The Real Deal – How Useful Are Publishing Courses?

Since officially deciding to “get into” publishing, I’ve been toying with the idea of taking one of those publishing courses. There’s the famous summer program at Columbia, and a certificate from NYU. Stanford and Denver also boast impressive courses (you can find a whole list of other schools here). But at $5,000 a pop, is it really worth it?

Honestly, I’d love to take a class at NYU’s Center for Publishing. They offer a Master of Science in Publishing, professional certificates, continuing education and a six-week long Summer Institute. The classes sound like a lot of fun too (or at least they do for nerds like me). You only need to take five for a certificate, but I don’t know how I’d choose! There’s everything from fundamentals to copy editing to freelance to graphic novels.

So I’m back and forth on this. With each class at around $500, I don’t really have the money to drop, especially since I’m still technically unemployed. But if I knew that taking these classes would land me a job, I’d take out a loan in a heartbeat. Would it hurt? No, probably not. But what I’ve been hearing from the various people actually in publishing, is that it’s always a plus to have something that specific on your resume, but it wont necessarily get you a job. Most people say an internship at a publishing house is just as valuable as one of those courses. Some would argue even more so, as you actually get hands-on experience rather than just practicing theory.

But what about networking opportunities? These classes are usually taught by some seriously impressive people. People you don’t have to make an appointment with or spend ages on the phone harassing their assistant to get five minutes of their time. No, these people are specifically there to help you. Ah… what I wouldn’t give.

Alas, I currently do not have the funds to take such a course. The thing I’m learning about networking though, is that there are plenty of opportunities outside of the classroom. You just need to have the balls to take advantage of them. For example, I just recently joined NYC Women in Publishing, who have monthly Networking Happy Hours at the Stone Creek Bar. I also joined the Women’s National Book Association (it’s the feminist in me, what can I say), who put out a great newsletter and are having a big “welcome new members” event in September. Membership is $50, which I’ve managed to scrounge up, but there are other meet ups, such as the Digital Publishing Group, which are free.

So while I really (really, really) want to take the NYU courses, I think professionally I can get the same benefits by setting up informational interviews, joining publishing organizations, and just generally sucking it up by putting my $10 business cards in my pocket and actually meeting people the old fashioned way.

Author: Marian Schembari
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