Public Relations – Education vs. experience

 

I recently spend a few weeks with Ketchum Pleon as an intern. Apart from having a great two weeks and learning lots of valuable real life PR, I also had a few conversations with some professionals that challenged my future planning.

Ever since I started my bachelor degree I always though that I would do a master afterwards. An investment in my future, which would eventually pay back. I never decided precisely which one, or which precise area, but since I only have one year to go on my bachelor I started thinking and researching possibilities. But after my internship I’ve started wondering if a master is the right way to go if you want to work in PR. A few professionals told me it would be unnecessary and that it wouldn’t make a big enough difference to justify taking another year as a student. They mentioned that in the long run it is the experience that counts, and that considering my age (26) it would be wiser for me to get out there in the real PR world. They did mention though, that if I really want to do a master, at least work for a few years, make sure I like the work I do, and then possibly do one part time if it is relevant.

So yeah, my world and beliefs have been turned upside down a little, which is not a bad thing. Do you really need a degree to work in Public Relations? Opinions are of course different. Some employers will say that a degree is vital, whereas others will value creativity, experience and drive much higher. But even if a PR degree is not vital, surely the basic skills you learn during 3 years at university will be useful. Presentation skills, persuasion, self-motivation, team work and presenting ideas to others. Most people I’ve talked to have acknowledged this, but also said that 3 years is more than enough to learn the theory of PR – In fact most said that 2 years would do. The rest comes from getting out there and actually doing it, again, and again and again.

But getting a job is all about being different – Have skills that no one else have, have experience, been involved in relevant projects. I thought, maybe wrongly, that a master would do the same for you. Considering that tuition fees are now so high that it will put most people in debt by at least £20.000 once they are finished at university, it makes sense for many professions to offer alternatives – hence PRCA offering apprenticeship schemes. But is that more valuable than a university degree?

As I looked through LinkedIn and went through some of the professionals’ educational background it became clear that many of them didn’t have a degree in anything coming close to PR or Marketing. But they had experience. Some of the younger professionals did have degrees, and compared to the older people in the field, a much larger percentage. I guess this means a PR degree is becoming more common, but for it to be valuable it needs to be combined with experience and drive, and a knowledge of everything affecting the clients you might work with – not just dry facts of how to build a press release.

 

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