For the past week or so I’ve been basking in the afterglow of a fulfilling and well spent year, but I’m more than ready to move on. As yet another birthday passes me by I’m finally done with education – I’ve drawn it out as much as I possibly can (financially and mentally).
The course has literally flown by – particularly the summer, most of which I spent square-eyed and in a trance-like state, obsessing over the role of PR agencies in managing online word of mouth.
So after a much deserved fortnight of maxing and relaxing, I’m now offering my services (free of charge of course) to Finn Communications, where I hope to spend some quality time developing my skills. It’s my first day on the job so I can’t report much, but I feel more than welcome already.
This time off has given me time to reflect. And the question I’ve posed to myself is whether completing a PR masters degree was worth a year of my time and £3,500 , or whether I would I have been just as well off with my English Language degree and some work experience; will it help me in applying for a job and, perhaps more importantly, will I see the benefits once I’ve started work?
Every year their seems to be a debate around the value of PR degrees, and this year is no different. Despite universities churning out PR graduates by the hundreds, this years poll found that around a third of agency bosses found PR graduates less attractive candidates than those with degrees in other subjects (it’s just as well I’ve covered both bases then).
Although I’m a little late to the table, I’d like to add to my thoughts by looking back on my time at Leeds Met and the skills I’ve developed over the last year.
One of the main arguments that employers make against PR degrees is that 1) many of the skills can be learned on the job or during work experience and that 2) traditional acedemic subjects – English, History, Economics etc. – are more academicially rigorous.
I’d have to agree that essential PR entry level skills such as writing good copy, selling-in and relationship building can and should be learned in a job environment, but I’d like to echo Trevor Morris’ point made in PR Week that knowledge gained though a PR degree will be of more use in a strategic role, maybe 2-3 years down the line.
For example becoming familiar with the various stages of the strategic planning process (see Steven Davies’ precis of Anne Gregory’s infamous model) may not seem particularly useful for wide-eyed PR newcomer, but may give them a head start when they start to generate ideas rather than just implement them.
Likewise subjects such as ethics, professionalism or critical musings on the societal role the profession may seem even less likely reference points, but it never hurts to take a step back from your work every once and a while to consider the wider implications.
And that brings me to the main point – all this is geared at providing a context in which to operate as a professional. It’s all well and good being a fantastic writer and having an eye for a news angle but if you can’t relate this to your business objectives then you’re not going to go far.
I say all this but I wouldn’t go as far as to say PR degrees are necessary or better for those entering the profession. What I will say is that personally, I feel infinitely more confident at going into the industry with a conbination of experience and academic knowledge. A year ago, I had barely scratched the surface of what public relations was.