My parents have three sons. All three of us have achieved first class degrees, except mine isn’t in law or science, it’s a public relations degree. A degree I would describe as 50/50 academic and vocational. It’s for this reason that I’ve never had a problem with employment.
Before I graduated I had a job waiting and it’s been like that ever since. Every month I’ve had a salary hit my account as a direct result of PR related work. I don’t intend to boast. I’m from the University of Gloucestershire class of 2012 – entering education as the recession laid agencies to waste. The world hadn’t recovered on graduation.
Like most, I had little understanding of PR before studying. It was a last minute choice after my passion for computer science was extinguished after seeing a class of overweight sweaty males tapping away at computers during a university open day. I escaped to my true passion. The one I could not live without; writing.
A journalist at the University of Lincoln explained how most people live their life in a box: they drive to work in a box, type in front of a box, go home to watch the box, and then eventually end their life in a box. A life of a journalist would allow you to escape the box.
I was sold. However, had real concerns about choosing journalism as a degree.
So instead opt’d for PR after being convinced by the top-class teaching at the University of Gloucestershire. Crucially my degree also had the backing of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). An institution that is pushing the PR industry forward and isn’t afraid to join important debates. Alongside the CIPR was the PR student community driven magazine, Behind The Spin, of which I’ve just been made an associate editor.
My degree was probably cheaper than yours, tuition fees stood at £3000 a year (plus accommodation costs). Today a PR degree will cost you up to £9000 a year and that’s for an industry whose average salary is £33,680. Whilst other professions will earn you more, I’m willing to bet that employability in PR will be higher than other subjects such as law or English. Although this is an assumption.
My own course had a sandwich year, which was a one year placement in industry. Without a doubt this year is worth it. In my case I was earning a decent salary and could wave decent work experience on my CV to put me a step ahead of ‘academic experience only’ competition. My sandwich year also kept me in plentiful supply of cigarettes and alcohol for the final year of University! The first habit I’ve now kicked. The second has flourished.
So yes. Big success story. Sound the trumpets. A PR degree will give you glory, as it did for me.
I cannot praise the value of a PR degree enough but also realise that it’s been a while since I was a student – so how has the standard CIPR accredited degree changed? Also, the PR industry is changing so rapidly, is it possible that now other degrees are becoming more important for the survival of the industry? Ultimately, PR’s first aim is to win the budget battle in the company boardroom; by proving its value.
My role today is purely digital and social media. I work in an integrated team that offers online and offline solutions. Just because it’s integrated doesn’t mean that it’s balanced, digital projects keep coming. It may just be that the computer science degree I first rejected is becoming more important than my PR based skills. The amount of online data that digital teams need to chew through to reach client solutions is astounding and growing in complexity. PR degrees must offer in-depth digital marketing training; including social media, search engine optimisation and online advertising to be of real value.
So you tell me, are PR degrees still worth it today? I hope so. But only if digital accounts for 50% of work. And yes, the other half should all be about creative writing, media relations and researching.
I wrote this blog post after being inspired by Live Love Laugh PR’s ‘10 blog post ideas for PR bloggers’