These days, it’s less about having a specific degree in a field than it is about having the right kind of experience and training. That goes for public relations too. Not every school offers an undergraduate degree in PR, but that doesn’t prevent you from getting into the PR industry. If you make the effort to intern in public relations or get other on-the-job training while in college, you’ll be well-positioned for a PR role once you graduate.
What Employers Look For
Many college grads are surprised to find out how little specific degrees matter to employers. But the truth is: many look for skills or experience rather than PR degrees. And sometimes, having a different type of degree can be an asset to an employer. If, for example, you have a degree in journalism, you understand the other side of the PR coin: you can relate to journalists and understand what they look for in a good story. Not every PR professional has that skill set, so being able to “speak journalese” can be a major boon for you in the job market.
An employer may not care if you don’t have a degree in PR, but he will want to see that you’ve made some effort to add to your PR skills. This could come in the form of an internship or volunteer position where you learned the basics of writing press releases and pitching the media. Joining a public relations professional organization wouldn’t hurt either, as it shows that you’re being proactive in getting to know others in your desired field.
Other Degrees That Qualify You for PR
Public relations is about communication, so any degree that focuses on improving your writing skills may help you secure a job as a public relations coordinator or communications specialist. A degree in writing or communications can provide you with the communications skills necessary, and business degrees typically emphasize business writing, which parallels what you’d be doing in the PR industry.
And as mentioned above, a degree in journalism can be tremendously valuable in that it teaches you the ropes of what’s happening at the newspapers and magazines you’ll pitch once you’re in PR. Having an understanding of a journalist’s world can help you better manage media relationships, which is the key to getting placement in the media.
A degree in marketing or business administration, or at least a few classes in these areas, can also help you as a PR pro, simply because so much of PR ties in to marketing and business. You’ll come to a job armed with multiple skills, and for private companies who can’t afford to hire separate marketing and public relations staff, you can pull double duty with your skill set.
And if You’re Considering Grad School...
Frustrated with the tight job market, many college grads return to school to get Masters’ degrees in PR or other fields. Before you make the leap, consider whether having a higher degree would actually put you in a better position for a job.
Having a Master’s degree on your resume may be appealing to employers, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into more money. In many cases, you’ll be eligible for the same job you’d qualify for without the degree, at the same pay rate. In PR, experience almost always trumps education. Consider whether another year or two of education is worth the same job.
There’s more than one path to your ideal PR job. Finding the one that works best for you is half the fun!