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ADPR Students Can Earn a Graduate Degree in One Year with 4+1 Concentration

For many students, adding several more years of education to earn a graduate degree can be overwhelming, both in terms of time and cost. But, earning a graduate degree can increase their value in the workforce and result in better job prospects. Faculty at the Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations considered these factors and provided a solution: the 4+1 master’s program.

“The original goal of the 4+1 was to give students a chance to learn about the ‘other major’ in our school. Advertising majors will learn about the ideas driving public relations strategy. Public relations majors will learn about what drives advertising strategy,” said Tombras Professor and Director Beth Foster.

The program, launched in 2021, focuses more on applied technical skills and allows students to tailor classes to their specific interests. This is a 30-hour program that only admits students who have graduated with a Tombras advertising or public relations undergraduate degree within the past three years. 

“This will better enable students from both majors to manage a large range of communications strategies to advance an organization’s goals and also prepare them for today’s increasingly integrated workplace. Students become valuable thinkers, thus more valuable professionals,” Foster said, noting that students who graduate from the 4+1 program are able to start working at above entry-level positions.

For students Grant Mitchell and Isabella Kelly, the 4+1 program fits neatly into their career goals and with their lives.

“I really only had one more year of school left in me, to be honest, but I wanted a master’s,” Kelly said. “I think more and more these days a bachelor’s doesn’t stand out as much, so you have to get a master’s to be competitive.”

Kelly, 19, has been on a pretty intense school track ever since high school, where she participated in a “middle college” program that allowed her to graduate with an associate’s degree along with her high school diploma. She’ll leave the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, next year with her master’s in hand and launch her career at a younger age than most people do with just their bachelor’s degree. Kelly said the program has provided her with deeper skills that she can take into the workforce.

“In undergrad, the courses can be broad and don’t get down to certain specifics. With these courses, they are more technical and practical, they’re helpful; you can apply them and get more hands-on experience. You get into it and figure out how it would apply in agency or industry work,” she said.

Mitchell is already on track for a career in public relations, with a lot on his plate besides taking courses in the 4+1 program. In addition to being a graduate student, he works part-time as an account coordinator and graduate student intern at Fletcher Marketing PR.

“I’ve been able to do two classes each semester, and while doing that, I’m able to have work opportunities and also pursue outside interests and hobbies. I also do work at WUTK and I’ve been a news writing intern at WUOT since January of this year. There’s just a lot of great opportunities at CCI,” he said.

While he will take a little longer than a year to earn his master’s, the demands of a 30-hour degree are not as intense as a longer program—both timewise and financially, he said. He also appreciates the integrated approach, as he initially entered into Tombras as an advertising major, but public relations won him over in the end.

“4+1 has been a dream come true really, because it’s been everything I love about advertising and public relations. It also covers the marketing landscape and really learning more about the theories and practices we learned in undergrad, but just extending it and diving in deeper,” Mitchell said.