Jason Piscia, PAR director
Publish Date

Since 1972, the Public Affairs Reporting program at UIS has jumpstarted hundreds of careers in journalism and communications. There are dozens of reasons why a PAR master’s degree is a smart option to level up your chances at a job reporting on government, politics and other high-profile topics. Read on for five of the best reasons. For more information, visit or contact program director Jason Piscia at

1. In and out in 10 months

Unlike some master’s degree programs that take two academic years, you can complete all of the requirements for a PAR degree in just 10 months. A new class begins every year in late August and wraps up in late June. During that time, we immerse you in high-level classroom and work experience so you’re ready to take on any newsroom assignment. 

2. Real experience

The centerpiece of the PAR experience is a guaranteed six-month professional news reporting internship covering Illinois government from the Statehouse pressroom under the guidance of a full-time journalist. Internship placements include the Chicago Sun-Times, the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald, The (Springfield) State Journal-Register, NPR Illinois, WCIA-TV, Quincy Media TV and others. And don’t be fooled by the term “internship.” You won’t be picking up coffee and dry cleaning for the boss. PAR students are treated as real reporters and get immediate opportunities to have their work featured on front pages and on the air throughout Illinois.

3. Affordable

In addition to being time-efficient, PAR is one of the most cost-effective ways for a journalist to earn a graduate degree while building a resume and getting high-level experience. During the six-month internship, students receive a tuition waiver plus a monthly stipend. In addition, the program is supported by generous donors who provide thousands of dollars in scholarships to PAR students each year.

4. Job prospects

PAR enjoys an excellent job placement record, averaging close to 100 percent for each graduating class. The impressive results aren’t surprising, considering what graduates bring to the table. PAR students start their careers fresh from full-time jobs, cleverly disguised as internships. They have the clips and the resume to show what they did in the demanding environment of the Statehouse. PAR grads also acquire in-depth knowledge of the most critical public affairs topics of the day, including marijuana legalization, gun control, school finance, health care and taxation, issues that need coverage in every community. In short, students leaving the PAR program are prepared to step into the most demanding beats a newsroom has to offer, and the media managers who do the hiring know it. That’s why managing editors and news directors with job openings call us looking for alums in search of work. In fact, frequently the callers are PAR grads themselves.

5. Previous journalism experience not required

Many PAR students come to UIS with some background in journalism – most commonly from a campus-based newspaper or broadcast station, or after a short time working in media. But that background is not required. We’ve accepted students who majored in political science, English, sociology and many other disciplines. If you have good writing skills; an interest in government, politics and policy; and a genuine desire to become a journalist, you can be a strong candidate for PAR.