Q: I’m in my 2nd year of communications/marketing/PR work as a second career. Is it worth it to earn a Masters part-time, or would an APR be enough to advance my career?—AH, Washington, D.C.
Dear AH: As one who earned a Masters degree in Public Communication and the APR, I think I can speak from both perspectives.
The APR exam is an extremely valuable experience. Through the accreditation process, you will cover the basics of public relations practice as well as best PR practices. Its focus is on practical, “real-life” situations. However, having “APR” after your name doesn’t count for a lot in the marketplace these days. Many seasoned PR practitioners who were never PRSA members don’t know what it means, and some others don’t care. It may put your job application on the top of the pile, but your experience will count for more.
A graduate degree, on the other hand, is usually a combination of theory and practice. I gained from graduate school an understanding of WHY some communications strategies and tactics work. The advantage of a graduate degree, of course, is the sheepskin–relatively few PR practitioners have a graduate degree in PR, and that tends to count for something when hiring decisions are made.
Ideally, it would be useful to pursue both, but I’m sure you are limited in time and budget. If I had a choice to do it over again, I think I’d go for the APR early in my career and pursue a Masters about five-to-ten years later, assuming I wanted to stay in PR. Education is expensive, as you know, and accreditation costs much less. It also takes less time!
The “PRofessor” is Fred Whiting, APR, a long-time PRSA-NCC member, chair of the Mentoring Committee and is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland and Hood College in Frederick. a local university professor. Fred will answer questions personally and publish some in the chapter’s website and blog.
Do you have a question about public relations? Ask the PRofessor! Submit your questions here or you can leave public questions/comments below.
April is Accreditation month – Click here to check out upcoming APR events and contact NCC APR co-chairs, Pamela Mooring, APR at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jennifer Bemisderfer, APR, email@example.com.