A degree of public relations: choosing your University course
It is September and the start of a new academic year. For those who finished their A-levels, there were some fairly sizeable decisions to make. University? Gap year? Career path? And if university is the answer, then which degree?
Education, education, education
Unless you’re a promising doctor or vet with a clear vocational path ahead of you, deciding which degree to do can be a daunting process. It certainly was for me: I was set on going to university, but enjoyed so many subjects, meaning narrowing the choice down to just the one course, which I would be expected to study for three years, was hard!
For budding PR professionals, the news that Bournemouth University is planning to stop running its public relations course may have thrown a curve-ball, and followed similar moves by the University of West London and Edinburgh Napier University last year.
On the other hand, the University of Salford in Greater Manchester decided to launch a combined public relations and journalism degree. This prompted a question within me: what advice would I give to an aspiring PR executive faced with the tough task of choosing a university degree?
The requirements of the PR industry
The truth is, degrees in PR are not necessarily a prerequisite for joining our beloved industry. We don’t deny that a degree in PR will equip students with the skills needed for the job, but it’s certainly not the only degree to do so.
The PR industry is wonderfully diverse. Every day we find ourselves writing, designing and managing; forging relationships and building on existing ones; undertaking research, pitching our client’s news, taking part in creative brainstorms; developing strategies and putting together budget proposals; organising events, and updating social media platforms. Want me to go on? I can!
The point is, a degree at university is valuable, but the discipline is less important. At Babel, my colleagues and I have a cornucopia of degrees between us: Politics, Modern History, Broadcast Journalism, English Literature and English Language, American Studies and Law, to name a few.
Our time at university teaches us valuable life lessons, including building confidence, the ability to write long-form copy and put forward a strong argument, and effective time management. It therefore doesn’t surprise me that according to the latest State of the Profession figures, just 17% of PR practitioners have degrees in PR or comms.
So, if you think public relations is a career you’d like to consider, no matter what subject you choose to study, use your three years at university to develop the skills that PR agencies value in graduate recruits. This includes working to deadlines, the ability to write persuasively on different subject matters, and the confidence to pick up the phone and pitch client news. Who knows, one day very soon you could be picking up the phone to pitch yourself to a prospective employer!
Babel, an established technology PR and integrated communications agency with a strong presence in the UK, Europe and US, is hiring graduates to join our PR team in London. If you have recently graduated – or are deciding which degree you should go for – please visit our careers page for more information on what we’re looking for.