As the cost of attending college or university continues to rise, there are frequent questions surrounding the inherent value of earning a college degree.
Are degrees still a prerequisite for securing gainful employment after graduation? Can you learn all the same skills without attending college? What can a public relations degree do for you?
In other articles, we’ve talked quite a bit about whether it’s possible to begin a career in public relations without first having a degree relevant to the field, and while we do feel it’s possible, it’s also going to be an uphill battle.
Earning a degree relevant to publications is the most traditional route to starting a career in PR, and we’ll be talking about that side of things shortly, but we also challenged ourselves to look at creative ways to apply such a degree to other aspects of your life and even other careers outside of public relations.
To start, we’ll talk about the isolated value of understanding the principle concepts behind PR as a whole.
This is the section where we’ll be talking about the value of learning about PR, all on its own. It’s the knowledge for knowledge’s sake argument that’s especially common in more academic circles.
Basically, this is the idea that learning about PR can be valuable regardless of where your career takes you after leaving college.
In the next section, we’ll be looking at practical applications of this knowledge in the public relations industry, but for now, we’re talking strictly about what the knowledge itself can offer to you.
While this knowledge, in itself, won’t necessarily net you a bigger paycheck outside of PR, it can be very rewarding in its own way.
Armed with this knowledge, it can almost feel like you have a secret decoder that explains how companies and public individuals interact with the general population.
When you watch commercials you’ll quickly recognize techniques and methods, which will give you insight into the underlying goals of the entities behind each ad.
This knowledge can also help you look at brands much more objectively since you won’t be so easily swayed by their marketing campaigns.
Of course, the most obvious and the most practical benefit of earning a public relations degree is to pursue a career in PR, armed with comprehensive knowledge of key principles and best practices.
Pursuing a career directly related to your college degree is still one of the fastest and most assured ways to net yourself a steady salary.
For most PR students, looking for internships is an important step, and it’s one that might even take place while you’re still in school.
Being part of a public relations program can be a fantastic way to make inroads with nearby PR agencies. Your school might even have a system by which you can sign up for an internship based on the strength of your grades.
But even if you decide to look for a PR internship after graduation, being able to say that you’ve earned yourself a degree will immediately put you ahead of the competition.
The best-case scenario, however, is to graduate with a public relations degree and quickly find yourself a viable job in the industry.
One important note here is that, even with your brand new degree, you shouldn’t expect to land a management-level position.
Aim for entry-level positions, even if you already have a past internship on your resume.
You’ll likely still be competing with other candidates who already have a few years’ worth of industry experience, but at the very least, your degree will help you stay in the running.
Even years down the line, if you’re looking to get a job with a different agency or just try for a higher-level position, your degree will always be an asset.
Other skills and accomplishments you’ve gathered since your college days will of course be the most important factor, but it never hurts to have a degree from an accredited institution.
As such, it should always be present on your resume, even if not at the very top.
Believe it or not, public relations degrees, and the knowledge they impart to you, can also be useful in many other industries.
Just about every employer out there needs to think, to some extent, about their public image. Public relations concepts still apply, even if a company doesn’t plan to execute a full-fledged media campaign.
When it comes to large corporations, many of them have established their own in-house marketing departments.
Your public relations degree could easily help you become a frontrunner for one of these roles.
As a quick example, a large medical supply distribution company still needs to consider how they’re seen by their customer base, which in this case would not be the general public but staff members and leadership at surrounding hospitals and healthcare institutions.
Even if public relations for this company only referred to how they present themselves at industry conferences, it’s still important and could have a serious impact on their bottom line.
No matter what they want to sell, entrepreneurs need to be extremely conscientious about their public image, especially in terms of establishing a public image of any kind.
A background in PR could help you start your own business or become a consultant to small business owners who need advice in this area.
Something we’ve decided to call real-time PR refers to public-facing efforts, whether in the form of a social media page for a company or a political campaign.
In real-time PR, things can change very quickly. Political campaigns need to navigate difficult situations all the time, especially after an instance of public scrutiny or a media appearance.
Company-run social media profiles often have to deal with internet backlash.
In any of these situations, knowing the inner workings of PR will help you manage very direct communication channels, and this ability will make you much more valuable to your employer.
These are just a few ways in which a public relations degree can benefit your career and other aspects of your life, but it’s definitely not a comprehensive list.
If you have a passion for PR, a degree can be worth so much more than you think.