Public Relations and Journalism

So You Want to Work in Public Relations and Advertising? Major in Journalism!

Kerry L. O’Grady ‘06

The UMASS journalism major is a great choice if some day you see yourself writing copy for ad campaigns or working in public relations, account management and/or in newspaper or broadcast advertising sales.  These jobs require individuals who are strong writers and communicators and people who are savvy and not afraid to question, overcome objections and provide creative solutions to complex problems. Why? Because each day in advertising is about finding a good lead, questioning every part of the lead until there is a story to tell and communicating thoughts on paper to build business solutions. You need to be able to think on your feet, look at facts, present your case well and be extremely flexible, as adapting to new direction and ideas.

Good news! All of these qualities and skills are learned and fine-tuned through the Journalism Program!

Your Core Curriculum

How can you gain all this experience through the major and jumpstart your career? First, by carefully choosing courses within the major focused on understanding the industry as a whole. Choose courses that focus on journalistic concepts and theory, as well as the past and future of the media, which are important topics to understand in the advertising world. UMASS has a variety of courses that satisfy core journalism requirements, as well as electives, that fit into this category. These courses may include:

Journalism & the Law, Media Criticism, Journalism Ethics, Business of Radio Broadcasting, Radio Reporting & Podcasting, Writing Broadcast Narratives, Multimedia Journalism, Journalism Gender & Cultural Context and Independent Study.

Your writing courses are very important to your future employer. Choose them carefully. Besides the core courses all Journalism majors must take, you are required to take one or more advanced writing courses.  Choose courses that focus on writing for broadcast or web, as those go “outside the box” of typical journalism writing courses. These types of courses will best prepare you for writing short tag lines, press releases and ad copy in the future.


Your Second Major or Minor

Choose your second major/ or minor carefully and think about how you would speak to why you chose it during an interview. You want your second major or minor to clearly enhance your journalism education. In advertising, understanding people, culture and languages are important. Artistic creativity and personality are also important (as you must be able to present yourself well on paper and in person). Choose a minor that most interests you that fits into one of those realms. Great choices include:

English, Foreign Language (with Latin American languages strongly encouraged), Art, Economics, History, Linguistics, Legal Studies, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology or Women’s Studies

Take Advantage of Opportunities!

A huge benefit to being a Journalism major at UMASS is the opportunity available on and off campus to gain real-world experience. Future employers want to see how you stood out above the rest during your undergraduate career and how you’ve made the major your own. Some good examples/ideas include:

Internships at local radio and television stations, working for an advertising agency, shadowing local industry leaders, writing letters to media companies where you want to work after graduation to introduce yourself, keeping a portfolio of your accomplishments and doing freelance work if you can. (There are many local businesses that advertise and are lost when it comes to what makes an ad effective.  Offer to help them!)

A few more ideas include: Read books on the industry, attend seminars, network, start listening to radio and TV ads differently…and, oh yes, don’t forget to work for the Collegian!

Kerry O’Grady graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2006, with a double major in Journalism & English and a Psychology minor. She works in advertising at The Arizona Republic in Phoenix, Arizona.  She can be reached at

Journalism Department
108 Bartlett Hall
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003

Phone: 413.545.1376