The PR Degree – is it worth it?

If you tell someone you have a degree then suddenly you’ve achieved a new level of respect. At least, that was the case 10 or so years ago.

Flickr – SalFalko

Thousands of different degrees exist now, and among students there’s always the quiet competitiveness of ‘my degree is better than yours’. While this might be childish it’s the way things work – those with journalism degrees receive a lot more respect than those with a degree in event management. And definitely more respect than anyone doing a degree in golf management (yes, that actually exists).

But what about a PR degree?

Most of my peers have little idea about what ‘PR’ even stands for, never mind what my career will entail. Even a lot of people considering taking a PR degree are unaware of what the career is. One friend who is currently on my PR course said: “It’s a lot different to what I expected but it’s interesting.”

Another friend who studies a science said: “It’s something to do with managing celebrities and covering up their mistakes.”

Flickr – Howard Lake

Doing a degree in PR is frustrating because, to my peers, they don’t understand it. To them it’s not complex enough to need a degree – something I would definitely argue against.

But do PR practitioners think a degree, now costing up to £55,000, is necessary for beginner account executives?

It’s a big debate within the PR world – a lot of practitioners don’t have a degree in PR, or have a degree at all. Those with experience or degrees in adjacent fields, such as marketing/advertising or media based studies are also getting jobs as PRs. Even someone with a politics degree has a chance to get a public affairs PR position – so what’s the point in doing a PR degree?

My personal opinion is that having a PR degree is the best way to hit the ground running when students land their first job. And that’s exactly what employers want.

Flickr – jjpacres

Some people think that degrees don’t teach the writing skills you need to be successful as a PR – my degree at Sunderland is all about writing styles and techniques within the first year – it’s the basic foundations that any practitioner needs.

But a degree could never teach the personality I think you need to do PR. You need to be a good communicator, in any situation. There may be people you don’t want to work with, or clients who really grind your gears, but having the confidence and personality to deal with tricky people seems essential. That can’t be taught through anything but getting experience.

A PR degree provides the foundations of writing skills, organisation and planning skills, but it’s the real understanding of the industry that will always place us head and shoulders above those with other degrees or no degree at all.

Flickr – Zach Frailey

I’d definitely say you have to be the right kind of person to do PR – and that may mean you’ll be successful without a degree, but without one you’re open to situations you’ve never experienced and that’s a steep learning curve.

So, PR degrees – not widely understood or respected, but, at least in my opinion, help with getting on the first rung of the ladder to a successful PR career.

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Being A PR Student – Why no one understands you

Whenever anyone asks me what I’m studying I ready myself for the ‘oh right… nice’ response.

Flickr – CollegeDegrees360

It doesn’t bother me much that most people haven’t a clue what I mean when I say ‘PR’ – more than half probably don’t even know what it stands for.

What bothers me is that PR is quite difficult to explain in a nutshell – at least in a way that doesn’t make me sound like I’m stupid. It’s all very well and good having definitions within an industry, but what do you say to someone who hasn’t a clue?

It’s difficult to explain to someone concisely how PRs manage and maintain reputation when, to them, reputation is an abstract term. To explain it properly you have to get into the details of media relations and third-party endorsement. I’ve found people tend to lose interest as soon as I explain what PR stands for – it’s still so unrecognized by the masses.

Flickr – Labour Youth

What frustrates me to no end is when people say “oh yeah he was doing the PR for that club event last night” – no, he was handing out flyers. I do not need training, experience nor a degree to hand out flyers.

I think describing your job as a PR to someone outside of the media industry takes years of practice. Even friends at university who study business or sciences don’t understand what I do, and there’s always the debate about what constitutes a “real course”. Because, I’m sorry, a course on David Beckham isn’t a real course.

But PR is. 

I’ve resigned myself from the fight now until I fully understand my role myself – and that might be a forever ongoing process with the constant changes in the industry.

I don’t think people realize or understand the complexities of PR – the variety of skills a practitioner must master; from client management to writing, from social media to event management, from organisation to media liaison.

But that’s why I love it. The variety you can face in a single day as a PR, whether in-house or consultancy, is amazing. I always need a challenge to push me and motivate me and being a PR is a constant challenge because of everything you must master.

Flickr – Robbie Veldwijk

So, no one understands us PR students. Sometimes even the PR lecturers seem a little bewildered by us. We’re fresh blood and we’re learning to do a rather complex juggling job. 

While no one else may understand my work, I’m proud of what my work can achieve and the skills I have for it.  And I give myself a mini pat on the back for my achievements each day.