’s degree programs for publishing. I attended Emerson College in Boston, MA for mine, and it was fantastic. I learned about the industry and clarified where I want to go with my career. Other programs include those at New York UniversityPortland State UniversityRosemont College, the University of Houston – Victoria, and The George Washington University.

Each of these programs differs slightly in the courses it offers and the approach it takes towards publishing. Expect to learn about the different aspects of the industry and have the opportunity to take courses in areas that you discover you’re interested in. Emerson’s program, for example, is ten courses. I took: Book Publishing Overview, Electronic Publishing Overview, Magazine Publishing Overview, Copyediting, Book Editing, Book Marketing & Sales, Publishing Management & Innovation, Content Strategy, Children’s Publishing, and a directed study I created entitled Managing Subsidiary Rights.

In addition, most programs offer chances to connect you with internships or jobs in publishing. I completed a publicity internship at a Boston-based publisher and am still working as an editorial intern for a literary agent.

The most valuable part of my Master’s program at Emerson, however, was beyond classes and jobs. The best thing I got from the program was the connections I made with professionals in the industry. If you choose to pursue a Master’s in publishing, don’t forgo any networking opportunities; those connections can get you in the door for a future career, and the people you meet will be great friends and colleagues through the years.

Why Pursue a Master’s in Publishing

There are several ways that a Master’s in publishing can help your career. First, learning the basics of the publishing industry will help you to determine exactly what part of the publishing industry you’d like to work in. Many people enter publishing Master’s programs only knowing about the editorial side of publishing. However, the industry is broad, and gaining knowledge about the other departments and career paths can help you make a more informed decision about your future.

In addition to helping you decide on a career, the Master’s degree can help you to broaden your knowledge so that you will be more prepared for entry level positions. Although you may not be able to skip those positions completely, you’ll be better qualified than other candidates and potentially more likely to be promoted quickly. Knowing about the industry and having the opportunity to do internships while you pursue your Master’s will put you ahead of other applicants.

Finally, the connections that you make with your colleagues and industry professionals are invaluable. There is no way to quantify how they can help you grow personally and professionally and assist your career along the way. A Master’s program is a great place to meet these people.

Where to Begin

The first step towards deciding if a Master’s in publishing is right for you is to read through the school’s websites (see above) and decide whether the programs match what you want to learn. Each program is unique in some way, so researching all of them is a great way to begin.

After you’ve done your research, check application requirements and deadlines and begin gathering your application materials. Many programs start in the fall and have deadlines early in the calendar year, but some have options to start during the summer or spring terms. Make sure you can fulfill the application requirements and apply as soon as you’re ready!

As you wait to hear back, research the cities where the programs are and see what sort of financial aid the programs provide, if any, for housing or academic expenses. Graduate school can be incredibly expensive, and a graduate degree doesn’t guarantee you a job after you finish. Be sure to assess your own financial situation and what sort of debt you’re willing and able to take on. If necessary, save for a few years to defray some of the costs before you begin the program.


If you choose to pursue a Master’s in publishing, I wish you the best of luck! As always, I encourage you to ask any questions you might have here or on Twitter!

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