To PR or not to PR?
12th November 2018
James Denham has just completed a month’s work experience at Eden, having recently graduated with a first class degree in Politics from the University of Sheffield. Looking to enter the industry with a more generalised degree, he shares his thoughts on the value of Public Relations education in light of recent university-related news.
With closures to PR degree programmes across the country, and a high proportion of industry professionals coming from non-PR backgrounds, it is interesting to consider whether it is necessary to study a specific degree at university in order to embark on a career in Public Relations.
The study of PR within the UK’s higher education institutions has undergone a torrid time of late. In the past year, three universities: University of West London, Edinburgh Napier University and Bournemouth University, have all scrapped their PR degree programmes, instead, choosing to merge Public Relations courses with related degree subjects, such as Business, Marketing or Journalism. In particular, these developments have raised concerns amongst PR academics over the credibility of PR’s status as an independent field of study, and with good reason.
These recent programme closures leave students with a limited number of course options. Currently, only 29 higher education institutions continue to run PR courses, a small number compared to other communication-based subjects, such as journalism. This is bad news for PR’s academic credibility, because a reduction in the number of degree programmes on offer may lead to lower-levels of exposure, and a smaller, less diverse pool of applicants.
Intriguingly, the decline of PR’s status as an academic discipline is reflected within the industry. According to reports on UK employment, PR is one of the most popular career choices for graduates, however, the majority of those within the industry (57 per cent) hold degrees in subjects outside the remit of PR and digital communications. These findings could be down to the fact that many professionals enter PR as their second or third career option, and are unlikely to have a degree in the subject.
So, with these developments in mind, perhaps a Public Relations degree is not a necessary requirement for a successful career in the industry? Having come from a non-PR background myself, this is certainly my point of view.
This summer, I graduated from the University of Sheffield with a Politics degree, and like many before me, I felt a career in PR offered an exciting career path. In spite of my limited PR education, I was able to secure a month-long work experience placement with Eden.
I believe my opportunity at Eden arose because I was my able to showcase that the transferable skills I gained from my degree (critical thinking, research and written communication) would enable me to adapt to life in the PR industry. Although I have only been at Eden for a short time, I’ve continuously drawn on these skills to find solutions to the tasks I’ve been given.
Take my capacity for critical thinking, for example, where I have used my experience of analysing complex political issues to help me improve the newsworthiness of my press releases. I have also utilised my research skills to source and examine information, enabling the team to present data at important client meetings. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time working at Eden – the team made me feel welcome and I learnt a lot, not just about the PR industry, but also about myself and the way I work, which I will take with me moving forward.
To sum up, if you are thinking of accepting a place at university to study PR, you shouldn’t hesitate to accept. Equally, if you are a graduate from a non-PR background don’t feel disheartened when applying for job roles – the industry is largely made up of people who were in the same position as you. In my opinion, so long as you showcase your transferable skills, you will go far.