Thoughts on the MA in Social Media

There’s been a lot of discussion about the new MA in Social Media course being offered by Birmingham City University. On the one hand, the mainstream media reports from the Guardian and Daily Telegraph have focused on criticism – on the other, people like the esteemed PR professional Neville Hobson have looked more in-depth at what the course actually offers and the benefits it can bring to individuals and the PR industry.

What’s interesting is looking at the proposed opportunities for individuals completing the 48 week, £4000 MA course:

  • Become a social media consultant (and understand what that means);
  • Develop innovative and low cost communication strategies for third sector organisations using social media tools;
  • Develop innovative and alternative media projects;
  • Work with existing mainstream media organisations as they develop social media strategies;
  • Enhance your skills and contribute to the development of new professional practice in PR, marketing communications and web design;
  • Continue to develop a scholarly interest in social media as part of a further research degree;
  • Contribute to the development of the social media industry.

I’m torn because I’d jump at the chance to focus on the more scholarly and research aspects of social media/marketing/PR without the bothersome concentration on results and profits that comes from social media and marketing as an occupation.

At the same time, I’m immensely greatful for the focus and concentration that being gainfully employed in social media and marketing brings – it means a real need for effective strategy, implementation, monitoring and selection of channels for starters.

The big question for me is whether paying £4000 as an individual will be recouped any time soon? Even with employment placements during the course, will organisations need growing numbers of MA-level social media specialists, either within the organisation or as consultants, and how big is that demand at the moment? Would an MA influence you over and above practical experience and past work?

Certainly anyone already established in a social media role at a managerial level should be able to tick pretty much all the boxes the MA aims to deliver – and are those roles going to be offered to those graduating the course, or people more like myself who spent time in journalism and publishing, gaining additional experience in marketing and social media, before making the switch?

And how many social media concetrated roles are still seen as entry level positions? Will there be a switch in the near future?

I’d be more comfortable with social media being wholly integrated into digital marketing and general marketing courses and qualifications, certainly in the immediate future, but with the opportunity to specialise for elements of the course, giving people a better chance of being able to gain employment in a larger range of roles, but am I being overly cautious? And does the world need more social media specialists and consultants, when there is already a plethora of very good (and some bad) in the space already?

There’s a very good amount of interesting discussion on the course on Twitter, with the hashtag #masocialmedia.

And here’s the video introduction to the course:

Jon Hickman: MA in Social Media from Kasper Sorensen on Vimeo.