There’s a great debate raging on over whether or not higher education is even worth it, given the costs involved. That debate will be dominated by people more knowledgeable about the subject, but I have a feeling that programs like this will find their way into someone’s argument, maybe as an aside when both sides tire of talking about the central issues.
The University of Florida is offering a Masters in Social Media. They aren’t the first to do so, but they might be the most visible university yet to offer this kind of program. It’s easy to deride on its face. Most Masters programs deal with specialized topics that aren’t immediately accessible to the public, and require an educational setting to verify that you can glean information and use it in a, well, masterful way.
That contrasts with social media, which is, by definition, extremely accessible. It’s hard to imagine paying money (a lot of money) to learn about something that you probably use every day. You could say that the program could teach you how to use everything you know about social media in a business-friendly way, but how specialized is that knowledge, really? It’s not something that will be found in textbooks, or behind journal paywalls. You can probably just Google it.
But, you can just Google pretty much everything. Masters programs, ostensibly, get you to a place where you can actually use what you know in a professional setting. So, the question is – is the classroom a better place for that than your own bedroom? Especially when much of social media strategy comes from the ability to create viral content and make connections online – things that require spontaneity and creativity. It seems like experience and your own experiments would be the better teachers, and would make for a stronger resume. It’s hard to imagine employers being impressed by an M.A. in Social Media when there are so many people out there who can do those kinds of marketing jobs without a degree.
It’s probably best to look at this like an early tech release – an original iPhone, or the first generation of Google Glass. It might look tempting, but it’s probably a good idea to stay away and wait until the early kinks get worked out. And, if the kinks don’t get worked out and the program goes the way of the Pippin, you can just walk away silently – without having shelled out tens of thousands of dollars. In the meantime, you can keep on figuring out the ins and outs of social media on your own by – well, I’m sure I don’t need to teach you how to do that.