My instant response to this question is quite simply, yes. Is that because I spent four years studying (one of which was a placement year in industry) for a CIPR approved public relations degree? Perhaps. However, when taking a moment to re-evaluate, I don’t think the answer is quite so clean cut.
This debate is the latest topic of Communicate’s @loggerheads feature: Matt Stewart, associate director at Bite Communications, and Kevin Taylor, past president of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations arguing for either side.
In my own experience the degree provided the understanding and the psychology behind the subject. It gave me the answers to all the questions beginning with ‘why’ and gave the best insight into the s-word – strategy. As Kevin says, ‘a solid technical background can get you there faster.’
But, without a doubt, on the job experience has been the quickest and steepest learning curve. This is where theory was put into practice and those thousand word essays came to fruition. How can a lecture prepare you for selling in a story; the first phone call you make to a journalist; meeting with a client? It can’t, but a PR degree isn’t just about text books. You have to prepare campaigns, pitch to live briefs and finally, complete a 10,000 word essay on a topic of choice related to anything in the PR industry. All of that was experience.
While I wasn’t naive enough to think that a degree would lead to a higher starting salary, out of hundreds of job applications I thought that it might just help mine get onto the ‘yes’ pile.
While a balanced mix of experience and theory is certainly the most ideal way of entering into a career in PR, what about the value to the industry itself? Kevin made an important point: ‘Valuing PR degrees too lightly undermines our credibility as a profession.’
Our industry continually has to prove itself as a profession and fight for its credibility and more importantly its reputation. If practitioners themselves can’t recognise the worth of a public relations qualification then how can the profession be taken seriously and develop in the way we want it to?
Posted by Emily.